Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway: Nina Benneton

Please join me in welcoming Nina Benneton to Debbie's Book Bag today. Nina is here to promote the release of her book, Compulsively Mr. Darcy. The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two print copies of Nina's book and the author is also providing a e-book copy for one international winner. Please see details at the end of the post. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you Debbie for inviting me to talk about my first experiences with publishing.

My journey to publishing happened because I didn't want to die by falling or drowning.

A few years ago, during a trip to New York City with a college friend, I was confronted with the realization that, despite what I'd accomplished professionally since graduating from college, the fears I had when I first entered college with were still with me.  (During freshmen week, I'd bragged to my roommate that I'd conquer my fear of height, of water, and of writing by the time I left college. Whenever there was a writing assignment, I was one of those deer-in-headlights students.)

Fed up with my refusal to go up to the top of Statue of Liberty or go on a boat tour around New York City's harbor, my old college roommate decided she was going to teach me to swim in the hotel's rooftop pool.

Hearing that, my yellow-bellied heart fibrillated so hard I was in danger of a having a myocardial infarction right there in the lobby of the Holiday Inn on West 57th street in Midtown Manhattan. I begged, "No, please. I'd do anything else. I'll learn what an imperfect tense is. I'll write a novel."

I wasn't serious about writing a novel then, of course, but I survived that trip without drowning or falling off a hotel's roof.

Some time later, forced to lay quietly on the couch for a few weeks to recuperate from an injury, I decided to conquer my fear of writing. Writing fiction, in particular.  I'd done some technical science writing, but writing fiction required discipline, talent, passion. A driven person, I knew I had the first down, but I wasn't sure I had the last two ingredients.

I wrote a few short stories—serious, literary kind of short stories modeled after stories I loved to read in 'The New Yorker.'  Problem was, besides aiming too high, I wasn't a 'The New Yorker' type of writer. My voice was too irreverent. No talent or passion.

Passion. I had passion for the iconic literary hero Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. What if I write a modern Mr. Darcy?  A modern Mr. Darcy beset by fears. Fear of calamities. Fear of getting too close to others. Fear of getting too close to others' germs.

I wrote the story. Test readers, some who loved Jane Austen and some who didn't, laughed and laughed.  Making people laugh was addictive. Perhaps there's a glimmer of talent.

The clincher on my road to publishing was that I found a kindred-spirit friend, Pamala Knight of Chicago North RWA, who also loved Jane Austen, and she loved my writing voice. We took writing classes together to improve our craft.  Pamala pushed and kicked and threatened me with dismemberment if I didn't pitch the story to an editor and a short-list of agents she'd personally handpicked for me. Because I was fearful of Pamala's wrath, I did as I was told.

The agent, the editor, both laughed and signed me.  I laughed because I'd conquered one fear.

I'd tackle heights and water, but I'm afraid I'm too busy working on three novels concurrently to parachute out of a plane or go deep sea diving. 

Raise your hand if you don't have any fear?  Okay, those who've raised their hands can go away. The rest of you, please leave a comment and share what fear you'd love to tackle.  A bottle of hand sanitizer in hand, Compulsively Mr. Darcy is ready to shake your hand and listen. 


Sourcebooks will give away two print copies of Compulsively Mr. Darcy to US & Canada readers. The author is also providing an e-book copy for one international reader.

~ You must be a GFC follower or an e-mail subscriber to participate.
~ US and Canadian Addresses only for the print copies. International on the e-book copy!
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST February 29th.

1. Please answer Nina's question. What fear would you love to tackle?
2. Please fill out the FORM.


Beth said...

Ooh! I'd love to tackle my fear of heights.

bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

oloore said...

I have many fears...I'm scared of heights and from falling (so jumping with rope or parachuting is not for me), of high waves and drowning (though I like swimming, just in places with very little waves) but most of all I fear insects. And this fear I would love to tackle. Because every small spider can unsettle me or even spoil my day:(
Unfortunately, hand sanitizer won't save from such encounters, but reading afterwards something funny and delightful will certainly help to forget about insects:)
Thank you for sharing your publishing experience and for your kind giveaway.

Linda Kish said...

I have social phobia so I guess the fear I would like to be able to conquer is the fear of being in groups and carrying on conversations.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Nina Benneton said...


There's a skywalk at the Grand Canyon. I tell you, if anyone wants to torture me--they can take me there.

Perhaps someday I'll meet you there?

Thanks for stopping by.

Nina Benneton said...


You made me laugh. Fear of jump rope, LOL!

I can relate to all your fears except insects. For some reason, they don't bother me.

Now, if we're talking about rodents... shudder.

Of course, my day job used to involve rodents. Blech!

Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

Nina Benneton said...


Social phobia. That's a hard one, isn't it?

I enjoy talking to people one on one, but I don't like big groups, either. I usually get a migraine...

You and i will just hide ourselves in a cosy corner somewhere and have a nice, quiet chat!

Thanks for stopping by!

cyn209 said...

my one fear to tackle would be walking into a room full of people i don't know & wanting to hide in a corner.............

thank you for the giveaway!!!!

Theresa N. said...

My fear of heights is the only one I can think of.
Theresa n

lag123 said...

I have a fear of heights and I would love to tackle that. I love to climb lighthouses but those winding staircases scare the dickens out of me.

