How The Kindle Turned One North Texas Author Into A Sensation
Benjamin Wallace is by no means a full-time author.
But, between his day job writing advertising copy and his responsibilities as a father of three, Wallace has somehow managed to find the time to self-release a pair of novels and a trio of short stories involving the should-be tedious exploits of “dumb white husbands.”
More surprising is that, with very little fanfare, the Dallas writer’s straight-to-Kindle works have been received remarkably well, with Wallace’s short story Dumb White Husband vs. the Grocery Store recently having spent several weeks atop Amazon’s comedy story charts.
In an effort to stay ahead of the curve on Benjamin Wallace’s career, we caught up with the author to find out what he has in store for 2012, how the city of Dallas figures prominently into his books and how often he’s confused for the similarly-named Detroit Pistons center. Y’know, among other things.
How long have you fancied yourself a writer? Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do professionally? Do you hope to parlay it into a full-time thing one day?
I’ve wanted to write since the sixth grade but have only called myself a professional writer for 12 years. Even at that, it’s been as a copywriter, not an author. I aspire to any career that allows me to work while wearing slippers — except slipper tester. I imagine they would have to go into the office for that.
As an independent publisher, have you been surprised by the success of your works?
It was a complete surprise. I had a plan when I put the first book out, but I’m even more surprised that the plan seems to be working. That almost never happens. I always figured the Dumb White Husband title would make people giggle, but I didn’t expect it to take off like it has. I’m very pleased with how well those short stories sell, as they are usually the first titles of mine that people read. They then move on to the novels. I call them my gateway stories.
To what, in your estimation, do you owe this success?
I’ve tried to play it smart in where I place my books and short stories. They’re all written with my sense of humor, but each straddles different genres. All fall into comedy, but one also falls into sci-fi, another into men’s adventure, and the Dumb White Husband stories hit parenting and families. This exposes a lot of different markets to my work and even draws moms into a post-apocalyptic wasteland that I don’t think they would have ventured into otherwise. And I won’t discount hard work. It’s really just typing, but I’ve put a lot of effort into the books themselves.
How grateful are you for the invention of the Kindle?
I literally take it to bed with me.
With a day job and fatherhood how do you possibly find time to write?
My three kids go to bed at 8:30. I pass out close to midnight. Everything in between is writing, promoting or outlining. I’ve cut out TV and all exercise. My wife often donates a weekend day to the cause as well. She’ll watch the kids and let me go work. But I’d better have something to show for it before I come home.
Do any aspects of living in Dallas/Texas influence anything about your stories?
The first book I published, Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors, is set in and around Dallas. I wanted to be familiar with the layout since a couple of big scenes take place in the city. So I chose the city I knew best. The library, the farmer’s market, the old Masonic lodge and Dealey Plaza all figure prominently in the story. But I turned Dallas into a jungle.
Do you ever write with film in mind? Who would play the dumb white husband in a film adaptation?
I haven’t expressly written with film in mind, but I think my stories would translate well. They move at an exciting pace and go great with popcorn. I’ve thought about casting my books before, but have always had trouble picturing anyone. I just tell people that I would play all of the roles myself — a la Peter Sellers. But for the dumb white husband, maybe I’d go with Morgan Freeman. I mean, that guy can do anything!
Is the dumb white husband character based on people you know personally? How much of your self do you put into it?
Quite a few men — and more than a few of their wives — have accused me of following them or spying on them. And, in most cases, that’s simply not true. The dumb white husbands, of which there are currently three, are all based on the favorite butt of America’s jokes. He’s the sitcom dad, the idiot in that commercial that you hate, the dope in that commercial that you love. He’s the only guy corporate legal departments will let us make fun of. So we’ve seen lots of him before, but we’ve never seen things from his perspective. I wanted to give him a chance to defend himself. The dumb white husband is all of us. I’ve been through most of what he has. I can’t stand wrapping oddly shaped presents, I believe a tool at hand is more effective than a tool that’s over there, and I don’t know how to shop for vegetables.
Of your different series, which are your favorite to write and why?
The Dumb White Husband series is probably the most therapeutic. The stories give me an opportunity to vent about the trials of family life. The Duck & Cover Adventures are probably the most fun, though. I don’t think that we as a species would handle the end of the world very well, and that’s given me a lot of freedom to put what would otherwise be implausible characters in a real world. The bounds of human stupidity are the only restrictions on what I can do in those stories, and Einstein said that was limitless.
Does anybody ever confuse you with Ben Wallace the basketball player? Like th Michael Bolton character in Office Space, do you feel like your namesake is a “no-talent ass clown?”
Like Michael Bolton, I hear the joke every time I get carded or get my hair cut at Sports Clips. I did try to capitalize on my namesake via Twitter. He had been arrested for possession of a gun and was a trending topic. Since he was incarcerated, I offered to answer questions that anyone had for Ben Wallace. I couldn’t reach him for the facts, so I just told everyone he was carrying the gun because he was afraid of spiders. He never thanked me.
What big surprises do you have in store for 2012? What are you working on?
It’s going to be a busy year. I’ve got a big surprise for all dumb white husbands later in the year, but first I’ll be sending one to Vegas and having another take on twins. I hope to release Songs of the Apocalypse, the sequel to Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors, early in the spring. And, I will be serializing a novel — The Bulletproof Adventures of Damian Stockwell: Horror in Honduras — for subscribers to my newsletter. It’s my take on the 1930s pulp adventurer. I have more planned, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.
What would you say to those who are of the opinion that self-published authors aren’t worth reading because they couldn’t even find a “real” publisher?
There are a lot of rational counters to this. Many “real” authors are dropping their publishers. Sheer sales numbers. Royalty rates. There is the argument that a real author is one that gets paid for his or her work. You could point to several distinguished classics that were originally self-published or to the fact that, by these criteria, Snooki is worth reading because she was blessed by a major publisher. But, I’m not very mature, so I’d probably just give them the finger and make kissy faces. No, the truth is, with the exception of aspiring authors, I haven’t really run into this attitude that much. I think the stigma surrounding e-publishing is dying quickly. Publishers are looking for marketable books that are easy to sell. Readers are looking for good books to enjoy. People are smart enough to know that those don’t always align.