The world has a new hero, but he’s short a penny. After meeting a sagacious Indian nickel, 4¢ Ned discovers within himself a million bucks of e pluribus awesome. Teaming up with a luckless penny, the three intrepid coins become the champions of small change everywhere as they struggle to save Coinworld from a worthless future. A bigger world never came in a smaller package. Buck ‘n’ roll!
Ever wanted to know what goes on in the life of coins? Benjamin Laskin has returned to ItsWriteNow.com to regale us with his take on those secrets lives of coins that you’ve all been wondering about. Benjamin, it’s great to be chatting with you again, what’s been going on in your life since then?
It’s fun to pop in again. Thanks for having me. It’s been about a year since we last spoke. Since that time I published four new novels—a sequel to my novel “Murphy’s Luck” and three additions to my The Amazing Adventures of 4¢ Ned Coinworld series. The latest is the just-released Coinworld: Book Six.
Wow, you have been busy! With so much going on in your writing career, do you feel that your journey as an author has changed much?
No galloping successes but I trot along. I’ve gained a lot of new readers over the year and some big fans. I’m very grateful for all them. My journey has mostly been from butt to chair with head-clearing walks in between.
And with three new Coinworld books released as a result of this butt in chair action, you’ve obviously been successfully getting yourself into the chair and working. So let’s dig a little deeper into your work, in particular, The Amazing Adventures of 4¢ Ned. How did Ned come to life?
It began with a casual conversation with one of my best friends. He mentioned an idea for a short story he had along with some childhood anecdotes. I thought I’d try to tie some of them together into a short story just for fun. After a week I realized I had the makings of a novel. After a month, I knew it might be a series. By the time I was halfway through the first draft, I decided it would be a really big series. Coinworld, as it became called, kept growing in my mind, and the more I learned and thought about coins, the more potential I saw. The coin characters had become as real as any human characters I had written about in other books. That’s not an easy thing to pull off considering that a coin is an object without moving parts. Also, I did not want to make the coins magical or give them cartoon-like features. They appear exactly how a coin looks in your hand. Nor did I want to write a children’s book. It was a challenge, but I think I pulled it off. The coin characters (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.) are lifelike and each coin’s personality is very distinct. Likewise, the human characters who have “entered Coinworld” (called Coinheads in the story) are also very interesting and fun to know. The interaction between the two is a lot of fun to read about.
And no doubt write. Tell us a little more about your coin and Coinhead characters. How did they develop?
Well, it began with a 4¢ nickel, and then the other coins rolled up to me one by one, beginning with a shabby penny and then a sagacious Indian nickel. It was raining coins after that. And of course, you can’t have this Coinworld happening right under our noses without some people getting suspicious, and so those characters stepped up too. Also, every story has to have good guys and bad guys, and so why would Coinworld be any different? 4¢ Ned has his nemeses, both coin and human, as do the human characters.
Often writers find that they use events from their own life to build some of the relationships between the characters, but I imagine that it might have been tricker in your case. Did you draw on any life experiences when you were writing about these characters?
None in particular, but as the writer of such a unique story, I had to think a lot about all the different roles a mere coin can play in one’s life, and the myriad of situations that arise. I think the reader will recall many memories related to coins that he or she had forgotten about or hadn’t given much thought to before.
Was the idea of providing readers with the chance to explore their memories the most important idea that you wanted to convey to the readerS?
I just wanted to tell a fun and unique story, but there are also a lot of interesting tidbits about coins. I guarantee that after reading the books one will never look at the change in his or her pocket in quite the same way again. There are messages and big themes, of course, but nothing too overt. The mottos engraved on coins play a role in the story, for example, and those words along with other symbols and designs provide many tropes throughout the series.
All of the mottos and symbology sound like quite the learning curve!
Yes, I learned a whole lot about coins and numismatics.
Those both sound like some very broad, interesting research topics! With such large topics to cover, do you usually find yourself energised or exhausted by the prospect, and act of writing?
Both and neither, if that’s possible. After awhile, you just do it. There are up days and down days, and for me, no such thing as an easy day, but that’s okay. By now I’ve learned not to panic if I’m feeling stuck. I just keep reworking the patch and inevitably I see what I was missing or what needs to be done. My fingers never fly across the keyboard, they peck at it like a chicken, but the strokes all add up in time.
What do you think about as you tap away?
