Today Bette A. Stevens is joining me for the Wednesday Author Interview series.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: I am a writer inspired by nature and human nature. As a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five, I live in Central Maine on a 37-acre renovated farmstead where I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. I advocate for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies–an endangered species (and milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat). My husband and I raise our own fruit and vegetables organically and share the bounties of our labor with family, friends and neighbors. We retired in 2005 after spending several years working at traditional jobs in Maine, California and Virginia. My childhood years were spent in California and New York, enjoying daily life and hoiliday events with family, including dozens of cousins. Now that our human children are grown, we have had the privilege of being the adoptive parents of a delightful black feline named Midnight. Life is good and adventures abound.
Q: When and what made you decide to be a writer?
A: I’ve been writing most of my life–initially it was in the form of photo blurbs and poems to celebrate family outings and events over the years. During the 1980s I worked in the business world as an editor/writer/photographer, honing my skills in business writing. By the early 1990s, after taking courses in journalism, creative writing and poetry at University of Maine Orono while pursuing a degree in education, I discovered that writing was a strong point in my repertoire of skills and one that pursued with passion. Teaching became a career and sharing my passion for reading and writing with upper elementary and middle school students for over a decade before retirement was a genuine delight.
Q: Can you tell us something about the genre of your books and why you write in that genre?
A: Children’s Books–written to educate, entertain and inspire (Ages 4-11).
Amazing Matilda, A Monarch’s Tale (Children’s picture book based on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly inspiring kids to reach for their dreams)
The Tangram Zoo & Word Puzzles Too! (Children’s educational/activity book integrating language arts, science, social science and math)
Historical Fiction–written to inform, entertain and inspire (Middle grade-Adult).
Pure Trash, the Story (Short story prequel to Dog Bone Soup)
Dog Bone Soup, A Boomer’s Journey (Novel) (Compelling family drama-Shawn Daniels grows to manhood in a society where the poor are often quickly wrongly judged)
Q: Where do you get your ideas from?
A: Ideas come from the world around me–whether in people, places, or things-inspirations abound.
Q: Are you working on a new book at the moment?
A: Front and Center is a poetry collection that follows my personal journey through Maine’s four seasons. I’m also working on another poetry collection that centers on gardens and nature in addition to historical research for a novel.
Q: Which writers inspire you?
A: There are so many, but here are the first ones that come to mind: Beatrix Potter, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, C. S. Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Diane Siebert, Tony Johnston, Khaled Hosseini, and Shel Silverstein.
Q: What book are you reading at present?
A: Nomadland (Surviving American in the Twenty First Century) by Jessica Bruder.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: READ. READ. READ. Reading is the first step to becoming a better writer. One of the top writer’s resource on my shelf is On Writing by Stephen King. It’s not one of those stuffy book of Do This and Don’t Do That, it’s the story of King’s own writing journey and the book is packed with the nuggets he’s discovered along the way.
But the reading doesn’t stop there. I belong to local and virtual book clubs, where we read and discuss books. I’ve never read a book that I didn’t learn something from–and when I’m engaged in a book, my writer-self is right there with me learning how to improve my craft.
WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. Get writing. Yup, that’s what writers do. One a single piece for my blog, I may write, edit, and rewrite several times before publishing a given post. When I’m working on a book–now that’s a different story. Ask for editorial help from two or three readers along the way.
Save a copy of every draft just in case. Email those drafts to yourself, labeling each one. If your computer crashes, you’ll be so glad you did. For novels, I do this chapter by chapter and date them.
Between edits, take breaks so you can look at the work with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what you’ll discover as you travel the path to publications.
FINALLY--Be sure to hire a professional editor before you publish your book.
Q: Do you have any advice on how to market your books?
A: For me, marketing is all about building relationships. Join groups that share your interests and book themes. Don’t forget to actively support fellow member writers. Be sure to use tags and categories for all of your blog posts and include descriptions and book links for your book covers and photos. Follow, read and share book marketing posts that are helpful to you and thank the bloggers who post them.
Q: What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an author?
A: When it comes to being an author, getting any book to the stage where I’m ready to publish can be exhausting. But after all the hard work, once that book is in my hands, I’m exhilarated.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing, your hobbies, etc.?
A: Spending time with family is top on a very long list. Then there’s reading, gardening and preserving our abundant produce from the farmstead (and watching for those amazing monarch butterflies searching for the milkweed interspersed in our flower and vegetable gardens), bird watching, playing with Kitty Middie, walking trails on the farmstead and taking photographs, reading to children at our local library and schools, visiting with family and friends, Bible study on Tuesday mornings, day trips to the coast with hubby Dan, supporting friends who are involved in local theatre productions, book club at our local library and the list goes one…
Q: How long on average does it take your to write a book?
A: For me it’s been about a year from first draft to publication.
Q: What is your schedule like when you are writing?
A: Being a night-owl, I generally write for two or three hours in the evening. But, my schedule changes drastically when a new book is about to be born and life gets CRAZY!
Q: Who designed your book(s) cover(s)?
A: I’ve designed all of my book covers with CreateSpace’s Cover Creator.
Q: How are your books published?
A: I use CreateSpace for print books and Amazons KDP for eBooks.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: The quote below always reminds me that books provide us with a free and fantastic mode of transportation that can take us anywhere any time.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” Mark Twin, (“Innocents Abroad”)
Q: What is your favorite books?
A: The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye.
Q: How can readers connect with you? Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc.
A: Website/Blog: http://www.4writersandreaders.com
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorbetteastevens.officialfanpage?ref=hl
Q: Where can readers purchase your books?
A: All of my books can be purchased on Amazon where I invite you to take “A Look Inside.”
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author.betteastevens
Q: Would you give us an excerpt from your book or one of your books?
A: Here’s an excerpt and a page illustration from Amazing Matilda, A Monarch Butterfly’s Journey (Children’s Literature/Ages 4-110 written and illustrated by me.
“I do so want to fly,” Matilda sighed. Just then a cottontail rabbit hopped up onto the ledge where Toad had sat.
“Why, you don’t look like you can fly,” chuckled Rabbit. “You don’t have any wings!”
“Sparrow said that I must have patience and follow my instincts. You and Toad say that I need wings, too. Where can I find all of those things?” Matilda asked Rabbit.
“As for wings, I don’t know where you can find them. In fact, I don’t care anything about them. But I am an expert on patience and instincts,” Rabbit boasted as she twitched her black nose, making her whiskers sparkle as they danced up and down.
“When I was just a bit of a bunny, Papa told me that I must have patience, too. I so wanted to bound up onto this rock ledge where I could see the whole world. But, I could not do it. I could barely hop a short distance before I would fall backwards, flip-flop, right into the tall grass. But, Papa said that I must not give up. He told me it would take patience to learn to do all of the things I wanted to do. He said I could do anything that I wanted to if I only tried long enough and hard enough.
“Papa was right. I kept trying. I kept hopping and hopping and hopping, until at last I could bound. Every day I would land a little farther. Now I can reach this very ledge any time I want to see the whole world,” Rabbit boasted as she bounded across the field.”