Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
I am delighted to feature author Beth Carter for the first author interview of 2024. Like many authors, I first encountered Beth on social media. It's been so long though that I can't remember if it was on Twitter or Facebook or the Facebook group ChickLitChat HQ... Regardless of when, I can attest she writes terrific books, from romantic comedy to literary fiction to cookbooks and even a self-help book for authors. And she is a whiz at WORDLE.
CHRISTINA: When did you know you had a book you had to write?
BETH: I reinvented myself at midlife (age fifty) to pen novels and children’s books. Hey, some people live to be one hundred! When I realized I was serious about this new career change, I enrolled in a six-week community college course called, “How to Write Your First Novel.” I mean, how perfect was that? I had already taken several creative writing and expository writing classes in college but needed direction on exactly how to approach the daunting feat of writing a 350-page novel.
I also enrolled in three different local writing groups—including romance, mystery, and general writing—and was quite active for several years, even holding office in two groups. But after giving up three Saturdays a month for years, I stepped away a few years ago. I also try to attend conferences out of state once or twice a year to network with other authors, pick up publishing tips, and meet readers.
With my debut novel, I was over halfway through and thought it was lost forever on my computer, especially after a tech guy couldn’t retrieve it. That’s when I began my "Coconuts" series. While penning Thursdays at Coconuts, we had a family tragedy, so I switched to writing children’s books for several months in order to find joy. Now, I go back and forth between the two genres but focus mainly on novel writing.
Is there one of your characters you most identify with and why?
BETH: I definitely identify with Alex (Alexandra) Mitchell who has a major role in all six of my Coconuts novels. Like me, Alex handles marketing for a bank, has a touch of OCD, is a tall blonde, and gets involved with a sexy bad-boy cop. I, ahem, did as well. Anyone who knows me well (friends and relatives) immediately pick up on this and say, “You’re Alex!” It’s true. We even both tie our paper straws into knots. What can I say?
CHRISTINA: Ha! I thought Alex read very authentic!
What is your current project or latest release?
BETH: After completing my six-book series, I struggled for a bit for many reasons—readers weren’t ready for me to end this series (a few got upset!) and it was bittersweet for me as well. I almost felt like I was cheating on the characters. But I created an entirely new novel, Bride Swap, featuring two best friends, a television anchor and a single mom of a young daughter, a British character, a rival television anchor, and a hot kindergarten teacher. Like all of my novels, there’s plenty of humor, heart, and page-turning plot twists. The fact that my main character hated football and received a disastrous assignment to cover the sport, made it immediately funnier to write.
CHRISTINA: That book, like most of your books would translate well to film.
What do you think is your strength as a writer?
BETH: Dialogue. I’ve had college professors, readers, and editors tell me my strength is dialogue. I actually try to become the character and sort of act out what they’re doing to make it even more believable, which is a tad embarrassing if I’m writing at a coffee shop! Reviewers also say my books are humorous—even hilarious—and make them laugh, as well as cry. I try to bring out all the emotions with plenty of plot twists, chaos, and drama because isn’t that more fun? I read a lot of thrillers which helps me write fast-paced books.
CHRISTINA: Your dialog is very easy to read. Well done, you.
Best advice for new writers:
BETH: Surround yourself with other writers, join local writers’ groups, attend conferences either in person or online, and most of all, read! Read the genre you want to write but also read outside your genre. Study the market. For example, know what wordcount is expected for women’s fiction versus sci fi. Writing is a business, like it or not, and marketing is part of the equation.
Many writers balk at that, but they really do need to have a website and a few social media platforms at a minimum. Otherwise, it’ll be impossible for readers to find you. Agents and editors also want to invest in authors who have a decent online, professional presence. Finally, and this is a pet peeve, when authors have a book signing, I believe they should dress the part. It doesn’t have to be a corporate suit and heels, but authors shouldn’t appear as though they could go bowling or camping immediately afterward. Readers look up to authors, and we owe it to them to be professional, in my opinion.
CHRISTINA: I agree. Surrounding yourself in a supportive writing community is helpful.
How did writing your first book change your writing process?
