Interviewing someone youve never heard of is easy. Sure you gotta research, but becoming informed on a deadline is cake compared to fielding a phone call from an icon. Amber Benson may be a minor mainstream star, but for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, shes a major deity. Thankfully, shes also one of the most genuine, forthcoming celebrities Ive had the privilege of interviewing. On the final leg of her book tour, Benson hits Challengers Comics Saturday April 9th, and shes looking forward to it, but maybe not as much as shes looking forward to grabbing a burger while shes in town.
Our Town Hows the tour?
Amber Benson A little crazy. I feel like I havent been home in months. We had a really amazing turn out in New York and Houston, people waiting in the rain, crazy stuff.
OT You knew early you wanted to act. When did that goal crystallize?
AB I was a hyperactive child. My mom put me in ballet and lots of after school programs to wear me out so I would sleep. I remember being onstage in The Nutcracker, this little marshmallow rolling out of some guys skirt and realizing I did not like ballet. Its beautiful and I appreciate it, but the rigor was not very appealing as a child. But being onstage and having people clap? That was like catnip, so I sort of matriculated over to the drama world.
OT Acting led you to everything from producing to writing for TV to novels; surprising or part of the plan?
AB If you have a brain and youre a woman, being one thing isnt enough. As a creative individual, you have to diversify. Plus you cant really make a living as an actor. A small percentage does, but then theres everybody else whos struggling. As an actor, youre regurgitating somebody elses dialogue invented in their world rather than yours. I knew I would go crazy just being an actor. I had always written short stories, bad poetry, plays, that sort of thing. When I was approached about doing the Willow/Tara comics for Dark Horse, I was excited to try something new and writing-centric. After the BBC read the comics, Chris Golden and I were asked to do the Ghosts of Albion, an animated program. Then Random House asked us to novelize that universe, so that was my entr into writing long form prose.
OT “Deaths Daughter” was your first solo novel. Since then youve written two more. Is it getting easier?
AB Im at work on the fourth as we speak. You have to treat writing like a business. I like to go places to write. Like, ok, Im leaving to go to my office. I try to do 1500 to 3000 words every time I sit down. Its daunting to see a blank computer screen and know you have to fill it with 90 to 100,000 words. But the process gets easiermaybe easier is the wrong word. I get better at the process because Im doing it more. Especially revisio where the book comes together. You vomit it up as a first draft, then go back and rewrite until you get it to a place where its not vomit anymore, its cotton candy.
AB Traditional ways of reaching people dont work anymore. Magazines and newspapers are going under, everything is becoming internet based. You have to use what you got and what we have is social media. It puts you in connection with fans in a very intimate way. Its awesome but frightening because all the walls separating the creative from the real world are knocked down.
OT Any social media regrets?
AB I did something just stupid. I was trying to direct message a friend to give them my new e-mail address and whoops, it popped up on Twitter for everybody to see. But I work hard not to talk about where I am while Im there. I was at the New York comic-con a couple years ago and another writer, a friend, Anton Struass was at the booth and I tweeted, Im at such and such booth, and then I went to do my signing and hes like, dude you left and a bunch of people came over, going wheres Amber, she says shes here. Im learning you have to be protective of your personal space. Im not on Foursquare. If I get checked in its somebody else doing it and I have to beat them up later.
OT In real life, youre on the thin side, but on Buffy you were a role model for curvier women. What was that like?
AB I never thought of myself as overly voluptuous. Then I do Buffy, and people start calling me fat. I was like, all of you making these anonymous, mean comments sitting at your computers, first, what do you guys look like? Second, Im proud to have breasts and hips! Im a woman and I maybe one day want to have children and I kinda need both of those things in order to make that happen. Put in that position, I wanted to turn it around and make lemonade from lemons. So what if people think Im fat? I eat like a normal person and young girls especially need to understand what you see on TV and in the magazines is not real. These people work with trainers every day, they dont eat carbs, theyre all on diets constantly, they have food delivered to them. Its false and impossible to live up to without a ton of money and a really good Photoshop person.
OT Historically, fictional gay relationships often end catastrophically. Buffy creator Joss Whedon was first celebrated for writing the relationship between Willow and Tara, then condemned for its tragic end. Thoughts?
AB I dont think Joss had any idea the backlash he was going to get when he killed Tara, but it was necessary for the story arc. He was dealing with a metaphor for addiction, whether its sex or food or drugs, or in Willows case, magic, she had to hit bottom, and that was losing Tara. You dont know how people are going to respond to things; you can only be creative and do what you feel is best.
OT Joss definitely did something right. Buffy still boasts some devoted fans.
AB People are always like, I dont want to bother you about Buffy, but I wouldnt be here if it werent for Buffy. At Comicon one year, this woman came up with a really pretty ring and got down on one knee and asked for my hand. I was like, I dont know if my boyfriend would like that very much, but I was sorely tempted cause it was a really nice ring.
OT You vocally supported Obama on his first run for office. Will you again?
AB I will definitely support him. Theres always room to do more but hes had his hands tied. That hes been able to do what he has– we have this healthcare bill going through– is an accomplishment. We need to get behind him and not lambaste him for not being the messiah. Hes a human being and hes doing the best he can and Im glad hes in office so I can be proud to be an American again.
OT What are you looking forward to doing in Chicago?
AB The last time I was in Chicago, Pat Brower, one of the co-owners of Challengers Comics took me to an awesome burger joint calledoh no, now its leaving my headthe heavy metal burger placeoh no, my brains not workingI think it begins with a K
OT Im googling. Hold on. Kumas?
AB Kumas! He took me to Kumas it was awesome. Im hoping to do that again!
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. Shes kind of looking forward to it actually. IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn’t support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez