I have long wanted to have a look inside of best-selling author Anne Rice’s right hand man’s mind and today he has graciously said yes. There are many layers to this interesting and charismatic man that most people do not know about. Besides being the personal assistant to the iconic Anne Rice, he is also an accomplished author in his own right, however his talents do not stop there.
He is a photographer with an exceptional eye for the beauty and reality in this world, a gifted musician, a computer programmer, and a former Franciscan Monk. Yes you heard me right, a monk, which in my personal opinion gives him an insight into this world, and the unseen world, with a clarity that few of us have.
Now that I have your undivided attention, let us peal back the layers, shall we?
VM: Thank you for taking the time to be here today, Becket. Can you tell us what you enjoyed most from your childhood?
B: The part of childhood that I enjoyed most is the same part that I enjoy today in adulthood, which is being in my room and engaging my imagination. In childhood, I would stay in my room for hours, building with Legos, or playing games, or even (and this happened before I learned to value comics) cut out pictures of 70s Captain America and pretend that they were my toys. My imagination was highly active at that time. And it has continued into adulthood. In a sense, I am still doing the same thing, when I close my door and lose myself in my imagination; the only difference is that now I write it all down and shape it into a narrative.
VM: I feel like most writers come from that same place. Our creative imagination never turns off and as an adult it becomes channeled into the stories we write. Our experiences in life culminated with our mind’s never-ending search for the next story is what makes us uniquely fitted for writing, which brings me to my next question(s), your life as a monk. What was it like to walk in those shoes, how long where you a monk, and if you don’t mind my asking, why did you leave the order?
B: I was a seminarian for three years and then a Benedictine monk for five more. When I began, I had a romance with the monastic habit, that is, part of me loved the superficial elements, such as the habit. Before I entered, I had seen monks wearing their habit, and I thought it was spiritually inspiring. But then I put the habit on and realize that, beneath the habit, there is just a man. And being a monk meant living with other men, each with our own idiosyncrasies and faults. But the beauty of the monastic order runs much deeper than the surface. Beneath monk and man lies a spirit that seeks peace in the heart of Eternal Love. We monks achieved that interior peace only when we fully surrendered to the discipline of our prayer life. We prayed five times a day in community. We gathered as monks in the morning at noon and at evening and we chanted the Psalms, as well as read other Scripture passages from the Old Testament and New Testament, or the Jewish writings and the Christian writings of the Bible. The reason I left is because being in a monastery is like being in a relationship. Sometimes in a relationship we come to realize that the person we are with is not the person we desire to be with for the rest of our lives. For me in the monastery, it was the same. It was not the life I wanted to live for the rest of my life. So with the blessing of my brother monks, bearing no ill will toward them and neither them toward me, I packed my bags and left.
VM: I am relieved to know that your brothers held no ill will in your parting from the monastic life. I am sure it is a part of you that you will always hold close. I read somewhere that after you resigned the monastic life, you sent an e-mail to Anne Rice, asking her if she needed a former monk on her staff and the answer was, a remarkable, yes. That must have been an incredible moment in your life. Can you tell us about that?
B: Anne and I had been emailing each other for several years prior to my departure from the monastery. We had built up a very nice friendship. When I left, I told her my plans; and jokingly I asked her if she had room on her staff for an ex-Benedictine monk. Less than a day later she wrote back and told me that she did, and that I could come any time. I simply stared at the computer monitor, utterly dumbstruck at this news. Honestly, it was a dream-come-true! And it has forever changed my life because it gave me responsibilities that I never had before, and it has given me experience that I never thought possible. As her assistant, I have traveled the world many times, to France, Brazil, Switzerland, the Middle East, and many other places, not to mention the tours around the US and Canada. She has taught me how to be a better employee, a better friend, a better artist, and a better man.
VM: From the simple life of a monk to becoming the Personal Assistant to one of the most well-known authors of our time most definitely was a life changer. The schedule you keep must be grueling. Can you tell us what it is like working for this dynamic woman, and how you fit the time in to also do your own writing?
B: What I enjoy most about my work schedule for Anne is that it is never the same. Every day is something new, a wonderful surprise, be it researching for a book, planning a trip, overseeing the hanging of wallpaper, creating merchandise, creating online advertising campaigns, etc. The list goes on! The thrilling element is that I have learned how to use many programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, as well as do a little bit of coding now and again. It was the monks who taught me how to find time for my writing. Through their friendship and discipline, I learned that I enjoy going to bed early and rising early, so I wake up at about 4AM, pray, shower, and fill my coffee carafe to the brim with Starbucks jet fuel. Then I write for a few hours until it's time to do yoga and the elliptical. After that, it is time to go to work.
VM: Ah, Photoshop. My nemesis, lol. One day I will overcome that beast but to stay on track…I am sure Anne has given you many words of wisdom but now that you are a successful writer, what are some encouraging words from your heart that you can pass on to writers who aspire to live their dream?
B: These are words that Anne handed on to me: “Find what works for you and then just write.” Her words help me see that every writer is different, and all of us are going to have different routines for writing a book. For me, I write every day because it helps me feel as though I have accomplished something. I might write a hundred words or a thousand or ten thousand; the word count does not matter as much as just writing. If I only write one hundred words, then I am one hundred words closer to finishing my book. However, I also feel that writing is an exercise. The more we do it, the stronger we get. If we write a hundred words a day, we will soon find that we have the strength to write more. And that strength builds even greater strength. If you really want to be a writer, find the writing discipline that helps you get that book out of your heart and head, and onto the paper, or Word docx.
