Today I have author J.J. DiBenedetto here for a Guest Post on his Dream Series.
“Behind the Scenes: Interesting tidbits the books didn’t tell you”
By J.J. DiBenedetto“Dream Student” started life more than ten years ago. I wrote two complete drafts, but it was never good enough, and they sat on my hard drive until last year, when I finally came back to it. The biggest thing I changed, right from the start, was to go from third person narration to first person, and tell the entire story in Sara’s voice, from her point of view. It’s absolutely the right choice for the story, but it did mean losing scenes from Brian’s (her boyfriend) and Beth’s (her best friend) point of view. Brian, especially, lost some good moments of growth as we saw him mature into the man who Sara loves. They’re still there, but now we see it through Sara’s eyes rather than experiencing it with him. One scene that ended up being cut was a visit by Sara to the police, at Beth’s urging, to tell them what she’s seen in her dreams. They rehearse a story to explain how Sara knows all that information, but on the way there, Sara has a breakdown: “Sara ran away. Your friend ran away and hid somewhere the first time she had that nightmare, and she’s gone now and I don’t know where she went,” she said, her voice and Beth’s heart both breaking. God in Heaven, Beth thought, where did this come from? Wherever it was coming from, there was more: “Your friend went away, and she left me here, and she dumped all this horrible shit on me, all these dreams, she left it all in my lap and what am I supposed to do about it?” she went on, desperation dripping from every word, “And the worst thing of all is I don’t even know who the fuck I am!” There are some very similar moments to that when we get to book 4, “Dream Family”, as Sara tries to get over the traumatic experience she has in jail after she’s mistakenly arrested. Several scenes of college life, drawn from my experiences in college, were cut out as well. Sara attends the University’s 24-hour science fiction movie marathon near the end of the first draft (just as I and my friends did all four years of college), and she goes on stage during a student talent show. I do miss those scenes, but the book is much more focused as it is now. I also lost one of my favorite lines, which I still intend to use someplace. There was at one point a scene where Sara and Brian are home from school, walking past a spot that she frequented with an past boyfriend, and Brian asks, “Did you love him?” Sara’s answer? “No. But I thought I did. Does that count?” One other thing that was cut from “Dream Student” was my original chapter titles. I had the idea of using song lyrics, and I had one picked out for each chapter (chapter 2, when Sara goes out to a nightclub and runs into Brian for the first time, was titled “She could dance all night, shake the paint off the walls”), and most of the songs were 80’s songs, fitting the setting of the book. Unfortunately, as I was told by a writer friend, you have to get permission from the copyright holder for every single line you use from a song. Which is both difficult and usually expensive. So out went the lyrics, and, to try and keep a pop-culture theme to the titles, I went with 80’s movie/TV shows as chapter titles (chapter 2 became “Footloose”, for example). As the books go on, I move away from strictly 80’s titles, but the movie/TV theme remains. Anyone who attended my college (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio), especially around the time I was there, will recognize it in the setting of Crewe University in “Dream Student” and also “Dream Doctor”. Most of the building names were changed, but otherwise, it’s pretty close to real life. And, yes, the annual free showing of “Casablanca” by the university Film Society to begin the semester is a real event, and as far as I know it continues to this day. The university is not the only place I modeled on real life. Both Sara’s family home, and Brian’s are real houses, as is the home of mobster Paul Sorrentino. And anyone who lives in South Arlington, Virginia, will probably recognize the apartment building Sara and Brian live in in “Dream Family”. I hope you enjoyed this little peek “behind the scenes” of the Dream series!
A bit About the Author...
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then. He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests. The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.
Here are the links:
Webpage ~ Facebook ~ Amazon ~ AmazonUK ~ Goodreads ~ Smashwords
About the Books:
What would you do if you could see other people’s dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets…without them ever knowing? Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who’s got a crush on her. But when she starts seeing dreams that aren’t hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates…and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed. “Dream Student” is the thrilling first installment of the Dreams series.
“I didn’t expect to be woken up by someone I don’t know dreaming about killing somebody. I thought I was done with that once and for all…” But Sara’s not done with it. As if adjusting to life as a newlywed and starting medical school weren’t difficult enough, she’s started seeing the dreams of everyone around her, again. Before everything is said and done, those dreams might destroy Sara’s hopes of becoming a doctor, wreck her marriage and even end her life… “Dream Doctor” is the thrilling second novel in the Dreams
"I would give anything to take this away from her. I would gladly go back to having the nightmares myself – the very worst ones, the ones that had me waking up screaming in a pool of my own vomit – rather than see Lizzie go through this..." As a resident at Children's Hospital, Sara can handle ninety hour workweeks, fighting to save her young patients from deadly childhood diseases. But she's about to be faced with a challenge that all her training and experience haven't prepared her for: her four-year-old daughter has inherited her ability to see other people's dreams... "Dream Child" is the suspenseful third novel in the "Dreams" series.
"Why is this so hard for me? Why am I having so much trouble? Why do I feel so helpless, so hopeless? What the hell is wrong with me?" After tangling with murders and mobsters, not to mention medical school and three years of residency, Sara thought she could handle anything. And then the police show up without warning at her new office and arrest her for a crime she can't possibly have committed. Sara's confidence, and her grip on reality, is shattered during one terrifying night in jail. Now, the very dreams that have endangered her life and driven her to the edge of madness may be the only thing that can help Sara find herself again... "Dream Family" is the powerful fourth novel in the "Dreams" series.