Interviewing someone you’ve 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,” she’s a major deity. Thankfully, she’s also one of the most genuine, forthcoming celebrities I’ve had the privilege of interviewing. On the final leg of her book tour, Benson hits Challengers Comics Saturday April 9th, and she’s looking forward to it, but maybe not as much as she’s looking forward to grabbing a burger while she’s in town.
Our Town How’s the tour?
Amber Benson A little crazy. I feel like I haven’t 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. It’s 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 you’re a woman, being one thing isn’t enough. As a creative individual, you have to diversify. Plus you can’t really make a living as an actor. A small percentage does, but then there’s everybody else who’s struggling. As an actor, you’re regurgitating somebody else’s 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 entré into writing long form prose.
OT "Death’s Daughter" was your first solo novel. Since then you’ve written two more. Is it getting easier?
AB I’m 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, I’m leaving to go to my office. I try to do 1500 to 3000 words every time I sit down. It’s daunting to see a blank computer screen and know you have to fill it with 90 to 100,000 words. But the process gets easier—maybe easier is the wrong word. I get better at the process because I’m 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 it’s not vomit anymore, it’s cotton candy.
OT You blog, tweet and are active on facebook. Social media, boon for artists or distraction?
AB Traditional ways of reaching people don’t 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. It’s 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 I’m 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, “I’m at such and such booth,” and then I went to do my signing and he’s like, “dude you left and a bunch of people came over, going ‘where’s Amber, she says she’s here.’” I’m learning you have to be protective of your personal space. I’m not on Foursquare. If I get checked in it’s somebody else doing it and I have to beat them up later.
OT In real life, you’re 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, I’m proud to have breasts and hips! I’m 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 I’m 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 don’t eat carbs, they’re all on diets constantly, they have food delivered to them. It’s 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 don’t 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 Willow’s case, magic, she had to hit bottom, and that was losing Tara. You don’t 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 don’t want to bother you about “Buffy”’, but I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t 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 don’t 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. There’s always room to do more but he’s had his hands tied. That he’s 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. He’s a human being and he’s doing the best he can and I’m glad he’s 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 called…oh no, now it’s leaving my head…the heavy metal burger place…oh no, my brain’s not working…I think it begins with a K…
OT I’m googling. Hold on. Kumas?
AB Kumas! He took me to Kumas it was awesome. I’m 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. She’s 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