VM: The next few questions are about your books and music and what the future holds for both. As a writer, I hold music in as high a regard as the written word. They are one in the same because both inspire an emotional response in our souls. One of my favorite songs (I’m telling my age, lol) is Tapestry by Carol King. The song moves through my thoughts as a living image.
I love music. Unfortunately I am tone deaf so singing is out of the question for me unless you want to chase wild animals off, lol. What came first, the writer or the musician? Give us an insight to the evolution of Becket and how music affects you?
B: They came simultaneously, actually. I started playing music when I was in the sixth grade, with my friend, Sam Rivers, who eventually became the bassist for Limp Bizkit, and who is still a good friend today. We formed a band and began playing music throughout junior high and high school. And during that time, I wrote a lot of poetry and lyrics for our band. I was reading anything from Stan Rice to Shakespeare, from Anne Rice to Bram Stoker. So my writing at the time was highly affected by the melody with words. Even to this day, I write prose with a melody in mind. Often, when I struggle with writing, I'm struggling to get the melody of a sentence just right, the rhythm of a sentence perfect. Of course that usually means I am struggling to put round words in the square peg of iambic pentameter.
Music affects me profoundly. As I write this now I am listening to Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony. But when I wake up in the morning and begin to write, I generally listen to my playlist of Bach fugues on the piano or orchestrated for string quartet. Fugues calm my mind. I consider many of my own compositions to be minimalist fugues, namely The Journey and its two variations (see my album). They also help me focus and get into a trance-like rhythm of writing.
VM: Blood Vivicanti is a serialized novel written by yourself and Anne. Can you tell us about the storyline, what inspired you to write it, and how much of Anne is in the book?
B: Anne and I developed the idea for the Blood Vivicanti over several months. It was an exchange of emails about ideas and character names. We knew that these blood drinkers would have a different cosmology than vampires, and it would give them different talents and abilities. Due to our mutual fascination with (potential) interstellar life, it was an inevitable conclusion that we would create blood drinkers whose abilities are based on the DNA from extraterrestrials. The heroine of the story is Mary Paige. She is a solitary girl who is rejected by peers and parents. Yet because of her photographic memory, she is turned into a Blood Vivicanti and eventually becomes the greatest of them all. At its heart, the story is about finding an unlikely family.
VM: That is an unusual twist on vampires. I am sure young readers will find the story extremely intriguing. You also wrote a children’s novel, Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl, also a series, with Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl and the Dungeon of Despair being the first in the series.
VM: Can you tell us what inspired you to write a children’s book and what the storyline is about and where it is going? I also have to mention the covers and artwork. They are fantastic, thanks to the talented Raven Quinn. Tell us about the thought process that went into creating the covers and other artwork and how Raven was able to conceptualize your vision of the series.
B: Some of my favorite stories are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Phantom Tollbooth, and more. In essence, I adore children stories! But I especially love those with humor and or magical elements. So when I write a children's story, I want it to be full of humor and magic! I want to write stories that I enjoyed reading or listening to on audiobook. Children's stories have wonderful messages told in simple ways. Oftentimes, that is all I’m looking for. Oftentimes, that is all I want to write. And these books would not be as wonderful as they are without Raven Quinn’s masterful artwork. She has truly brought new life to these stories. The details in her illustrations add elements to the characters or to the scenes that I never fully saw. She's brilliant!
VM: I know you love steampunk, as do many readers, and have incorporated the steampunk genre into the Key series and also into Good the Goblin Queen, another children’s book illustrated by Raven Quinn. What interest you about steampunk, and do you feel that children are able to relate to a world based on modern science using the Victorian 19th century?
B: Plainly, it is beautiful! It is a combination of various elements of my favorite genres—Gothic, science fiction, and fantasy literature. For instance, you see Victorian apparel from Charles Dickens’ works, combined with inventions in Jules Vern's books, along with the magical elements you might read in Lord Dunsany’s works. Or you might see the Georgian and attire from Jane Austen's books combined with the innovation in a Georges Méliès movie. Steampunk is a wonderful mingling of human optimism over the centuries.
VM: Where do see your writing career going from here and do you have any new projects in the works?
B: I have several more books that I plan to release in 2015 and 2016. A fantasy book titled The Mandrake, about a man who can transform into a dragon, will be released later this year. My book of haikus will be released in May 2015. In July 2015 will be the release of another of my children's book titled Meredith and the Magic Library. October 2015 will be the release of another children’s book titled The Ghost, the Buttons, and the Magic of Halloween. And I have seven more installments of the Blood Vivicanti series that I'll be releasing intermittently over the next twelve months. I also hope to release another music album in 2016.
VM: Your schedule looks very busy in the writing department so can you tell us where the road will take you and your music and what you foresee in the future for your music?
B: When I was in the monastery my life predominantly revolved around music for almost 8 years. Over the last ten years it has taken a backseat to my literary endeavors. I hope that I might have more time in the future to devote to music composition. Writing music is different for me than writing books. When I write a book, I am always aware of the time because I'm always trying to make a deadline. When I write music, I lose complete track of the time. Writing music is the more time-consuming of the two, but I love it greatly because it engages my mind very differently.
VM: It has truly been an honor to get to know you a little better. Thank you for sharing a small part of your life with us. Is there anything else you would like the world to know about Becket before we say goodbye?
B: For what it’s worth, though I am no longer in the monastery, I am still a man of prayer. So I continued to remember you, the reader, in my conversations with God, whom I believe is a being of Eternal Love. Peace and joy to you always.
VM: What a great interview! Becket is a truly inspiring person and I hope you all have enjoyed getting to know him a little better.
Want to know more about Becket and his writing?