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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Author Interview: Bettye Griffin

Today I am pleased to present to you all the thirtieth in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the puzzle-solving Bettye Griffin and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Bettye: Other than that I try to create 1000 new words each day (and I usually meet this goal if I’m not in the editing phase), no. I write different ways (type or dictate) and in different places (my office, my bedroom, the patio, the “Internet caf√©,” in my basement).

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Bettye: A mind that is always at work, taking every interesting situation I encounter personally or hear about secondhand and asking the “what if?” question to fictionalize it.

Paul:  What is a typical day for you? 
Bettye: Every day is unique.  I’m a great adapter, and that’s what helps get the work done!

Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it? 
Bettye: I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes, but nothing comes to mind. I have not pursued a traditional career… I did not release titles as often as I should have in the beginning (they recommended every six months) and did not write family series (still don’t, because I don’t particularly care for them). I believe in doing what’s best for me at that particular time in my life, and also in writing what I enjoy. Works for me!

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Bettye: At this time I don’t work outside the home, but I’m not the type who can sit down and write eight hours a day, and believe me, I tried. My brain just isn’t set up that way. I do my best work in short spurts. On days where I have to run errands, I am very productive by dictating text into my handheld recorder (which corresponds to my Dragon voice recognition software; I hook it up to my laptop and it transcribes my words for me). When I am home, often directly speaking into a microphone and letting Dragon transcribe my words is faster than typing them myself and is also easier on my wrists.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Bettye: I don’t think there’s anything for you to tell; you don’t really know much about me. (But answering this question would be giving it away, wouldn’t it?)

Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Bettye: I originally wrote for traditional publishers, doing 10 contemporary romances for one and 6 women’s fiction works for another. I was still under contract to the women’s fiction publisher when I indie-pubbed my first title, Save The Best For Last, in 2009, because it didn’t sell (my romance publisher had dropped me) and I believed in the project. When my other publisher gave me the boot as well the following year, my indie publishing outlet, Bunderful Books, became the source of all my work. I also got back the rights to all ten of my romance titles.

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Bettye: I absolutely plot my stories. I got into this habit when I was writing for traditional publishers. I would sell my stories based on the strength of my synopsis. It can take me forever to summarize a plot, but in the long run it saves time. No writing a few chapters and then wondering what happens next or abandoning the project, and no throwing out large portions of text because I decide it doesn’t fit the story. I have been known to wander from my original storyline if I can improve on it, but I outline every project before starting.

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Bettye: I do a lot of editing as I go along, especially with dictated text, because I do have to delete those voice files to clear space in my recorder’s memory. With text dictated directly to the computer, I find that if I don’t edit it right away I might forget what I said, and there’s no way to confirm this. Voice recognition is highly convenient, but it is not infallible.  

Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Bettye: Yes, but usually on minor points, like (to give a recent example of an item I had to check) when the New York State Bar Exam is given and when the results are released.

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it.
Bettye: My most recent original release, Isn’t She Lovely?, was released in March 2012. This is a story about secrets, scandals, old wounds, and new attachments amid a gubernatorial campaign. A rebellious fifteen-year-old, armed with only a learner’s permit, sneaks out with his grandfather’s car while his father, a state attorney general running for governor, is at work. The teen accidentally runs over a younger boy, breaking his leg, and leaves the scene in a panic. When the victim’s mother learns that her son was injured by the son of a millionaire politician, she blames his father for what she feels is neglect. I’m pleased to say that readers have responded favorably to this book, and USA Today called it “A masterpiece of complexity and philosophical life lessons with a heartwarming romance." Wow.

Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
Bettye: Learning about the tragic traffic accident that shattered newly elected (at that time) Senator Joe Biden’s family when his life story was publicized during the 2008 election season. I took that scenario, applied the classic writer’s “what-if?” thinking to it and came up with a crash that left both father and son without their wife/mother that they helplessly witnessed, and how the father became closed off and the son rebellious as a result (Note: At the time the story opens, this incident is four years in the past, so it’s not maudlin.)

Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Bettye: Aside from my very first attempt at writing a novel, no.

Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Bettye: Probably not as much as I should, but I’m rectifying that. I have a few ads running this month and next. I do record my sales most days (I find that it gives me an excellent source for month-to-month comparison to determine sales trends, etc.), so I’ll be able to tell whether or not there’s a bump.

Paul:  What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Bettye: I’m surprised at how indie publishing has taken off. Best thing that ever happened to me, and I hope it continues.

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Bettye: I do enjoy reading, and I like puzzles, the ones with lots and lots of pieces that make you want to tear out your hair (because as a writer I like challenges!).

Paul: Thank you so much, Bettye. I wish you continued success for the future.

About Bettye Griffin: Bettye Griffin writes novels that blend of romance and reality. Her first novel, At Long Last Love, was published in 1998. Bettye expanded to women's fiction with the publication of The People Next Door in 2005. After having ten romances and six novels of women's fiction published, in 2009 Bettye launched Bunderful Books and became an independent writer and publisher. In this capacity she publishes new and backlist titles: Save The Best For Last (2009), The Heat of Heat (2010), A Love of Her Own (2011, eBook edition of a backlist title), A Kiss of a Different Color (2011), and Isn't She Lovely? (2012). A native of Yonkers, New York, Bettye now lives, writes, and eats cheese from her home in Southeast Wisconsin.

Bettye's Blog: Chew The Fat With Bettye
Bettye on Twitter: @BettyeGriffin
Bettye on Facebook: Bettye Griffin
Bettye's latest book: Isn't She Lovely? (Amazon)

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