Sunday, December 6, 2009
BONUS Author Interview - featuring Betty Briggs
I'm very pleased to showcase author Betty Briggs, author of Depth of Deceit. Her books are filled with emotion, suspense, romance and adventure. In my opinion it doesn't get any better than that
Betty is the author of four previous young adult novels, Quality Concealed, Image of Deception, Challenge of Choice and A Tuff-to-Beat Christmas. Depth of Deceit is her first book for the mainstream audience. Betty was a legal secretary for more the thirty years, but has since retired. A lifelong and avid horse lover, she owns three horses––a Welch pony, a quarter horse and a thoroughbred that is trained in dressage. The mother of two and grandmother of five, Betty and her husband reside in Utah.
Betty shared with me some interesting information about the cover of Depth of Deceit. "The tree is in Montana. I always look for it while on the way to my parents-in-law’s place on Flathead Lake in Montana. My visiting teacher mentioned that it was a great symbol for deception because it has two tops, as in a truth and a lie. The horse is my thoroughbred, Major, ridden by my friend, Kelli Brown. I took this picture when Major and Kelli were competing in eventing. Eventing is dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country jumping. Major was running between two cross-country jumps in this picture. He won this event, along with numerous others that year and became Novice Horse of the Year in 2008."
I found a wonderful article in Salt Lake Magazine about Betty. If you cut and paste this link into your browser you should be able to see it.
A short description of my book is: How does a lovely young attorney find herself mired in a web of deception? Stephanie Saunders trains horses and fights for the underdog. Pulled into a vortex of danger, she is forced to reevaluate her seemingly perfect life. Is it possible to have a handsome boyfriend, great job, loving friends and horses to adore, yet find herself drowning in a deadly swamp of deceit? If unable to fight off this hidden enemy, she could lose it all.
M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Betty: I have always written to some extent. I think I started my first book in grade school. I still have the first seven chapters, which was as far as I got. Later in my school years, I would take homework home at night so I could write and illustrate stories to entertain my classmates during the day. My favorite assignments in school involved writing stories.
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Betty: Fifteen years ago I joined a critique group, which was the best thing I ever did. I had written a draft of Quality Concealed and sent it out to about twenty publishers and received exactly that many rejections. I had to have something to read at critique group, so I resurrected my draft and began a series of rewrites. When I finally got a presentable draft, I entered it in the Utah League of Writers state contest and a contest sponsored by the Utah Arts Council. It won awards in both contests. I guess that gave me the courage to think about getting it published. Since I’d been the rejections route with the earlier drafts and since I had always wanted to write and illustrate my own books, I decided to independently publish this book so I could do it “my way.” My husband is a wonderful photographer and computer genius, so we set out on our journey to get Quality Concealed into print. That was the first of my now five books. We do everything from scratch, from the covers, inside illustrations, to setting the manuscript up in print form.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Betty: With every big undertaking there is always a bit of discouragement when things don’t go as planned or there are delays. I have always found that if things look dark one day, they usually look better the next. Just push a little harder, or go at them from a different direction. Start with the little things and build.
M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
Betty: I wish I had one. When I retired, I was going to write at least an hour a day. That didn’t happen. Actually I think I’m plotting in my head almost constantly. When something comes to me I have to write it down immediately or I lose it. I have little notebooks everywhere. When I have to get something ready for critique group, every other Tuesday night, I force myself to sit down and put my ideas on paper. I try to have something ready for each meeting, even if it’s only a page or two.
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?
Betty: So far my ideas have come from my own experiences, or the experiences I wish I’d had. I start with a little bit of truth and stretch it. One thing leads to another and before long I’m wondering what’s going to happen. I guess I just hope the idea is good enough to write a book about. It’s been said that an author should try to fill a need. I guess I just write the type of books I feel I’d like to read and just hope others want to read them too. In each of my books, the main character experiences things from my past and the settings are places I’ve lived, so I guess it’s my way of writing a little family history.
M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?
Betty: Just keep pushing ahead. Read. Go to writers’ conferences. Get involved with other writers. Write and rewrite. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you know you must. If no one will help you, do it yourself.
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
Betty: I never outline, although I sometimes keep a timeline. I have a notebook handy to jot down details from each chapter so I remember names of minor characters, descriptions, etc., and remind myself of things I need to mention later in the plot.
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?
Betty: Sometimes I do wonder how I’m going to get myself out of a predicament. I’ll sit down with a steno notebook and just start writing something, anything. At first it might not even relate to the story, but eventually I might get a sentence or even a word that starts me off again. I also bring the problem to my critique group, or talk with someone who has expertise in whatever problem my character is experiencing. In my latest book I met with a veterinarian, visited with a police officer and an emergency room doctor, and brainstormed with my brother, who is a retired FBI agent.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when
you are writing?
Betty: I rarely write in complete silence. I do a lot of writing in the car (as a passenger), while waiting for an appointment, or even while watching TV during commercials. Sometimes I listen to music, but not any particular type. I have even written while in movies, (sometime hard to read later) particularly if I want to experience how I’m feeling at that particular moment. For instance, if the movie is scary (I really don’t like movies if they are too frightening) I record exactly what my heart is doing, my breathing, etc. and that helps get me through the movie and sometimes it’s actually material I can use later.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Betty: I read books and articles on my subject, watch related TV shows and movies, and talk with people.
M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Betty: One particular person in my critique group.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
Betty: I couldn’t survive without my writing friends. Several of us have been together for fifteen years. I trust their opinions. They don’t let me get away with anything.
M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?
Betty: I think my newest book, Depth of Deceit, is my favorite. With two knee replacements, a hip replacement, two eye surgeries, a hysterectomy, taking care of my mother and then the death of my mother, it’s been about eight years since I’ve published a book. This is my first mainstream novel and it’s given me reason to be excited about writing again. I’m already thinking about a sequel and I’ve been brainstorming with my brother again.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
Betty: Write for the pure joy of writing, even if nothing more comes of it. You will have a little remembrance of yourself for your family.
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Betty: My books are on Amazon, or they can be ordered from almost any bookstore. People can also buy them from me, through my website: www.bettybriggs.com or by writing to me at Sunrise Selections, P.O. Box 51602, Provo, Utah 84605-1602 or email email@example.com. I sell them cheaper.