I am always up for a good read and when I came across Monster by Ben Burgess Jr the subject matter caused me to reach out for an interview. The book tells a story about a “good guy” gone bad. Ken Ferguson was devastated emotionally by the love of his life. He also suffered low-self esteem brought on by years of being called ugly for his dark complexion. His hurt finally turned into revenge. Unlike the traditional pay back he sought to sexually use and abuse every woman he could get his hands on. He grew more and more detached and only cared about getting what he could with as little emotional ties as possible. The story is a powerful read for black men who find themselves being caught in the middle of both a good guy and a monster. Enjoy the interview by Mr. Burgess.
Q: In your story Monster you touch on a subject that is often overlooked or bypassed by many African American’s. You touch on skin color as it is most often not talked about as it relates to self-esteem. What was your inspiration when coming up with your storyline for Monster?
Monster is based off my life experiences. When I was younger I was very insecure about being dark-skinned. I think psychologically when I grew up and became more appealing to women, I felt I needed to constantly prove to myself that I wasn’t the “ugly” little boy that I was in the past, but a handsome, confident man. I feel that people really don’t understand the effect it has on a dark-skinned person when he/she is teased about the color of their skin by their own people. I feel that writing this booked help me to take readers into that world. They may never feel what it’s like to be teased and tormented about their skin color, but hopefully reading my book will make them think twice about teasing someone, help them to understand how the victim feels, and if they are dark skinned themselves, understand that they are not alone.
Q: I liked your ability to show your leading character’s vulnerability. You get a real sense of how “good” he is as a person in general. Your character went from being a good guy into being a “monster” seemingly overnight. Was it your intention to show how weak he was before he became a womanizer? Or was that done to show how extreme his transformation was?
I wanted to show that under the wrong circumstances, anyone can become a monster. Ken’s family life, his childhood, his dating experiences, and his own insecurities all cultivated his transformation into becoming a monster. I tried to show that Ken gets progressively worse. He starts off “weak”, but not necessarily bad. He still has a conscience. As the book goes on he becomes heartless and ruthless.
Q: How big a role did your character’s skin color play in his being ‘weak’?
I think it played a big role because it reopened a wound that bothered Ken. “It took years for me to become secure. While you may learn from the past and move on from the past, you still remember it. Sometimes the past hurts, and Bri reminded me of those times. I wasn’t secure or confident anymore. What had taken me years to fix about myself, she destroyed in a matter of weeks. “I feel that if a person is insecure and has emotional scares the way Ken did, it will affect their behavior in some way. It was because of his insecurities that I feel makes Ken too nice “Once I started to go through puberty, all I wanted was to be liked by girls. I did everything to please them. I gave them the little money I had, candy, and anything they asked for because I wanted them to like me. My first sexual experience was in the sixth grade when I went down on my friend Michelle. Even though I did whatever the girls asked, none of them wanted me. Some of them still made fun of me despite everything I did for them.” Some of his heartbreaks were caused by woman taking his kindness for weakness.
Q: It’s not often readers get an explanation behind a womanizer’s actions. Your character suffers from low self-esteem, and multiple broken hearts that leads him down a path of sexual revenge. If there is a message to be learned from his experiences what would it be?
I put my heart and soul into all of my writings. I constantly try to improve to become a better writer for myself and my fans. The message that I try to instill in my writing is, as people we should always strive to be better. We should always want to become better versions of ourselves. I also want people to see that whether they like it or not, no one is perfect. At some point even the “good guys/girls” aren’t so good. I try to make my books very realistic.
“Monster” is based off my life and experiences. After enduring some pretty interesting experiences, I believe that “Monster” is a story that can benefit everyone and it’s a story that needed to be told. I was inspired to write it to teach people. I feel that people can learn from my mistakes. I wanted people to learn that:
- 1. Every action has a consequence- It can be good or bad, but there is a result for everything we do.
- 2. We need to take time to truly heal emotionally and mentally after a break-up. If we don’t we are bound to bring that pain into future relationships.
- 3. We need to be conscience of our actions. We never know the effects they can have on other people.
- 4. In order to move forward in life, we have to learn to let go of negativity, and to forgive ourselves.
Q: How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since the 8th grade. When I was in the 8th grade, my English teacher Mrs. Marcus gave the class a poetry assignment. My poem was on basketball. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember my teacher was blown away by it. She encouraged me to keep writing. She was one of my most influential teachers, and I promised her if I ever wrote a book, I would write a poem about the Holocaust for her (She was Jewish, and had family in it) my dream was to publish a book. I continued to write throughout high school and college. My college professors told me I had talent, so I decided to go to open mic’s and perform my poetry. Hearing people cheer for me and appreciate my words, inspired me to want to keep writing. My first published book was “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange.” It was a poetry book. I wrote a poem for Mrs. Marcus called “Holocaust” keeping my promise. The poem “Ugly” from “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange”, is the poem that inspired me to write “Monster” I reflected on my life, and felt this would be a good story that would teach and possibly change people’s lives.
