This time I have the honour to present to you Tantra Bensko. The words to describe Tantra’s writing are sold out, I’m sorry. You will just have to judge for yourself. The only thing I can tell you is that you’ve never read anything like it in your entire life. If you’re in for a ride with your mind, your heart and your soul, make sure to check out Tantra’s work!
1. Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
Berkeley, California. Bred—sounds like I came from a fine kennel—in Indiana, and have lived all over the place. But this is where I’ve chosen to live, and I’m happy about it.
2. What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I eat organic, free range, healthy food that was treated with love. Yes, I’m a very creative cook. I don’t measure anything. I put in a sparrowful of this and a teardrop of that. Food is part of the pulsing consciousness of this divine earth, and I’m grateful to it for giving its life up for me. I thank it and vibe with it to learn from it. I used to do interpreting dance for what I ate for years, to really resonate with it. It was great fun eating at people’s dinner parties, and we’d all be leaping around afterword acting out athletic garlic, and sensuous mango. Especially when someone new walked in the door and caught us at it.
3. Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I used to play tennis a lot, and particularly like naming the serves with ominous sounding names in French—The Eye of the Owl, the Lair of the Mongoose.
Exercise means letting my body, my lovely pet, come out of its computer writing cage and play. And letting energies flow and not get stuck, but express. I do exercise regularly, with weights, walking everywhere I go, dancing, free form movement. But 3 months in a cast with a broken leg makes that exercise more creative than ever.
I have lots of hobbies, though little time to do them lately. I make experimental music and videos, for example. And I’m an artist, which I’ve devoted as much time to as writing. And, I like to pretend to be various animals, the Slow Loris being my f a v o r I t e.
4. Do you have kids/grandkids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I have a son named Tommy, who has a girlfriend named Becca, so she’s part of the family too. Tommy has been a delight since he was a baby. We’re close friends, and we used to be feral wolves together. Now, we’re only part feral.
5. Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
Yes. I don’t get to do it much anymore, but my life used to BE travel, most feral roaming. The last place I went was Romania, with a stop off at Warsaw. I was sent there, with author, researcher, publisher Peter Moon, by the time travel expert and Youth Ambassador, David Anderson, to Atlantykron. I got to teach LucidPlay and Lucid Fiction there at Atlantykron, and did about 350 aura readings out there in the wilds in an island in the Danube.
I loved the old city in Warsaw, and wrote a story that takes place there. I also fell totally in love with Romania, which I also wrote about, would bi-locate, and be there too if I could. So charming and real, every house an act of true art, every curl and bend and brick a dream.
6. Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
I do spend a lot of time writing, a lot of that currently being articles for a company I really enjoy working for, writing about topics I’m passionate about, such as hypnosis. I’m a hypnotherapist too, though currently focusing more on my literary career. Primarily, I teach Experimental Fiction Writing. I teach through UCLA Extension, Writers College, and my own Academy. I have brilliant students around the world, and I adore what I do. My body just isn’t so happy about all the hours before I open the cage.
7. How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
It was when my ceiling started saying Wa Wa that I took note. My surroundings don’t generally speak quite so eloquently. However, as far as people inhabiting my surroundings, I’d say the remark that stays with me is from one of the people I got closest to in rural Alabama when I was out there last—- saying she wants to be sure to buy Lucid Membrane. Because I love her, and she’s elderly, and very religious, and sweet, and that particular books is Transgressive. I don’t know what to do with that. Normally, I don’t bring my writing to the attention of my family.
Though when I was in Alabama last time, for a year and a half, to be there for my father’s passing, I read some stories to that lady, and her sister, and that fun experience ended up in a Meta-Story. Which I read them, and then their reactions became an addendum, another layer of Meta, I added into the story (which is in a different manuscript).
I was first published when I was a teenager, and won my first award as an undergraduate, so I don’t know to tell if people changed.
8. Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I’ve been isolated for a long time due to circumstances. But I do love to play with people, and interacting, even online, is deeply meaningful to me.
9. Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
Oh, I can’t wait to see how Night Publishing’s Mike Church will squirm when you ask him that. Of course, his answers will all be witty, so that’s how he’ll get out of it, clever monkey. I personally enjoy my Absurdist tendencies most. I’d rather do without how I look.
1. Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I write in bed, with the curtains drawn, in a very strange position. I’d imagine the view from behind would be pretty interesting. The house where I’m renting a room is beautifully enhanced and decorated by the landlord, who lives here, so has a master craftsman, home-made Asian feel to it. Elements of that show up in the cover art for The Cabinet of What You Don’t See. There’s a giant shrine out front that he made, with dragons. When I poke my had out the window, that’s what I see. When I go to sleep, they see me.
2. Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
Thank goodness, no. Though a Slow Loris mascot would certainly be a great addition.
3. What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I write non-fiction, poetry, and fiction. And I make movies and music, so that pretty much covers all of them, I think. I’ve wanted to since I was a child.
4. When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
My first books were released in the early 90′s. They were non-fiction, and I’ve let them go out of print, to redo them in a larger book for another publisher who wants them.
I have had the strange luck of writing many manuscripts that had something happen to them, like—disappearing. I wrote a thick manuscript, which included a lot of testimonials by others about what it was like to receive Shaktipat transmissions and healing work. I took out excerpts from that, and a publisher put those out into 5 books. In the process, he lost the big book manuscript. But I did have the 5 out at a lot of stores, and sold a lot as I travelled around the country doing my spiritual work. Some people actually set them up in little shrines.
