CLARKS SUMMIT — Writing her first young adult fiction fantasy book, “The Geneva Project: Truth,” came easily to award-winning author Christina Benjamin, but the self-confidence to say, “I’m an author and I’m a writer,” took a bit longer for the 1998 Lackawanna Trail graduate to develop.
Benajmin’s work “Truth” has won multiple awards, including the Gold Medal for YA (young adult) fiction at the 2014 Florida Authors & Publishers Awards.
During a recent book tour and visit to Northeastern Pennsylvania the week of Sept. 20, Benjamin shared stories of her long and winding road to becoming an author with students at Abington Heights Middle School, Lackawanna Trail High School and Dunmore Elementary School.
“It’s so easy to market something you love, but it’s so difficult to market yourself,” Benjamin said following her presentation at Abington Heights Middle School on Sept. 22.
Benjamin, of St. Augustine, Florida and formerly of La Plume, encourages students at presentations and writing workshops.
“Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it,” she said. “I waited until I was 30 to find the courage to try to do something like this (be an author). Everything you learn along the way helps to shape you.”
Approximately one year after “Truth” was published, around the same time she released her second book, “Secrets,” in 2014, Benjamin said she was finally comfortable calling herself an author. She released book three in the series, “Lies,” on Sept. 1, and she expects to launch the fourth and final book in the series September 2016.
Benjamin began writing “Truth” during her lunch hour as an employee of the Villages Retail Division in Central Flordia. She didn’t tell anyone about the book until after it was finished.
“I was writing for myself for fun,” Benjamin explained. “The catalyst to write came after I finished reading the last book in the Harry Potter series, Hunger Game and Twilight all in the same year, so I thought, ‘What should I do now? Should I start another series? They’re all going to come to an end and I’m going to be sad.’ I was also pregnant, so if I want to sit down and write a book, I want to write something I can share with my kids. That was the whole idea.”
In a quandary, Benjamin decided to write and brought the story of the main character, Geneva, an orphan, to life. The overall tone of her books is fantasy, but Benjamin also adds to the mix magic, myths and legends that readers of any age can enjoy.
“Everyone can read it. I always explain in my presentations that young adult fiction doesn’t mean only young adults get to read it. The characters are young adults,” she said.
Her readers range in age from fifth-graders to their grandparents.
“It’s a fun read for the whole family,” she added.
Her husband, Philip, a freelance graphic designer, is responsible for encouraging her to publish her book, researching the publishing process and also has designed the graphics for her book covers and website. He also produces her print media.
After reading “Truth” for the first time, Philip Benjamin said he immediately fell in love with the characters and urged his wife to publish so children can also enjoy it.
“I liked it because ‘Truth’ is a story about friendship and how the characters build meaningful relationships as they go on their journey of discovering the truth about their island and their future,” he said.
The series is published through Crown Atlantic Publishing, a company the couple founded.
“It was a wonderful project to work on together and I look forward to helping her publish many more books in the future,” he added.
Christina Benjamin is planning a spin-off series dealing with some of the other legends from The Geneva Project and she also has several other writing projects in the works.
“Everything in life has taught me this is what matters – being passionate about what you do, filling your life with what makes you happy. Follow your heart. Keep dreaming because you never know where it will take you,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin is the daughter of Christina and William Jones, of Summerfield, Florida.