Author Spotlight – James DiBenedetto
Welcome James DiBenedetto, author of Dream Doctor!
1. What’s your favorite cliché and why?
It’s one I sort of mangled, and changed into my very own saying. The actual cliché is “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” I misremembered it, and it came out as “Don’t try to teach a pig to dance. You’ll only get dirty, and you’ll annoy the pig.” Which of course shorthands to “pigs don’t dance” – which is what you say when you’re trying to tell someone that whatever they’re doing is both impossible to accomplish, and would be pointless even if it could be done.
2. What’s the corniest title you can think of for your book?
That’s a tough one – I had so much trouble coming up with any title at all, thinking of a deliberately bad one is really hard! The original title of the first book was “Dreamchaser” (or, in some drafts, “Dreamchasers”) before I settled on “Dream Student”.
This second book was always “Dream Doctor,” though, right from the start. But I’ll play along…since Sara solves a mystery using information she learns while she’s dreaming, how about: “The Sleeping Detective”?
3. Who’s your favorite character in literary history? Why?
Oh, that’s not a fair question! I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and I guess I’d say good old Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler. He shows up in just about every book, and you just have to love him. He never gives up, he’s always got a new idea and a new plan, and he never lets failure get him down. What more can you ask?
4. How did you decide on your characters’ names? Do they mean anything special?
My heroine, Sara Barnes, was always Sara, right from the very first line of the first draft. I’m not sure where her name came from, but it never changed. The same with her boyfriend, Brian.
Especially in the first and second books, some of the minor characters are at least loosely based on people I actually knew in college, so their names are variations on their real names (Jim became Joe, etc).
There isn’t any special meaning to any of the other characters’ names; I mainly picked them for how “fitting” they sounded, and the one thing I did was to try and avoid too many similar-sounding names so I wouldn’t confuse readers.
5. Your favorite 1-2 sentences form your book:
Still, I’m going to keep a close eye on her. And if she so much as puts a hand on him, I’ll cut her heart out. I know how to do it, too. I’ve been reading ahead – the instructions are right there in Grant’s Dissector. Page 75.
“I didn’t expect to be woken up by someone I don’t know dreaming about killing somebody. I thought I was done with that once and for all…”
But Sara’s not done with it. As if adjusting to life as a newlywed and starting medical school weren’t difficult enough, she’s started seeing the dreams of everyone around her, again. Before everything is said and done, those dreams might destroy Sara’s hopes of becoming a doctor, wreck her marriage and even end her life…
“Dream Doctor” is the thrilling second novel in the Dreams series.
Dream Doctor (click to see the cover, read an excerpt and hear a sample from the audiobook version)
Sara is in an apartment, one that seems very familiar. The view out the window looks down on a busy street far, far below The living room is spotless, and nearly empty. The only piece of furniture is a large recliner, and sitting in it is a small, frail-looking woman: Janet’s mother, Margaret. This is, Sara realizes, her dream
Margaret is writing something. Sara knows before she looks at it that it’s a letter to her daughter. Still, she feels compelled to walk around behind Margaret and read the letter. When she does, she holds back from bursting into tears only with great effort.
Margaret slowly and with much difficulty sits up straight and turns her head. To Sara’s surprise, Margaret is looking directly at her. Margaret, for her part, does not appear to be very surprised at this. Sara walks back around, so that Margaret can better see her. “Shakespeare was right,” Margaret says.
Sara has no idea what she means, and Margaret laughs gently. “Hamlet. Act One, Scene Five.” When Sara still shows no sign of understanding, Margaret sighs heavily. “What sort of education are they giving you these days? ‘There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’”
“Oh,” Sara says. She does, vaguely, remember those words from a high school English class.
“Are you who you look like? Janet’s friend?”
“Yes,” Sara replies. She can’t think of anything to add.
Margaret frowns, disappointed. “I wondered if you might be – I don’t know – a messenger? Or a guide, perhaps?”
It takes Sara several seconds to figure out what Margaret means. “You think I’m an angel?”
Margaret nods. “Let’s say that I hoped so. Some people say, when your time comes, an angel comes to take you to – to the other side.”
“No!” Sara isn’t sure what she finds more disturbing, the thought itself or the matter-of-factness with which it is said. Tears begin to roll down her cheeks; she looks away from Margaret.
“I know it’s time, Sara. There’s nothing to be gained by denying the truth.” She waits for a response, but Sara is too busy avoiding Margaret’s eyes and failing to hold back tears to answer. She continues, “Did you read my letter?” Sara nods, still unable to meet Margaret’s eyes. “What did you think of it?”
Sara is silent for a long time, trying to find the appropriate words. She can’t think of any, but she does, finally, force herself to look directly at Margaret. “I hope she’ll take it to heart,” is all she’s able to say.
Margaret is silent for a long while as well. “She’ll need you to help her do that. She’s – my Janet is stronger than she thinks, but until she discovers that for herself, she’ll…”
“I understand,” Sara says, and she leans over and hugs Margaret tightly. When she lets go and steps back, Margaret is no longer there. Sara blinks, and when her eyes open again, the recliner is gone. Another blink, and now the walls themselves are fading away; there is nothing but blackness all around her…
I open my eyes, and they’re full of tears. I was – I remember it all, I remember it exactly. I was talking to Janet’s mother. And then she died.
Brian is just waking up, and I clutch myself to him. His eyes open slowly, they take a while to focus on me. He sees I’m crying, he sees I’m a mess. I can see in his eyes; he already knows I had a dream.
“Margaret died. Just – just now. Just a few minutes ago.”
“How do you know?” he asks, but he already knows.
“I was with her. I was – I talked to her.” He knows it’s possible. In a way it’s how we met, after all.
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he’s not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The “Dreams” series is James’ first published work.