The best was when I was in a store in Arizona, and a handsome man walked in, wearing a white robe, carrying my first book, Divine Flying, in his hand. He recognized me when he saw me from the picture on the back. He’d bought it in a store in Atlanta, and said he carried it with him everywhere.
5. Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
Well, Lucid Membrane isn’t my first book out there, but it’s the first with Night Publishing, so I’ll describe that. It took 22 YEARS to write. So, I hope people are willing to spend the price of a meal on it. My first chapbook, Watching the Windows Sleep, contains some stories from the full length book, and some of the stories have been in magazines.
But people can’t access the full spirit of this book from those pieces, partly because it contains 3 stories hidden inside it that I call Trance-media. That’s because when a hypnotherapist speaks, she can put her head to the side and highlight certain words that add up to a separate story for the subconscious. I’m creating that technique with color, and am thrilled that Tim Roux is willing to let me explore innovations like that. And to approve the Transmedia aspects as well. So, for that: people who own the book will have many opportunities to see more, interact, share, based on call outs of page numbers I’ll be making. People are going to get a heck of a lot with this book.
The book contains disparate narratives that cover the range of the self, from the beta-brain waves of ordinary consciousness, in the zany humour stories, through the slower brain-waves of more spiritually expanded, transcendent states. I have other short story collections too, such as another chapbook coming out from ISMs called The Cabinet of What You Don’t See, that is part of a book that I wrote in the last year, and another that is based on my free range life. So, these were chosen from a large number of stories. I have a lot of poems out there too, but around 100 short stories published in magazines, and many that will only be seen in the books.
I’d say the seed for the book came 22 years ago from some lucid dreams, very expansive, with multiple aspects of the self, and I wanted to capture that, like in the story I wrote then, “The Boy Who’s a Floating Flower,” which is in the book. And one magazine editor’s scathing response to it, which motivated me to send it out more, and then it won a couple honors. Another element of the book was actually inspired by a friend, Greg Kulz, who came up with glow in the dark tattoos in real life. His story is nothing in any way shape or form like the one in my book, however.
6. What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I never think of writing a certain number of words per day. I do write something every day, usually most of the day, whether it’s reviews of books I feel drawn to promote to the world, or working on Exclusive Magazine, which I edit. I’m also co-editing this Lucid Fiction issue of Medulla Review. And I’m a collaborator of the Step Chamber, too, for which I dare not speak the word “magazine.” I really like helping others get their writing seen.
As far as my short stories, I tend to just start writing, and that’s it. I see what happens. It’s like lucid dreaming.
7. Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
I guess I’ve been most inspired by yogis who are able to transcend what people think of as limits in human abilities, since I was young. I feel that’s our natural state, and I like to do those things myself, show others how to, and write about it. And researchers about what really is going on behind the scenes are my other heroes.
For example, my stories that are autobiographical show me as a healer, Shatipat transmitter, exorcist, about to appear to people long distance, see auras, and such. I believe in writing about these things, not always under the Sci Fi or fantasy label, but as real life, in Literary Fiction, and that’s one of the aspects that can make a piece Lucid Fiction. I think the more people get used to those things as doable, and normal, the more they will also realize they can do them too. And those who control our society by keeping people ignorant of their power will lose some of their footing, as the means they use to do that become more written about too. By not only whistle blowers and researchers, but eventually, literature. Because that’s part of Lucid Fiction as well.
In fact, when anyone talks about those abilities, or control mechanism in any media, even the news or scientific reports, I call that Lucid Fiction in the looser sense. This fictional dream illusion is becoming more lucid.
Lucid Fiction is the genre I instigated, and my fiction falls into that category. Now, that doesn’t mean that every story in Lucid Membrane can be isolated and labelled that. Because writing Lucid Fiction in a large work involves including the whole self, and some parts of our selves are more limited or just doing their own thing, more dualistic, rather than expansive, or tackling taboo subjects. Lots of these stories are simply pure fun, and that’s that.
Some stories in Lucid Membrane obviously are expansive, however, dealing with parallel realities and different frequencies of the self, auras, energy manipulation. The documented ability to read with the skin is tackled in a way in my book that—again, I hope my sweet friends in rural Alabama don’t get ahold of. (That story was originally published in the anthology Surreal South.) There is a Sasquatch in one story. Now, you really can’t take either of those stories seriously, but the fact that that ability, and that creature exist is not brought into question. Religion, however, is questioned, and played with, and that is part of what makes the book Transgressive. Some of the stories are theta brain-wave surreal, dreamlike, and can take the readers into that state of mind to explore their own subconscious. I like to write for the different levels of the self, from the subconscious, to the Higher Self.
8. What does Night Publishing mean to you?
I feel a lot of warmth toward Night Publishing that grows warmer all the time. It’s probably going to become a hot flash or hives before long. I feel a lot of respect for the ability to get out a lot of books that actually sell impressively well, to create the kind of tribe we have of people who care about each other, doing things like this interview. I love being able to talk to Tim as a human being, and to have the freedom to do an experimental book, which caters to a somewhat obscure (er…ahem….elite) audience. The publishing terms are generous, and the feel of the whole thing is welcoming and encouraging. I guess Night Publishing means to me— a lot of people who are happy due to believing in Tim’s vision.
9. Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
10. Final fun question. If you had to choose: are you a Houdini or an Edison? This is for the official NP tally.
Answer will follow.
THANK YOU SO MUCH TANTRA!!