In conversation with Victoria Leigh Bennett

Our readers would like to know your inspiration (or story, if any) behind Empire and Conquest.

My first inkling of an idea for Empire and Conquest came in noticing Bostock’s history of the reign of Alexander the Great on Google, Conquest and Empire, when I researched something, and then of course from reading the extended blurb on the book. It seemed to me that though his book appeared different in some key respects from other histories glorifying or even just exalting by implications of attention the rule of supposedly great people, that we had had an awful lot of these books from Day 1 in the ancient chronicles until now, and naturally (she says, rolling her eyes significantly in the satirical manner of the great math professor and comic song writer, Tom Lehrer of the ‘60’s) I wanted to try my hand; in brief, though.

Tell us more about your creative process in general.

I usually just wing it. I start writing with either a title or first line or line of dialogue in mind, and go on from there, animadverting and sometimes bombasticizing for effect. In some cases, I have to do further research, as here I had to do upon the lives and habits of my characters in their earthly existence (trying here not to issue a spoiler).  As to revision, I do it generally as I go, so that there is little drafting and re-drafting, with which I’ve always had scant patience, not liking to re-read my own words if they were in fact stupid enough to need to be edited out, and trying also to suppress the crowing of ego when I feel I’ve got a thing right, and the typing is correct in all counts as far as I can make it.  Thus, I do a lot of re-reading and re-writing from day to day, as I go along. Final readthroughs are generally to catch typos, errors of consistency/fact, and etc.

Do you have any creative influences? What do you like the most about their work? Does it have a discernible effect on your writing?

This is a bit of a puzzling question to me, but I’ll do my best. Anything and everything is a potential creative influence, from a glob of gum stuck on the sidewalk, to an erudite treatise which I feel would be possible to popularize and symbolize in a fictional/poetic/flash/cnf-inspiring/essayistic form. When I did my final choice of Ph.D. at the long-suffering (with my attempts) University of Toronto, I worked on Henry James. The apposite quote from him is: “First, be a person upon whom nothing is lost.” Being economical and turning as much as possible to account is my habit, though in what I fondly imagine as my glorified resemblance to a crafting or toolmaking creature in nature, as like as not, rather like a magpie, I may fancy that shiny new idea for my thematic/topical nest one minute, then the next forget entirely where I’ve put it. I tend to start on a subject at white heat of enthusiasm, but I’m not these days a keeper of scraps of paper with ideas on them for works, though I am a pack rat in general. I like at least to flatter myself that following up on the writers and poets in general that I have studied—and even to be modest, there are a great many, whom it would be impossible to isolate—is best done not so much by conscious imitation of style or subject, though as a young person I acquired talents of mimicry and satire, but by manning my own oars with their directions and mental compass points first in the back of my mind. I do, however, occasionally make an influence overt with a direct attributed quote or deliberate echo which most readers of moderately good education would be able to catch. This practice is rare, though, as I like, like the earthworm, to turn out a product, so to speak, fully digested. (And there, Kenneth Burke, is my obligatory note on the execremental vision).

Are there any creative genres, forms, themes, techniques etc. you wish you could employ in your writing which you haven’t yet?

I have not to date written much in the way of CNF. Only a few pieces, as I consider the most interesting part of myself to be the submerged part of the iceberg, not the surface history. While I don’t know that I’m really longing to repair this omission, it’s arguably still a thing left mostly undone, which is a challenge if you want to see it that way.

What are you looking forward to in your creative career?

As every writer whether poet, fiction buff, or whatever combination of forms and skills would no doubt feel, it’s always good to be more widely published (the merciful forces that be send us all a halcyon time). Thank you for asking these questions.

Victoria Leigh Bennett, Ph.D., English/Theater. In-Print: Poems from the Northeast, 2021; OOP but on website: Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris), 2022. From Fall 2021-Summer 2023, has published 39 times in: @HooghlyReview, @FeversOf, @press_roi, @LovesDiscretion, @TheUnconCourier, & 7 others. Coming: Oct: Fiction in @HooghlyReview, Nov: 4 poems, @Dreich25197318. 

Twitter: @vicklbennett & @PoetsonThursday