“Why is this so hard for me? Why am I having so much trouble? Why do I feel so helpless, so hopeless? What the hell is wrong with me?”
After tangling with murders and mobsters, not to mention medical school and three years of residency, Sara thought she could handle anything. And then the police show up without warning at her new office and arrest her for a crime she can’t possibly have committed. Sara’s confidence, and her grip on reality, is shattered during one terrifying night in jail.
Now, the very dreams that have endangered her life and driven her to the edge of madness may be the only thing that can help Sara find herself again…
“Dream Family” is the powerful fourth novel in the “Dreams” series.
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he’s not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The “Dreams” series is James’ first published work.
Why Did I Write the Books?
I first had the idea that became “Dream Student” over a decade ago. I liked the idea of dreams, and especially sharing the dreams of other people. And that gave me the thought of using that to write a story where the heroine was the only witness to a crime, because the killer was reliving his crimes nightly in his dreams. She can’t go to the police, because she has no proof at all, and what she sees is so terrible that she has to do something about it, so she’s forced to try and catch the killer herself. What I liked about this storyline is that it gave the heroine a believable (at least to me) reason why she couldn’t just go to the authorities.
So I wrote the first draft – it was the longest thing I’ve ever written. But it honestly wasn’t that great. And it sat on my computer until last year. That’s when a good friend sold her novel, and it got me thinking “why not me?” So I dusted off my first draft, rewrote it from word one (changing it from third person to first person, so the whole story is narrated by Sara as it’s happening to her) and when it was good enough, onto Kindle it went!
After I was finished, I realized there was plenty more story to tell, and “Dream Doctor” was born. Following Sara to medical school seemed like an obvious story to follow, and I wanted to change up the problem she’d face. In the first book, she knew who the killer was – her task was to find him. This time, it would be more of a traditional mystery – lots of suspects, and she’d have to figure out which one of them was the real killer. I also liked the idea of exploring Sara’s life a newlywed.
I ended the second book with Sara becoming pregnant, and that led to the thought: what if her child inherited her ability to see dreams? I loved the concept of Sara having to interpret dreams through the descriptions of a four year old who has no understanding of what she’s seeing. That’s how “Dream Doctor” came about.
And this new book, “Dream Family”, ended up being a lot different than I initially thought. The original idea I had was, what if someone else had Sara’s talent, but they were using it for their own selfish purposes instead of helping people with it? I planned, as a small sub-plot, that Sara would mistakenly run afoul of the law and find herself in jail for a night. It was going to be a brief obstacle for her. But then it changed, and the night in jail became something much worse. It’s still only one night, but it’s hugely traumatic. Sara is completely unprepared for what happens to her, and it shakes her to the core. The book turned into a story of recovery – how can Sara find herself again after this experience that’s damaged her so badly, and made her doubt the most fundamental things about herself? I think that’s a very compelling story.
My Favorite Hobby
Over the past few years, I’ve become a huge opera fan, and I go whenever I have the chance. The first time I went was ten years ago, in Vienna. I was there with friends over New Year’s, and we saw “The Magic Flute”. I was hooked, after that. I became a subscriber to my local opera company (the Washington National Opera), and I listen to it every chance I get. It’s such a passionate art form – it’s all about stirring up the emotions. You feel it, rather than think about it, and it reaches me on a gut level.
Very brief synopsis of the previous books, since this is book #4:
We first meet Sara Barnes in “Dream Student”. She’s a shy, bookish college student who thinks she is perfectly ordinary – until one night in the middle of her junior year when the dreams start. They aren’t Sara’s dreams, they belong to other people. She could see into the dreams of the people around her. She learns about the hopes and fears of her friends and classmates; she discovers just how big a crush the cute freshman in the next dorm had on her; and she witnesses the unspeakable acts of a serial killer. Sara comes to realize that her dreams are the only evidence of the crimes. She is the only witness. And so she takes it on herself to stop him.
Two years later, in “Dream Doctor” we meet Sara again. She’s now Sara Alderson, married to her “cute freshman,” and she’s a first year medical student. And her dreams start up again. This time, it seems that everyone is dreaming about murdering one of her professors. He’s the least popular person in the school, so everyone’s got a motive. But only Sara knows that one of them isn’t just dreaming, they’re actually trying to kill him – but which one?
Sara’s tale picks up four years later, in “Dream Child.” She’s a resident at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and she’s got three children of her own: four year old Lizzie, and two month old twins. Life is hectic, but good – until the dreams intrude once again. But this time, it’s not only Sara dreaming – her daughter has inherited her gift. Now Sara has to unravel the schemes of a corrupt politician and a mobster, with only the descriptions of a four year old girl to guide her.
Feel free to ask James more about his books, writing or love of opera!