BETH: Since writing my first novel, I’ve realized I can write anywhere. I don’t have to sit in my office and rarely do. I can write in a coffee shop (as long as I have earplugs), outside, or at the kitchen table, which is where I do most of my writing. My process hasn’t changed much except for the publishing rules that I’ve learned over the years from multiple professional editors.
I’m still a pantser and I still overwrite—by thousands of words, sometimes tens of thousands. However, when I wrote a series, those extra scenes gave me a huge start on the next book and the next, so it was extremely helpful. I also have a couple of boxes of notes (some are half-written in shorthand, and many are quickly scribbled.) I’ve been known to write on bank receipts, cocktail napkins, and on my palm while sitting at a stoplight. One of these days, maybe I’ll embrace technology and dictate. But I think I’ll always be a pantser. Plotting an entire novel is not in the cards, for me at least. I enjoy the discovery process and being surprised by my characters.
CHRISTINA: What does literary success look like to you?
BETH: I know many authors enjoy the freedom of indie publishing, but I wanted the validation that my work—especially the first few novels—was good enough for a publisher, even though the waiting is agony since the publishing world moves like thick molasses. I was blown away when several agents and editors requested full or partials after my three-line pitch (which was online) for my debut, Thursdays at Coconuts, many years ago. I was in shock, actually. And thrilled!
I’ve been humbled to receive a lot of writing awards, including gold, silver, and bronze medals for The Quarantine Cookbook, Miracle on Aisle Two, and I Wrote a Book. Now What?, respectively, from the International Readers’ Favorite Awards, InD’Tale Magazine, and Uncaged Book Reviews. I received a coveted Rone Award from InD’Tale for my debut. That was an incredible moment that I’ll never forget.
Last but certainly not least, stellar reviews keep me going during this solitary profession. I read every single one and love my readers. Having loyal readers who’ve read every one of my books is honestly all the success I need. I’ve made it to #1 on Amazon a few times and that, too, was a huge highlight in my writerly life. As a side note, I detailed my writing journey in my nonfiction book, I Wrote a Book. Now What? because who doesn’t want to hear about an author sitting in a hotel room in another state and breaking out in hives while waiting to pitch?
CHRISTINA: Wow! Poor you. Pitching is nerve-wracking. I don't care what anyone says.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
BETH: I don’t think it’s that difficult to portray the opposite sex, especially if I make them villains. Lol. But honestly, having a husband, dad, brother, male colleagues, and friends, I know men speak using shorter sentences, often abrupt one-word answers, or even grunts. Men usually don’t show as much emotion and have a wry sense of humor. Not always, of course, but they act and speak differently than women. I suppose the sex scenes are the hardest, although I’ve only written four or five sex scenes out of nine novels.
CHRISTINA: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
BETH: Discipline. I’m easily distracted, especially by social media, but also by noise or even housework. Luckily, when I do sit down to write, I am a very fast writer. I’m also a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants, rather than plotting every chapter or scene. I often don’t know what will happen next, how my novel will end, or which potholed curvy road my characters will take. That’s the thrilling part for me. I get to be surprised by my characters’ shenanigans, woes, and excitement as much as the reader. By the way, my husband thinks I’m nuts every time I try to explain this process to him since he’s a left-brained engineer.
CHRISTINA: I totally understand. MrB is a left-brained engineer too.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
BETH: From start to finish (writing, editing, rewriting) it usually takes 8-10 months. On occasion, it has taken a year or more, especially if the edits are overwhelming or if life gets in the way. One year, I wrote three books, and I’ll probably never do that again. It was grueling, and I’d probably burn out. I don’t want that to happen. I have far too many stories to tell!
CHRISTINA: Thank you. I am so grateful for your time to do this interview during the busy holiday season. Wishing you much success in the new year. Looking forward to reading your next!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After being a bank vice president and a hospital public relations director, Beth Carter shed her suits and heels to wave good-bye to corporate America. She doesn’t miss the eight o’clock meetings and now happily writes from home in her pj’s. While drinking copious amounts of coffee, she pens novels and children’s picture books. Most days you’ll find the author writing and sipping a skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks or possibly shopping at TJ Maxx. She was born and raised in the Midwest and has adopted sunny Florida during the winter months. She has twenty-five years’ experience in marketing healthcare, banking, and green heat.
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