Years ago, Amber Benson was battling supernatural forces on television. The actor/author played Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These days, Benson is busy creating her own supernatural characters. She spent the past five years delving deep into the life of Calliope Reaper-Jones, aka Death's Daughter, in a series of novels published by Penguin. The final book in the series, The Golden Age of Death, is out now.
Calliope is a young woman struggling to resist the pressure to enter the family business. That plot might ring true for a lot of readers, save for one little detail. Calliope's dad runs Death, Inc. Her family's business is basically getting people from the earthly world to the afterlife. In five years, Benson has penned five novels following the transformation of Calliope from the daughter who just wanted a normal life to head of the organization. With the series coming to an end, she turned up at Dark Delicacies in Burbank for a signing on Saturday.
"I've always been kind of obsessed with death," says Benson when we chat before the signing. "I think most people are."
Benson, who describes herself as "slightly thanatophobic," aimed to write a book that incorporated the varied beliefs of an afterlife that exist in the world. That's the universe in which Calliope exists, one where the departed move into afterlife neighborhoods that reflect their own cultural belief systems. Originally, Benson had only written one book, but her editor at Penguin suggested she break up the story into a trilogy. When she was nearly ready to turn in the third book, something happened.
"I had tied up all the bits and pieces and sort of killed off my main character," Benson explains. Then she found out that her publisher wanted another two books in the series. Benson went back into her notes and began unraveling the events that had just come together.
"I tried to make them interesting for myself," says Benson of the unanticipated follow-ups. The fourth volume, How to Be Death, became Benson's "homage to Agatha Christie." For her most recent effort, she explores several of the series' supporting characters, in addition to the protagonist.
Up next: How Buffy helped her become a writer