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Nina Benneton said...

Dearest cyn209,

You and I need to team up! I can be Elizabeth to your Darcy.

Of all my fears, that's something I don't suffer from. I hate to be the center of attention (I hate birthday parties for ME), but I'm perfectly fine walking into a roomful with strangers and making small talks.

Okay, not perfectly fine, but I can conquer that fear much easier than walking up to the roof of any building!

Thanks for stopping by!

Nina Benneton said...

Theresa N,

Amen! Sista! I have NO IDEA why anyone would put a pool on the roof--combining my two fears in one place!

I once hiked down the Grand Canyon to conquer my fear of heights, and let me tell you, I was praying to God, Lakshmi, Ganesha, Al Sharpton, Buddha, Rev Sun Yung Moon--anybody I can think of with some spiritual authority to help me.

Don't do it. Don't try to conquer your fear of heights at the Grand Canyon!

Thanks for stopping by...

Nina Benneton said...

lag 123,

Oh gosh, you're another intrepid one. But, oh so romantic, climbing lighthouse.

You are so much more braver than I am--you're tackling heights and confined small space in one hobby--climbing lighthouse.

Hey, that actually would be a great setting for a scene... thanks for giving me that idea..

And thank you for stopping by.

Sue Farrell said...

I would love to tackle my fear of flying--because it's stopping me from traveling as much as I would like.

Literary Chanteuse said...

Fear of water. I never learned to swim as a child and I feel very nervous about being in or on water.

Thank you for the giveaway!!!

Anonymous said...

I have lots of fears. I am afraid of heights and I am afraid of big crowds. I don't like alot of people. I have anxiety and panic attacks. It would be nice to overcome these problems.

Angela - Bookaunt said...

I would love to conquer two of my fears actually. 1st my fear of heights, I have a hard time standing on a chair without feeling like I am going to fall. 2nd my fear of frogs, I have had a full blown panic attack around a frog.

Chrisbails said...

I would love to tackle my fear of heights. I am even scared when I get on a step ladder. I start to get dizzy and start to sway. Even driving across bridges bother me.
Thanks for the great giveaway, would love to win.

bn100 said...

Fear of public speaking

Nina Benneton said...

Sue Farrell,

I feel for you... I really do, for I love to travel.
I know they have programs for people who have fear of flying, have you looked into it?

This is one fear I have managed to ignore--I love to travel too much. Before kids, unless I'm flying with work colleagues and need to present a 'professional' image, I'd grab a guilty pleasure-something with a bare-chested man and a woman with a bodacious bosom! For long international flight? I'd take three of those.

Now, I'm too busy trying to manage kids on the plane to worry.

The nice thing is one could do trains...

Thanks for sharing, Sue.

Nina Benneton said...


I think you would be able to relate to Elizabeth in Compulsively Mr. Darcy well. She has a fear of water and strangely Darcy doesn't. (One of those irony).

I tried learning a few times--but the most I've managed is I've learned to flip over and float on my back. If water's on my face--I panick.

There's a program in the US called Infant Swimming Research (strange name), where babies as young as six months old can be taught to 'save' themselves by flipping over on the back even if they fall in.

All of my children were in it. It was expensive and took a lot of time (10 minutes lesson each day for like weeks), but it was so worth it. It's amazing to see my babies 'pass' the test--fully clothed with diaper and shoes, they're 'tippped' over into the pool and within seconds, they learned to flip over and float on their backs--crying, but 'safe'. This gave me a tiny sense of safety, but more than anything, I didn't want my children to have my fear of water.

They swim competitively now. ;) (But I don't let any of them get into diving! I couldn't bear that!)

Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Margaret.

Nina Benneton said...

Dearest Tore,

I agree. It would be nice to conquer those fears, eh?

My husband hates big crowds and he literally shuts down...but as the children get older and we travel with them, he's learned to deal with it and actually enjoys a busy marketplace or such.

You know what's truly frightening to me? Sitting in a stadium full of screaming people over some ball passing a certain line.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing,

Nina Benneton said...


Your fears have a touch of whimsical to them!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Nina Benneton said...


Bridges! Goodness. Amen! It took me a long time to be able to drive across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco without hyperventilating. I finally got used to it by not thinking of it.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing

Nina Benneton said...


Yes!!! I think posting on the internet counts, too, don't you?

The first time I posted a comment on a Jane Austen site, I almost hurled--it felt like public speaking to me.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing,

Di said...

I'd love to conquer my fear of social situations where I don't know many or any of the people attending.

This book sounds like such a fun variation on P&P - I'd love a print copy (I'm not eEnabled).

Nina Benneton said...

Hi Di,

I know what you mean. My husband was like you, but now he's a bit better.

Strange, I'm not that intimidated in that situation. I had to attend such a social situation the other night, I knew no one except perhaps three people distantly. What I did was stood to the side and observed people for body language cues that I could use in my writing. It helped pass the inane cocktail hour.

Thanks for stopping by.

cheapest hotels in singapore said...

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Nina Benneton said...


Goodness. You have got to change your moniker --you don't want to offer yourself as 'cheapest' anything, trust me.

Your comment, though quite lovely and complimentary, reminds me of one of my fears--fear of spammers.

How about Darciest hotels in Singapore? You'd get lots of Jane Austen fans visiting, I promise.