Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writing With Betty: Interview with Alissa Baxter

Today we have Betty Alissa bringing us her thoughts on all things romance-writing. It's a never-ending source of delight to me that two Betty Neels fans, a world apart, can communicate so easily. (Fun fact: If you plug my zip code into one of those Antiodes Maps, I'll pop up in the ocean. The nearest country will be South Africa--Betty Alissa's homeland. So we really are on opposite sides of the globe.)
The RBD's glamorous (but blessedly sensible) sister 
senses currents between the plain, new nanny and her much too hidebound brother.
Machinations will follow. 

Because she has written Regency novels recently, I drew some inspiration from The Mighty Jane Austen for some questions. Let's go!

What full-length novels have you published and what name do you write under?

They're all available on my Amazon Page. I've written three Regencies, The Dashing Debutante, Lord Fenmore's Wager and A Marchioness Below Stairs. I have also written two contemporary novels set in South Africa. I write under my maiden name, Alissa Baxter.

Here Amazon page and list of books can be found HERE.

Jane Austen wrote that Pride and Prejudice is “...rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of BuonapartΓ©, or anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style.” For all the nonsense about Walter Scott, you can tell that she just loves her book. Are there any of yours that give you particular joy?

All my Regencies give me that feeling of particular joy, if I'm honest - although A Marchioness Below Stairs stretched me in a way that the others didn't and it holds a special place in my heart.

As fans of my Essie Summers reviews know, I am 100% in on
competent domestic management. This book looks right up my alley.


Jane Austen wrote to her sister: “Your letter was truly welcome, and I am much obliged to you for all your praise; it came at a right time, for I had had some fits of disgust.” This was when she was wanting feedback for Pride and Prejudice. Do you ever have fits of disgust over what you’ve written? How are those overcome? Do you work alone or meet with a writing group and does either of those help overcoming challenges in any way?

It's more like fits of panic for me! No matter how I try, I can only see where my story is heading once I start writing it. My characters spring to life on the page and sometimes it can lead to a situation where they don’t quite fit my idea of who they were before I started writing the book. Some writers plot every detail of their stories before they start writing and they get to know their characters fully before they start writing, but this has never worked for me. Unfortunately, I only get to know them properly when they’re on the page already. Which can make plotting quite tricky for me, and lead to those moment of panic.

Betty Alissa bangs out Chapter 10.
Another difficulty for writers is finding the time. I think of Betty Neels pounding away on her keyboard in that tiny little landing with people coming and going. When do you write and how do you make sure you are able to do it?

Well, I have two small boys (they're four and five). When they were under the age of three, I didn't write at all. It was only when my younger son turned three and went to a play group last year that I started writing again. I only had a few hours free in the mornings and I used that time well. Every spare half hour I had, I wrote and I would often burn the midnight oil. I didn't read a novel, watch a TV show, or socialize much for a period of four months (from March to July last year) when I was writing A Marchioness Below Stairs.

Betty Alissa has no opinions on the second season of Stranger Things.
She was channeling her muse.

What draws you to Betty Neels? Are there any echos of her or other favorite authors in your writing?
I read Betty Neels' novels when I was a teenager when they were re-released with those red covers. Years later I gave away all my copies (now I kick myself that I did that!) but then I came across a collection of Betty's books at a Christmas market, and I remembered what gentle reads they were. And so I bought them, just before I gave birth to my second son. I read them while I was breastfeeding and then I discovered that they were available on Amazon. I found them to be such comforting stories, especially for a young mother looking after two small children. I'm married to a doctor, and I found it particularly interesting to get a glimpse into hospital life... I also enjoy Iris Bromige's novels, although they're out of print now. And of course Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte have also influenced me. I love Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.
"I spy with my little eye...PANTALOONS!"
Thank you Betty Alissa for sharing your delightful work with us! It has been such fun.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Writing With Betty: Interview With Jenny O'Brien

Jenny O'Brien is the pen name of our Betty Author Jennifer Bryson. Her Amazon author page can be found HERE. It was a delight to talk to her. Our chat spanned several days since we're on opposite sides of the world, but what a lovely thing to get to know her!
Betty Jennifer looks exactly like someone who knows who the murderer is.
She doesn't have to name him now. Maybe after the cheese course.
As ever, my questions are in Olivia font (bold) and her answers are in Araminta font (plain text). I'd like to thank Betty Jennifer for being so generous with her time. Here we go...

First question: Tell me a little bit about what you've written (genre, Brighton rating,
number of books, whether you have an Amazon page, etc.)
I started out writing a children’s book (age 7-13) to raise the esteem of bullied kids but once
I’d started I found I loved the actual process of writing. With a nursing background and a love
of all things Betty I wrote three Doctor/nurse romances back on back, all clean reads but still a
little more racy than the Canon - instead of RDD’s they are all RID’s ( rich Irish doctors).

