Friday, August 28, 2009

Interview with Betsy Brannon Green

I have to say, I absolutely love this woman. She is a dear friend and wonderful woman and I'm so glad she would agree to letting me interview her for my blog.

Beloved and best-selling author, BETSY BRANNON GREEN currently lives in Bessemer, Alabama, which is a suburb of Birmingham. She has been married to her husband, Butch, for thirty wonderful years, and they have eight children, one daughter-in-law, three sons-in-law and four grandchildren. She loves to read—when she can find the time—and watch sporting events—especially if they involve her children. Although born in Salt Lake City, Betsy has spent most of her life in the South. Her writing and her life have been strongly influenced by the town of Headland, Alabama and the many generous gracious people who live there. Her first book, Hearts in Hiding, was published in 2001, followed by Never Look Back (2002), Until Proven Guilty (2002), Don’t Close Your Eyes (2003), Above Suspicion (2003), Foul Play (2004), Silenced (2004), Copycat (2005), Poison (2005), Double Cross (2006), Christmas in Haggerty (2006), Backtrack (2007), Hazardous Duty (2007), Above and Beyond (2008), the Spirit of Christmas (2008), and Code of Honor (2009).

M.B.: Tell us about your current release and where you got the inspiration for it.

Betsy: My newest book is the final installation in my ‘Duty’ series, titled Code of Honor. The series began with Hazardous Duty, which introduced Savannah McLaughlin and Major Christopher Dane (known simply as ‘Dane’). In Code of Honor, Savannah has been kidnapped by Mario Ferrante. Dane surrenders himself to Ferrante in an effort to free Savannah. Ferrante doesn’t release her, but she does get away. Then she leads Dane’s men in a mission to rescue Dane. Unfortunately, Dane is less than grateful for her efforts and the two of them end up married as part of the rescue plan. Savannah expects Dane to annul the marriage – but he seems perfectly willing to remain married – in name only. There are several ups and downs and finally things are resolved – but if you want the details you’ll have to read the book!

I had several different ‘inspirations’ for this series. My father was at one time a major in the Army and I wanted to honor him – along with all the service men and women who sacrifice so much for our country. Also, I wanted to create a complicated character (Dane) and I thought having a couple falling in love – who had been in love in the past and then lost it – would be intriguing. And I wanted to try and portray the camaraderie that under the best circumstances can exist between good men.

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Betsy: I knew I wanted to be an author when I was in the fourth grade. I never considered it a reasonable possibility and still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I’m not dreaming!

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Betsy: I live in Alabama (nowhere near an LDS bookstore) so I didn’t even know that LDS fiction existed until I went out to Salt Lake for my grandmother’s funeral and visited the Deseret Book at ZCMI mall. I was fascinated by the idea and bought a few books, read them and then decided to give it a try. It took me 8 months to write my first book (which was actually my third published book – Until Proven Guilty – rewritten twice). I got the names and addresses of all the LDS publishers (about six at that time) and sent my manuscript to them. I was planning to wait to see how it was received before I wrote anything else – but it was summer and I had a little extra time (I work for an elementary school) so I wrote a second book – which later became Hearts in Hiding. I submitted it right after Labor Day and in October Covenant called to tell me they were interested in publishing it. Hearts in Hiding was released in May of 2001.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Betsy: When I began the writing process I was more daunted than discouraged. The odds just seemed impossibly against me – a Mormon woman living in Bessemer, Alabama. But I knew that if I worked hard – and if it was the Lord’s will – things would work out. Now I get discouraged from time to time. Once I finish a book I only have a short time to enjoy the euphoria of creation before I have to go back to the drawing board. And I’m always afraid that the ideas will disappear. But so far I have more ideas than time to write!

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

Betsy: I wish I could say that I have a regular, organized schedule. But I don’t. I try to write some every day because I find if I ever get really OUT of a story – it’s hard to find my way back in. When I’m facing a deadline I might write for 16 hours – barely stopping to eat or sleep. But usually I work writing time into the breaks I have in my regular life.

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

Betsy: What I’ve learned is that a good book (in my opinion) requires one overall good concept and then lots of little ideas that tie it together and make it interesting. I’m not sure where the ideas come from. I have an overactive imagination and I get ideas all the time. I’m experienced enough now to recognize the ones that I could build a whole book around and ones that just need to be side plots (usually I recognize them anyway).

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?

Betsy: My advice is to read a lot in the genre you wish to publish in. See what’s already out there. See what works, what doesn’t. Find out what your target market is. Research your setting. Outline your idea and then fill in the blanks until you have a book. Then let your friends and relatives read it. Don’t take their criticism personally – consider it a tool to help you improve your story. Then send it out to all the publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts and pray.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit
down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

Betsy: I outline. My outline changes frequently – but I consider it like the chicken-wire under a sculpture or the skeleton inside a body. You have to have some structure, some basis to begin with. Then you layer your story onto the chicken wire until it’s full and rich and the way you want it.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's
block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Betsy: I often come to points where I’m stopped or blocked. Sometimes I know where I want to go – just not how to get there. Other times I don’t know where the story should go from a certain point. I pray and ponder and let the situation ‘percolate’ in my mind. Then eventually an idea that will work comes to me.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when
you are writing?

Betsy: If I needed absolute quiet I would never have written the first word. My house is rarely a quiet place. I do like to listen to music – but it has to be exactly the right music. Words distract me so I have to have only instrumental and even then it has to be soft so I won’t listen to the music and forget to write. But usually I just write with the music of life as my background (dishwasher running, phone ringing, children talking, husband calling…)

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Betsy: I’m inspired by the need to write so my children can go to college and serve missions.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Betsy: I have many, many favorite authors. But if I had to pick one who had the most profound (and maybe the earliest) affect on me it would be Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved how she was able to make us know her characters and her town and love them in spite of their weaknesses. I loved that she didn’t explain everything (there was still so much mystery about Boo Radley and his family at the end of the book) and how it ended abruptly with us wanting more.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

Betsy: I don’t use a critique group mostly because I don’t think there is one near me. At the beginning I was too unsure of myself to open my work up to much criticism and no I think I’m critical enough and don’t need a group.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

Betsy: My books are kind of like my children and it’s really impossible to choose a favorite one. They have all provided needed funds, the occasional kitchen appliance, and cheap therapy for me (writing is so empowering – my characters all do exactly what I say!!!)

M.B.: What are you working on now?

Betsy: I just completed a new book in the Haggerty series called Murder by the Book that will come out in October. I am now working on the sequel to it (no title yet).

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

Betsy: I would like to thank all of you who read LDS fiction and provide me (and other writers like me) with the opportunity to write clean, uplifting stories. And to any aspiring authors out there – never give up. And to the marvelous, amazing Michele Bell – thank you so much for inviting me be interviewed on your blog. It was quite an honor.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Betsy: My books are available at any LDS bookstore and some other bookstores (especially in the Salt Lake area). And if anyone would like to know more about me, my family and my books, please visit my website


Rebecca Talley said...

Fantastic interview. I thought Betsy Brannon Green had been writing for 20 years and just found out her first book was in 2001. And she's published so many since then. Wow. Very inspirational.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Great interview Michele & Betsy. You are both inspirations to all of us.

JoAnn Arnold said...

Your interview with Getsy Green was great. I have read a few of her books and have "Don't Close Your Eyes" on audio tape. It was fun to get to know her a little better. Thank you

Paige M. said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you Michele! {and Betsy.} That was a great interview, and I learned so much about Betsy. I have read all of her books, and love them!