I just want to tell a fun and entertaining story that can be read by most anyone. My books are all G or PG-rated, you might say. That doesn’t mean they are simple or childish; I just think I can tell a great story without words or situations that might turn off many readers. That’s not a criticism for such books. I read all kinds of books. It’s simply a choice on my part.
With so many words and situations that really do turn off people, it’s great to see an author who really wants to create another source of stories that are a little less confronting. So, what can you tell us about what’s in your pipeline?
I hope to complete three books in the coming year, each an addition to my other series.
Ahhh, a little mystery. Since we’re keeping those projects mysterious, let’s talk about how you’ve progressed as you’ve kept writing. Do you think you’ve seen a large change in your voice?
I hadn’t thought about it until now, but I find that I want to distance my narrator’s voice more and more. I wrote a few books with a first-person narrator, and although they were not “me,” I don’t think I’ll do anymore first-person books. I come across a lot of those kind of books nowadays. They are fine, but sometimes their heads feel claustrophobic to me and can come off as a little too self-absorbed. I don’t know, but maybe I think the bigger the narrator the smaller the other characters tend to be. I owe everything in my novels to the characters, and I want to give them as much freedom as possible.
Does your move away from the idea of a narrator mean that you’ve transferred the idea of your own voice to an author brand instead? Have you put much work into branding and tying your work together so far?
I should give branding and the like a lot more thought than I do. A big problem I have is that I don’t write genre-driven fiction. Someone who really likes one particular novel or series tends to expect the same from all my books. That doesn’t mean another isn’t as good, just not the kind of book the person was expecting to read. It’s a problem sometimes. But, that’s not why I write. If I have a story worth telling, I have to tell it. It may not be one fan’s cup of tea, but another fan will love it. As a writer and author, I’ve decided that I’m just going to tell the best, most-engaging and fun stories I can and let the chips fall as they may. Some people who see the cover and blurb for “The Amazing Adventures of 4¢ Ned” (Coinworld Series), for example, might think it’s a children’s story. That’s my lack of branding shining through, darn it. The series is “clean,” and so could be read by kids, sure, but it’s really a story for more mature or thoughtful readers. It’s a fantasy and a comedy, but a lot of the humor and wit would fly over the heads of a kid. Maybe the series is for the big kid in all of us, no matter our ages. And I guess I’ll leave it at that!
That’s a great place to leave it. And you know, I want to see a little more of the kid inside you, so I think our next few questions have to be fun! Here’s a fun one that I like. If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?
Why do rivers have banks? Do fish have money?
Maybe fish use their scales as payment instead of actual money because I don’t think it would be fun to swim around with a big bag of coins. But one of the interesting things about coins is their regional significance. Have you ever been lucky enough to go on a literary pilgrimage, with or without the intention of looking at coins?
The closest thing to a pilgrimage was a couple of trips to Concord, MA and Walden Pond. It was my love for the works of Emerson and Thoreau and the American Romantics that inspired me to become a writer. I’ve never attended any writing conferences or workshops. I’d like to attend a writers’ conference one day, but because of where I live and the distance (and so cost), I’m currently unable to do so. They sound like fun and I’d like very much to meet other writers, but for now I’m just a lonely scribbler. There are numerous social media groups for writers, but I’m too shy and introverted for that kind of thing. It’s fantastic for many people, but it’s not for me.
Meeting with other writers can be such fun so I hope you’re able to find a local friend to chat with while you save up for the writer’s conference. In the meantime, can you cry underwater?
Sure, every time my rent and utility bills roll around.
Yep, that will do it! On a happier note, what is your favourite word?
I have a ton of favorite words and phrases, especially those that make me smile but would rarely if ever use in a book — hobbledehoy, sesquipedalian, skeevy, bombinate, borborygmus, codswallop, zaftig, digitus impudicus…
*Laughs* Awesome selection! And I think if you combined them all together you would end up with a fantastic read, so perhaps that’s your next challenge if you need a little vacation from Coinworld. Well, we’ve just about rounded everything up for today. Benjamin, I think we’ve had a great chat today!
Thank you very much. It was a blast chatting with you. I hope we’ll meet up again next year!
Me too! Benjamin, thanks for having fun chatting with me, and I hope to hear a little more about Coinworld soon!
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘The Amazing Adventures of 4¢ Ned – Coinworld: Book One ( ASIN: B01MT804S0 )‘.
Want to find out more about Benjamin Laskin? Connect here!