I’ve also written a 5 book series inspired by Downton Abbey but a modern aristocratic world with
modern day issues, again anything racy is behind closed doors. My one dip into the Brighton
set is a short story, a fundraiser for the British Red Cross (my son volunteers there) it’s called
Dunkirk, Rescuing Robert.Funnily enough today it’s another book launch day for me (13, I think
but there’s some short stories in that lot). It’s another children’s book but this time I’ve set it in
Guernsey and it’s another fund raiser for a local children’s cancer charity.

In her nursing days, Betty Neels was nearly at Dunkirk.
She missed seeing Harry Styles by 'this much'.
And now...I’m moving away a little from romances with my current book because it’s a thriller
but, as a nod to the good lady, I’ve decided to set it in Holland.You can find me on Amazon
- I write under the name Jenny O’Brien and there is a couple of perma-free stories on there
if you’re interested in my scribbles.

What with children's books, short stories, romance and, now, thrillers it sounds like you've
really run the gamut. Do you feel like you're looking for the One, True Genre that really
excites you? Or do you feel like you'll always be a bit of a Genre Magpie?

Ha, what a question. I’m not really a children’s writer at all. The first book sort of wrote itself and
the second one, published today, is only because I wanted to support a new charity as two of my
children were in the boy’s class (he passed away last year of leukaemia)I think writers never stop
developing and learning.

This is the first thriller I’ve written so I’m new to the game. All I can really say is that I’m enjoying
the process but I still have 30% of the book to write before I even reach that all important first
draft so there’s lots to do.

I do like the term genre magpie though - I think I’d like to be one of those but no sci-fi - I just
don’t get it.

Betty Jennifer sees the Noir-Fable-Epic romance subgenre for the first time.
Some of the Betties are Lone Wolves when they write, wanting to be alone to do the
work, but others belong to trade groups or critique groups. Where do you fall in that
spectrum? (And, if you're a lone wolf, at what point do you bring in other readers?)

I’m a lone wolf. Living on a small island there’s little scope for a huge community of writers to
draw from. I do have a group of about twelve readers, I suppose you’d call them fans although
it’s not a term I’m comfortable with. I’ve never met them and they are scattered across the globe
from Ireland, the U.K., USA and Australia. but they get first dibs on any drafts and I find their
support and help invaluable.

Do you find there are themes that you return to or common threads that run through
your work?

Not really although they all have a medical slant but that’s to be expected as it’s what I know.
I do try and use different locations for each book just to make them unique; the uninhabited
Slate island of Belnahua off Oban being a favourite

Speaking of favorites, do you have a favorite character? Or, failing that, a favorite character

Mmm, my first Male RID, Mitch Merrien, from Ideal Girl has to be my favourite character.
He’s a brain surgeon. But my favourite character name is Lord Hector Brayely (Tor for short),
he’s a mycologist (into mould and fungi πŸ˜†)

As he would be... πŸ™‚ What does your writing routine (plentiful? Crammed in between things?)
and space (moving? fixed?) look like?

Like all working women with families their hobbies are usually crammed in between stuff. I
manage about 15 minutes each morning before work and then an hour or two in the evening
if I can. I always carry about a notebook and pen as I’m often hanging around in the car, waiting
for school pick-ups. There’s never enough time to write and always a feeling of guilt that I
should be doing something else like housework but writing is so much more enjoyable...

Betty Jennifer is prepared for inspiration to strike at any time.

I've asked some of the other Betty Authors this and the answers I get are so different.
What are your strengths, as you see them, as a writer?

These aren’t easy, lol. The first would have to be perseverance. I’ve been in this journey now for
10 years and the intention was always to be traditionally published, I haven’t given up yet. I
suppose another strength would have to be a good sense of humour, which does peek through
in all of my books somewhere or other. Finally there’s always the fact that I don’t tend to take
myself too seriously. Writing is a hobby, only that. It’s lovely that some people like my words but
it’s not the end of the world if they don’t.

Any influences on your writing? (Doesn't have to be other authors. Answers could be
music or art or even friends and family.)

Well, all my heroes tend to be very large, not sure where I get that from! I read widely, both
romances and thrillers so my exposure to other writers is large although I do try not to read in
the genre I’m writing in when I have a book on the go. I was brought up on the likes of Jane
Austen, Wilkie Collins and Agatha Christie so the reading gene is strong from both my maternal
grandfather and mother. I always have the radio bumbling in the background but I don’t really
watch TV apart from the odd tearjerker movie from the forties, my secret indulgence.