Q: What can readers expect from you in the future?
You can look forward to me constantly working on new books to stimulate people’s minds. I’m working on my next book “Love and Happiness”, and I plan to have it published by February of 2014
Poems from Times Have Changed and Life is Strange
There’s a darkness inside me that’s hidden deep
within my psyche; that causes me to act in a
behavior that’s unlike me. I have turned into a
lustful monster that conquers to alleviate my
emotional hunger, preying on women like a hunter
to add to my sexual numbers. Always on guard,
this side of me is a mask used to put up a façade,
disregard and protect me from the feeling of being
empty. I spent many dates gazing into eyes and
holding onto hands. My only plan was to add to
my statistic of one night stands, and becoming
legendary in women’s beds. I messed with many
heads to get them to spread their legs and relished
the feeling of being intimate. No longer into it, my
feelings for the situation become intricate while
she is still smitten by the way I caressed her. My
feelings changed the moment I undressed her.
Under no pressure, I address her with full force
showing no remorse as I tell her I felt nothing and
this was all just a fling. To me she didn’t mean
anything. I could have never been committed. I
didn’t have to wonder why I did it. The answer
was simple; I just wanted to “hit it.” I slept with
many women, some I didn’t even remember their
names, but no matter how many I slept with I
could never get rid of that initial pain. Back then
“she” had manipulated and hurt me so I decided
to show no mercy and do the same, let women
feel my pain, and become a player in this game.
Her method of deception left me suspended in a
state of depression, affecting my judgment and
affection. I was wounded with emotional scars.
From bathrooms in bars to backseats of cars, I
would just go with the flow with anything that
would tempt me. I would have sex and hop to
the next and still feel empty. After my heart was
destroyed, I felt that all of those women would
help fill that void, and make everything clearer,
until one day I didn’t recognize myself in the
mirror. What have I done? What monster have I
become? How could I ever expect anyone to love
me, with my heart being this ugly? When did my
heart turn to stone? The path that I was leading
was deceiving and would eventually leave me all
alone. What I did was wrong and was done with
evil intent. I decided to forgive myself as the fi rst
act of atonement. I have now grown and stopped
being vindictive and trying to “get them”. I have
stopped feeling like a victim and have returned
to the man I was supposed to be, forever keeping
that evil part of me in captivity.
THE COLOR OF MY SKIN
My childhood memories are chapters in my life
that I want closed. I got made fun of because of
my color and plain clothes. I looked in the mirror
and I wasn’t that dark to me, but all the other kids
filled my life with such misery. It hurt me deep
inside and the pain felt lethal. What made it worse
is that it came from my own people. I was laughed
at and tormented and would have done anything
to change my color. Everyday I would cry on the
shoulders of my mother. I would pray and hope
that God would make my skin lighter. I did stupid
things like bathe in scolding hot water, just to
make my skin brighter. I hoped the water would
burn off my color and my sorrow. I felt today
was messed up and hoped that all would change
tomorrow. I hated myself with my beady eyes, big
lips, and big nose. I wished I could just start over
and disregard all of those. I was tired of being
nicknamed tar baby and midnight, developed a
temper now everyday I was in a fi ght. In my heart
I knew violence wasn’t right and fi ghting wasn’t
the answer, but my own self hate was eating me
alive like a cancer. I prayed to God and he sent
someone to open my eyes, it came in the form
of someone white to my surprise. She told me
“your skin is the color of dark chocolate, which
is the sweetest, and its taste is divine, your skin
is beautiful and I love how it differs from mine”. It
shocked me because she liked everything about
me from my full lips to my nappy hair and after
that day no matter what anyone said I didn’t care.
From that day on I would let life experiences be
my teacher. I was proud of my nappy hair and
my strong African features. Even though I was
mentally stronger, those feeling I had before I
couldn’t totally forget. Society had instilled that
in me and it will always have a negative effect. I
know now my skin is beautiful, my skin is pure, I
finally see that now despite all the pain I had to
endure. No more will I feel sorry for myself, want
pity, or someone to blame. I love myself now and I
am no longer ashamed. I’m happy and now my life
can truly begin. I love myself right down to my full
lips to my dark brown skin.