With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley-Jenkins present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Bette Lee Crosby
Bette Lee Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received an NLAPW Award for an unpublished manuscript. Since that time, she has gone on to win numerous other awards, including six Royal Palm Literary Awards, five FPA President’s Book Award Medals, three Reviewer’s Choice Awards and two Indie Discovery Finalist Awards. Spare Change, Book One in the Wyattsville Series has been featured on the USA Today Bestseller List three times, is a Barnes & Noble #1 Bestseller, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling Historical Mystery. Baby Girl the fourth novel in her Memory House Series became a bestseller before it was actually released.
As a USA Today bestselling author, what is your number one tip to staying motivated as an author?
Write what you truly love to write; you will enjoy working on it and your love of the work will shine through to your readers. This can be a fickle business with one theme or sub-genre suddenly popular and then just as suddenly not. Authors can easily fall into the trap of pursuing the newest, latest, greatest trend; but the thing is trends come and go. Well-written fiction that carries a piece of your heart will outlast the trends plus both you and your followers will love what you’ve written.
You have published eleven books since 2011. Are there any tricks to being so efficient with your writing?
No easy tricks, I wish there were. I write almost every day but I don’t go by word count. Some days I can write three or four thousand words, other days I am lucky to do 500. I try to measure each day’s work by the quality of the words rather than the quantity. On days when the magic isn’t happening, I rewrite and rewrite until I get the particular scene or passage so smooth I can read it aloud and have it roll right off of my tongue.
Did you have any favorite books or authors in the past that inspired you to write your own books?
As a kid I loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I started out as an artist and wrote for business marketing throughout the earlier years of my career. I can’t say it was one specific author who inspired me to turn to fiction; it was more an issue of simply doing what I loved. I am a very avid reader and believe I learn something from every book I read.
You mention that your mother was a wonderful storyteller, and that you use her voice in much of your writing. Would you say that she has impacted your writing more than anyone?
Yes, definitely. My mom grew up in a coal-mining town in the hills of West Virginia and did not have the advantage of a higher education, yet she was one of the wisest and most resourceful people I have ever known. She never wrote stories, she told them—but she told them in a way that made each one seem magical. In a whispery voice, she could make you believe anything was not only possible, but also about to happen. That to me is storytelling.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? What environment do you find most comfortable to write in?
First the writing process—Each evening when I stop writing, I start thinking of what I will write the next day. Not the words, just the feelings and thoughts of the characters. In the morning I walk about five miles and the whole while I am imagining the scenes as they will be written. Once I am back home, I shower, have breakfast and go to work. I go into my office and by then I am ready to write.
My office is where I do almost all of my writing. This is my space. I am surrounded by lots of lovely little treasures—books, teddy bears, souvenirs, pictures, plushy throw pillows and the like, so this is where I am happiest. My computer is a MacBook Air, so on occasion I will unplug it and move to the lanai for a few hours.
Is there a certain type of scene for you that is more difficult to write than others? Do you have any favorites?
Yes, for me intimate romance scenes are the most difficult. In most of my books such scenes require a true outpouring of emotion and it is very easy to step over the line and let your characters say things that sound trite in such a situation.
Oddly enough, it is easier to write scenes of anger than those of love. In love scenes every single word should be sincere and meaningful, whereas when a person is angry they can explode into all kinds of sputtering and stammering hammered-together phrases.
Do you read your own reviews, the good and the bad? Do you have any advice for other writers on how to deal with the bad?
Yes, I always read reviews. While I have been fortunate in getting more than my share of glowing reviews, there are also a few bad ones that pop up now and then. Some I recognize as meaningless—for example, I have a new book coming out September 14, titled Silver Threads. It is book 5 in the Memory House Series so in mid-July we put the book up for pre-order with just the cover and a book description. A week later I handed the manuscript off to my editor. Before I got the manuscript back, before the earliest beta readers even saw it, when there was no way possible an outsider could have seen it, a one-star review popped up on Goodreads. Reviews like this you just have to accept that they are bogus and move past them.
However, there are other times when I have learned from reviews that are less than favorable. For example—On Memory House, the story ended with a budding romance. The book averaged a 4.5 rating and most of the reviews were excellent, but there were some—not a lot, but enough to make me take notice—who said the ending was too abrupt. I thought about this for a while and in the long run decided to go back in and expand on what happened to those budding young lovers. That’s a case of learning from your reviewers.
What is the best writing advice you can give to someone just starting out?
Create characters that you feel for, characters people will actually care about. They don’t have to be perfect people, a few flaws make them more human. But make sure that you know each and every character, both the good and the bad. Knowing your character doesn’t mean just the color of their hair and eyes, it means knowing what is inside their heart and why they feel as they do. You don’t have to explain all of that to your reader, but if you honestly know your characters then when you write a scene that is out of character for that person, you’ll know it and your story will have believability.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on now?
Just yesterday I finished what will be Book 5 in the Wyattsville Series. It is a multigenerational family saga set in the first half of the Twentieth Century. The title is What goes around… and like all of the other Wyattsville books, it takes place in Virginia.
How do you maintain such a close relationship with your fans? Is that a fulfilling part of your career as a writer?
I absolutely love interacting with fans and followers and think of them as close personal friends. I love when they write to me and I answer everybody. These ladies are the ones I can thank for my success because they read, reviewed and shared my books with their friends and family. My favorite meet-ups are on Facebook and Goodreads. And my fans know that if they are coming to Florida I will always find time to get together with them.
I have a fan club group on Facebook and a reading group on Goodreads and when I have time to spare, those two place are where I go. No matter the time of day or night, it seems like I get on the Clubhouse thread and bingo… there is someone there to chat with.
When I have vacillating about a cover selection – I take my questions to the gals at the clubhouse. The same is true for story issues. These people are the kind of people I write for, so they are also the ones to ask when you want answers.
And yes, interfacing with fans is definitely a fulfilling part of this journey as a novelist.
Thank you for interviewing with us, Bette!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley-Jenkins has an M.A. in English from the University of Idaho, where she taught composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is a teacher, an editor, and a writer, who loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.