If someBetty wanted to begin reading your books, where would you start them out and

I would recommend Englishman in Blackpool, which is a free short story - the introduction to
the Englishwoman series. There are so many writers now that I think it’s good to get a feel as
to whether the stories are for you. Funnily enough I wouldn’t recommend my medical ‘girl’ trilogy
simply because they are so different to the Canon being set in the modern world with modern
ways. They’re not Brighton but cheeky in places 😳
Do you like free? I LOVE free.
I'm curious to know what non-professional meaning writing brings to your life.
It expands my horizons just in the same way reading does. But, with writing, I’m in the
hot seat. I write the story I want to read but that hasn’t been written yet and that’s fun.
I suppose as a knitter an analogy would be the feeling I get from wearing something I’ve
made over something I’ve bought. Boy, Keira, these are getting hard...
Last two questions: The first is about where you live. Does does it affect your writing to be
on an island/in a smaller community? Being able to chat like this with someone across the
world is a miracle to me, so the internet smooths lots of this out, I expect.
Question 2: Which is your favorite Betty book and why?
Thanks, Keira for taking the time with me on this. As you say it’s amazing that we are hundreds of miles away and yet chatting as if we’re in the same room. I look forward to my daily Betty fix on the TUJD

Question 2 first, the more difficult as I can’t really answer. I have 2 favourites, Cassandra by Chance, just a great setting and I love that he can’t see her and yet still falls for her in his own grumpy-man fashion. The loyalty of staff plays a large part in her books and there is an excellent example here. Henrietta’s own Castle is so romantic. The setting. The fact she’s been left the cottage with its own romantic story attached (two romances for the price of one)

Question 1:
Living on a small island has its advantages. It’s really beautiful over here with lots to inspire. But it’s also a very expensive rock to leave which prohibits attending anything writerly in the U.K. but, as I’ve never written anywhere else, I suppose it’s a hard question to answer because it is what it is. The internet can be great for connecting with other writers and for book research but it can also distract - Facebook is a huge distraction when the words aren’t flowing but also necessary as writing, by necessity, is a very lonely hobby.

Thank you to Betty Jennifer for sharing so freely with me and all the Betties!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Writing With Betty: Interview with Janice Seto

Over on the Facebook page I asked some of our resident authors if they wouldn't mind being interviewed about the craft of writing and a little about Betty Neels. I'll have a series of several over the coming weeks. 

Author Janice Seto is a dynamo. What a pleasure it was to chat with her as we galloped through an interview on FB Messenger today. It was like lighting a firecracker and holding on to the tail. I am no longer surprised that she has produced four commentaries on the works of Betty Neels. But that's not all she's done.
Betty Janice's effervescence and energy
are about to melt some snow.
Our talk was wide-ranging and there is a fair amount about her technical writing that I cut out but I wish I could keep it all. Janice is tremendously busy and works so hard. In places I compressed her answers but will use ellipses to indicate that and if we discussed a topic in two different places, I squished them together. My thoughts are in bold (though I cut most of my questions) and she is in the standard font. Away we go!

Give me a second to settle the kids.

I shall put the kettle on the Aga...
See? She is sweet.

I had her tell me a little bit about how she started writing.
After my father passed away 2 years ago, I wrote through my grief, and had not written for years. On the one hand, I tend to write commentary and analysis and on the other hand, I have been writing the [Betty Neels] 'alt' endings.
That was in Oct/Nov 2015 when I came across the EveryNeelsThing site... I suppose after these long months of reflecting on my father's life and then about where I am now that I felt like Rearranging the ending of Sun & Candlelight...
To get rid of the Nanny?
...which was intended to be 5 paragraphs... [It] ended up being about 9 segments, Dank U Wel, Keira and the other TGB FB team for letting me post.
Well, THAT unleashed a wave of writing... and I published on Amazon and got 'commissioned' to write business and economics commentary for the MCBC The Bridge...One article was to comment on the the first federal budget in Canada by the Justin Trudeau government. THAT was a worthy assignment - and since I had been teaching business/political economy at the community college/intro...they accepted it.
I felt like Professor Gideon Beaufort (Professor of Economics in Year's Happy Ending) when they published it πŸ™‚

I asked her about her background:
I am blessed that I came of age when journalism was mostly print and television. And book publishing was traditional. Back in the day, you had to look good and sound good to be in the field and I accepted that I did not have what it took then.
I am born and raised in Canada - when your family owns a business, you are basically a business family. And when you own a family restaurant, you don't have holidays or vacations or much time off. I never went to a high school dance and I spent most of my time travelling through reading.
A few Betty Neels were in the library--and my hometown had quite a sizable Dutch emigrant population = nice combo!
...I taught in Bratislava, studied TEFL and got my teaching certificate, taught in Asia, worked in marketing and sales back home, taught in the Middle East, worked in labour relations...), I observed a range of life experiences and 'honed' my writing through student journalism and helping students in student journalism and did not really think about writing.
Now with the technology of the iPad (THANK you, Steve Jobs) and publishing (Gracias, and and CreateSpace/Amazon) and free ISBN (Merci, National Library of Canada),
everything has changed and I have what it takes, through years in the wilderness.
I am pretty much...a one-woman publishing machine because of it and I write what I want and put it
out there. Sort of like the late musician, Prince

