Tantra Bensko is the author of the book Glossolalia; here is a link to the website:
Q: What is Glossolalia about?
A: Nancy can only keep a job at her uncle Geoff’s pesticide company, because she has amnesiac fugues, and she’s addicted to the drugs he gives her to stave off strange visions, which present themselves almost like surreal memories. When she sees a crime happening at the company, she has the choice to risk her job and life in order to turn him in. But there’s a catch. A big one.
Her pursuit of a waste truck carrying away a poison legally deemed too toxic to dump leads her to a world of political intrigue, occult practices, shocking revelations, and her own involvement in layer after layer of a conspiracy.
It’s about the need to become authentic, and the power of determined individuals to transform themselves and the world. The series is about the heroism of recognizing, resisting, and exposing social engineering.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: I feel empathy for people who have gone through trauma induced by US intelligence agencies. I also feel empathy for the agents, and sometimes, they are one and the same.
Q: What makes Nancy a sympathetic character?
A: She cares about the environment and wants to do the right thing, though she struggles, like many people, with being forced to take a job that bothers her conscience.
Q: Are the characters in the book based on real people?
A: They aren’t portrayals of specific individuals but they’re influenced greatly by reality: the globe-trotting politically connected evangelist, the businessman with a conflict of interest, a president of a country trying to get off the dollar standard, the manipulative handler, the YouTube activist. The pills Nancy takes illegally are called Jolly Wests. That’s a nod to the famous MKULTRA doctor of that name.
Q: You teach fiction writing on several different websites. How did you get your first teaching jobs?
A: Part of getting an MA involved teaching in labs, which I’d already done in high school, so I was well prepared to teach at FSU while studying. I then simply applied to Memphis State and taught years there before teaching at Iowa while I got my MFA. I was happy to be offered the teaching jobs while studying and to accepted to the application to the instructorship in Tennessee. It was a simple process to be accepted everyplace I applied, possibly largely because the people hiring me liked reading my publications, and maybe were also impressed by the number of them.
I never wanted my path to be academic straight though, partly because that wouldn’t let me live a varied enough life to write deeply in the way I want. It was a long time before I applied to online teaching jobs and again, I think I was originally accepted partly because of the quality of my writing and my reputation in the Innovative Fiction scene as well as the classes I proposed in experimental fiction, which was not being taught much. I think I helped raise awareness of that style a bit through my popular resource website about it. I then very quickly expanded to also teach other forms.
Q: What are some of the most memorable questions students have asked you?
A: In a 10 weeks fiction writing class: “I dont rely no Enlish. Can you maeke all the editos at all my assignments for I learn English?” (I did.)
“Do you mind if I announce to the class that the story I wrote in the last class with you just won an award?”
Q: What are some of the qualifications for your job?
A: MA in English from FSU and MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. Getting my early teaching jobs rested partially on my good grades throughout school, publications, reference letters from impressed professionals, and the quality of my writing. Having those jobs in tow and letters from pleased superiors, I could apply to the online schools. Being a consistent teacher students got a lot out propelled me forward from job to job, as well as continuing to be published and do a lot online to promote literary awareness.
I live the kind of life expected of a writing instructor to obtain and keep a job: participating in panels such as at the &Now Festival of Writing, winning honors here and there, guest editing a magazine and putting out my own magazine as well as a resource site about experimental fiction and publishing people’s chapbooks, doing readings locally and at conferences. I continued to get work out to the public, with hundreds of short stories as well as other genres in magazines and anthologies.
My love for helping students prioritize their passion for writing I think is an important qualification for actually teaching, though. I’m patient, encouraging, friendly, and can appreciate a wide variety of genres: I studied them all to be prepared for anything a student might write. I’m sincerely thrilled by their stories and progress.
Q: What kind of music do you listen to when you write?
A: I don’t. I pay attention to the rhythms of the words and make that musical instead. It’s subtle and I wouldn’t want to override it. I get up and dance regularly when writing fiction, to silence. I hear the music in my head of the plot arc, how the audience should feel at a certain moment. I act out the characters, scenes, the mood of what comes next.
Q: What has been the most effective thing you have done to promote your book?
A: I have a Facebook author page, and I took out ads to attract people with interests related to the book, such as Conspiracy Fiction, Barry Eisler, Psychological Thriller Novel. I wrote a guest post about how the rise of indie publishing and movie production allows for a new paradigm of spy novels that flip the old default good guy – US intelligence VS bad guy formula. I posted about it on the author page and then boosted it. No one sees posts on pages now unless you do that.
225 people liked the post as they saw it scroll through their news feed. I then invited them to like the page, and those who did are perfect for my book. In any case, they read the information with links I included about the historical facts about the CIA, and that’s an end in itself. I cover many of the topics in my blog as well. Promoting the book is finding people intrigued by the series and also fostering awareness about a reality that’s important to address, whether the people buy any of The Agents of the Nevermind or not.
Q: If this country turns into a dystopia would you want drugs to anesthetize you or would you stay sober and fight?
A: I wouldn’t take drugs. I completely avoid pain killers as it is, and I’ve been in a lot of pain in my life. Pain is there for a reason. I listen to it rather than ingest a chemical with lasting side effects. Still, if I’m stuck under a truck that’s run out of the last of the gasoline, and I’m flailing around, yeah, if you don’t mind, a little morphine over heah.
Also, are you saying it’s not a dystopia now?
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.