amber-publicity-shotFirst things first:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer — the movie with Luke Perry and Kristy Swanson — had its moments, but ultimately sucked.  When Buffy the Vampire Slayer made its debut as a TV series in 1997, it was the best thing to happen to TV until, well, Ronald Moore and David Eick’s “reimagined” version of Battlestar Galactica in 2003. It’s not hard to see why. Both series took stock fantasy/sci-fi narratives (i.e., vampires wreaking havoc on a community or humans trying to escape a relentless robotic enemy in space) and turned them on their heads to spotlight characters and stories where identity, morality, sexuality, gender, race and class were in flux. In the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the growth of the main characters was often spurred by the introduction of someone new.  For the bookish Willow Rosenberg (as played by Alyson Hannigan), her character really started getting interesting when Joss Whedon — the show’s creator — paired her with Tara Maclay (Amber Benson), who, at first, was just a member of a Wicca group that Willow joined in college.  Later, it becomes clear that Willow and Tara were pretty much soulmates and the two become a couple until Tara’s death by a stray bullet.

While the character Benson played on Buffy was mostly relegated to walk-ons in future episodes after her untimely death, Amber Benson went on to direct films, create an animated drama for the BBC, co-authored two novels, and now flies solo as the author of a new novel, Death’s Daughter.

dd_cover

Death’s Daughter is the first book in a trilogy. Was that always your intent (i.e., to write a trilogy), or did the story just get bigger and bigger the more you roughed out the narrative arc?

Death’s Daughter originally was conceived as a stand alone book, but after my editor, Ginjer, got a hold of it, she pointed out that Calliope had a lot more to say than one book could hold.  So, we rejiggered some plot stuff and viola: Calliope’s story got a little extension.

It’s interesting that the main character in Death’s Daughter is Calliope.  Is she like the mythological goddess of war, or did you think it was just a cool character name?

Calliope–and her sisters Clio and Thalia–actually get their names from the Greek Muses.

Did your work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer influence your writing?  Or have you always had a deep interest in fantasy adventures?

I have been a fantasy/sci-fi geek my entire life.  Obviously, being on Buffy opened a lot of doors, but the genre world has always been a world that I love.

Your work on the Buffy episode “Once More with Feeling” brought to the fore your singing abilities.  You’ve known you could sing from a very early age, but when did know that you had the gift of novel writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, mostly short stories and plays, etc., but I had never tackled the idea of writing a novel until I met Chris Golden and started working on The Ghosts of Albion series. And then when it came time to get cracking on Death’s Daughter, I was super nervous because I had never done a whole book by myself. It was a really a daunting task, but I just took it one day at a time and that made it a bit more palatable.

How difficult was it not to be typecast after your character Tara was killed off on Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  Were you getting a slew of scripts where the lead was a shy, slightly awkward lesbian with awesome super-human powers?

I did get a few lesbian themed scripts after Buffy, but mostly I found that playing a gay character on a network TV show really frightened people in the industry.  There was a stigma attached to playing a gay character and as ridiculous as it seems, I lost out on a lot of work because of it.  I was blessed to get to play Tara and I wouldn’t change anything about the experience.  I just think it’s sad that in the 21st century people are still homophobic and unwilling to treat gay/lesbian/transgendered people like human beings.  It’s very frustrating.

The growth of the Internet, and its effect on “old media” and the entertainment industry in the last few years, has been quite dramatic.  Your old boss, Joss Whedon, said in a Rolling Stone article that he’s pretty much finished with the Hollywood machine when it comes to TV shows and movies.  Instead, he’s casting his lot with the Internet as a medium that offers greater creative freedom for filmmakers.  Whedon’s success with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and his struggles with Dollhouse stand as good examples of why Whedon is making the move to the online world.  What about you?  You’ve created Web content like Ghosts of Albion, so are you as optimistic about the Internet as Joss?

I think it’s a truly exciting time to be working in the film and television trade.  As far as I can see, we are moving toward an industry that will not be dictated by the few, but demanded by the masses.  The traditional methods of distribution are no longer cost effective.  Everything is changing right in front of our eyes (i.e., the way we create content, receive content and market content).  I really believe that as the Internet becomes more readily accessible to a larger slice of the populace, going to a movie or watching a TV show every week will become obsolete.

Since we’re on the topic of the Internet — and Popdose is a Web-only magazine — I think it’s time for a meme-like Q&A for our ADHD audience. Ready?  Just give me brief answers to the following:

Favorite song on “Once More with Feeling?”
“The Mustard” (Download).

What movie can you watch multiple times?
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

If you could have one thing for lunch every day, what would it be?
French fries.

One thing people might not know about you?
I bite my nails.

Have you ever had a “diva moment” on a set?
I’m sure I have.  I am a far cry from perfect.

Who’s you’re favorite non-Tara character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Dawn.

Facebook and Twitter: Great promotional tools, or big waste of time?
Great promotional tools.

What are the last three songs you listened to?
Nellie McKay’s “David” “Manhattan Avenue” and “Sari.”

Movie or TV show you really wanted to be on, but didn’t get a part.
True Blood.

What’s your favorite dish you can cook?
Squash Casserole.

Early in your career, did anyone ask you to change your name?
Nope.

Pets?
Two Mollies (fish): Maccabee and Kyoto.

Best career advice:
It’s all about persistence and having a bloody thick skin.