Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest today, USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby.
Her work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. She has since gone on to win nineteen awards for her work; these include: TheRoyal Palm Literary Award, the FPA President's Book Award Gold Medal, Reader's Favorite Award Gold Medal, and the Reviewer's Choice Award. Bette's published works to date are: Wishing for Wonderful (2014), Blueberry Hill (2014), Previously Loved Treasures (2014), Jubilee's Journey (2013), What Matters Most (2013), The Twelfth Child (2012), Life in the Land of IS (2012), Cracks in the Sidewalk (2011), Spare Change (2011). Book Three of The Wyattsville Series, Passing through Perfect, is currently available for pre-order and will be available January 10, 2015.
Norm: Good day Bette and thanks for participating in our interview.
Bette: Thanks for having me Norm. I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk with you and the Bookpleasures audience.
Norm: How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Bette: I’ve been writing for most of my life. Years before I began writing fiction I wrote for business. Since I am an avid reader, it was a natural progression of events. Natural, but not necessarily easy. I had to rethink everything I knew about writing. In business your goal is to present the story quickly and get to the point, whereas in fiction it’s all about the art of telling of the story. A good analogy is that in business you’re focused on the destination, but in fiction it’s the journey that counts.
It’s love of the story that keeps me going.
Norm: Are you a plot or character writer?
Bette: Definitely character writer. I spend several weeks getting to know the characters before I begin to write the story. Although I have the story concept in my head, I never do an outline because as the characters develop, the story often changes.
Norm: What was the first story you ever wrote, and what happened to it?
Bette: It was a suspense drama titled Birthright. Although I do believe it is still somewhere in the archives of my computer collection, it will never see the light of day. It was part of that learning curve when I went from writing for business to writing fiction.
Norm: Which of your books/stories are you most attached to and why?
Bette: I think I’d have to say Spare Change because Ethan Allen, the eleven-year-old boy in the story, is a character built around the type of kid I think my mom was at his age. She was one of eleven children and very much a survivor. It’s also a reader favorite and I can’t begin to tell you how many readers have volunteered to adopt Ethan Allen.
Norm: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?
Bette: Not going Indie sooner. The publisher I was originally with overpriced the books and that discourages new readers from trying your work. As an Indie, I can give readers great stories at affordable prices.
Norm: What's your average working day like? Do you have any unusual habits/rituals? As a follow up, what helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Bette: I walk a few miles in the morning and think about the story I am working on; I put myself in the character’s shoes and play out how I would react to the given set of circumstances. When I get home, I write that scene the way I have envisioned it. I try to stay offline until mid-afternoon because once I’m involved in social media I step away from the character I’m writing about and become myself, which is almost always a different mindset. It requires a lot of discipline to not take a quick peek at the latest Facebook thread because I love chatting with fans and fellow authors.
When it comes to reading back my own work, I do it all the time. It’s the best way to winnow out the extra words and stumbling blocks. If something I’ve written feels less than perfect, reading it aloud will enable me to find the lumpy spots and smooth them out.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and do you have a specific writing style?
Bette: I have a Southern heritage and write in a Southern voice. So yes, it has definitely affected y writing style. It took me a while to discover the voice in my head, but once I did, it came quite naturally.
Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Bette: The idea or concept of a story can come from almost anywhere and is generally influenced by something or someone close to me. I am not a “ripped from the headlines” type of writer. The information, or facts used in a story, generally comes from doing a considerable amount of research on the Internet.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
Bette: I’ve learned to be myself and trust my own story instinct. I never try to copy another author’s style because this book or that book sold a million copies.
Norm: What do you think makes a good story?
Bette: When the reader actually cares about what happens to the protagonist. This means creating characters who live and breathe. The best characters are a mix of good and bad, it’s often those flaws that make them lovable.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Bette: Believe in yourself because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either. Do your very best work and when it gets to the point where you can read it back and love it, your readers will also. An author’s voice or vision won’t matter to anyone unless it first matters to the author. So search for the unique in you and let it shine through as an original.
Norm: Can you tell our readers a little about Wishing for Wonderful and Passing through Perfect?
Bette: They are about as different as two books can be. Wishing for Wonderful is a lighthearted romance and Cupid tells the story. He’s not the Cupid you think you know; this one has attitude, and plenty of it. It’s a fun frolic about two couples and a dog waiting to be rescued.
Passing through Perfect is the heartrending story of Benjamin Church, a young black man who at the end of World War 2 comes home to a segregationist Alabama and a hardscrabble life of farming. It is a story of love, evil, generosity and ultimately finding a better future.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Bette: At any of the following sites, and I love hearing from readers ~ (she said with a smile ~)
Norm: After your phenomenal success as an author what, if anything, remains "undone" for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still "itching" to accomplish?"
Bette: I must say I am pretty darn satisfied with my life, but I haven’t yet made the New York Times Bestseller List and that’s on every author’s bucket list.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Bette: What am I working on right now?
Since you’ve invited me to share the answer it is a novel titled The Memory House. This is a prequel that links to several of my other novels. It is a delightful project that is truly a labor of love since I get to revisit many of my favorite characters plus a few new ones that I am enjoying immensely. I hope to have it available in the first quarter of 2015.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
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