On the TUJD site, Janice is best known for her series, bringing together Doc Love and Betty Neels:
I talk too much, Keira!...About the Doc Love/Betty Neels series...He's like me, was in sales for years, and I came across his articles years ago, and purchased his books, and listen to his radio show - very practical and I got an insight this time last year that the RDD sounded so much like Doc Love's Gentlemen... and a series was born...
I had planned just ONE. And then it grew... so far 4 are published and I thought I was DONE. Now I am on the 5th, Doc Love/Betty Neels and Pride & Prejudice. A draft version is out for Laurie K to read, and since then I have made extensive revisions. That's what happens...

About my Revamps of TGB, I always make sure there is a spiritual component - for example, in An Innocent Bride and other [Betty Neels books] where the heroine is the daughter of the rector - and also in my own life journey, there are places where I taught that it was so shadowy that one needed spiritual backing.

Each of Janice Seto's books can be found HERE on her Amazon author page.
I wanted to know how Janice views her own writing:

Strengths as a writer... Hmmm, well, I would say that I related to the reader because I love to read. These days, young people are criticized for not reading enough, and having reflected on that, I redefine it as 'young people these days tend not to be curious about issues that matter to the extent to depth and breadth.'

Where does Betty Neels fit into all of this?
In my forays into fiction, ie. sweet romances a la Betty Neels, as a reader, I want a pleasing resolution that comes about because the protagonists have a positive outlook and get a HEA as a reward for being decent people.
There is so much grief and nonsense and malevolence in the world and on the news that I
just need a respite from all that.
After my Dad passed 2 years ago, I was amazed to discover that there are MANY people who
live like TGB. Their quiet manner of going about life is hard to hear because the ANGST of others
is LOUD (and obnoxious).

Quiet, humble people can tend their own gardens without getting into a flap
about what ridiculous off-season arugula the bear cub is planting in the next plot over.

As someone who has worked outside of my hometown over the years, I was the recipient of
genuine kindness. Not everyone out there has lives with jerk magnets and drama queens -
I certainly do not - and my writing Revamps is based on the majority of people who go about
their lives without that kind of spice. And I try to 'play it forward' in my...Revamps.
How about the challenges of publishing and marketing?
...I keep low key because I have a job and I focus on writing. Some great writers get caught up in the marketing and drink their own publicity kool aid and lose their writing 'mojo' like Truman Capote. Some great writers just write - they would like to be known for their work but sometimes they don't get recognized in their lifetime
The great Italian novel "The Leopard" for example.
As a self-published author, how do you know when you are done?
That's the curse of self-publishing...
For example, I had a self-imposed deadline for my Doc Love/Betty Neels series and actually uploaded and hit Publish and then 3 days later, I did an extensive revision (#$%@ beastly Dutch oaths) and had to republish again. Which is easy with Amazon/Create Space in that I did not have to pulp any printed books (as in the old days)
"It's fine. It's fine. It's fine."
The writing process...I tend to use a mind map and it looks like a 'spider dipped in ink' by the end.
Janice had some things to say about reworking the ends of some Betty Neels books:
My TGB revamps... if you ask me to be honest, I think of it as the business consultant and
executive coach in me saying, "If you two crazy kids listen to me, you will have a HEA.
So Sarre, put on your Big Boy pants and actually PARENT those twins or your beautiful
wife Alethea will drop you for a non-wimpy RDD."
Does anyone help out when you write?
One of the members [of TUJD] in book 4 went OUT of her way and copy edited and proofread it extensively. A shout out for her. [I] would like more reviewers but everyone busy these days so I [am] grateful for my current go-to readers, they are wonderful and generous.
Other projects?
For my first children's book, a bilingual Cree-English book, I needed an illustrator and found
an ARTIST on
I do not speak Cree but I asked someone to translate in return for a share of the royalties πŸ™‚ There is some interest in books on an Indigenous theme here in Canada
How do you deal with the criticism?
At my age, with my variety of experiences, and my own track record, I publish whatever I feel like.
Reader feedback is important and in the Amazon world, feedback by purchasers is seen as
more credible.  Nevertheless I don't let a poor review devastate me (that's very drama queen,
isn't it?) - some people will actually give up just because of feedback. That does the world no good.
Because I am currently based in northern frozen Canada, with no cell service and spotty Internet, I cannot be as engaging with readers as other writers, Keira, which is a pity. So this FB Messenger interview is the best way, given the constraints
What keeps you going?
I suppose there is a sense of limited time and energy. Two years ago today was my father's funeral.
Last year, my grandmother passed at age 100, and two other older family members were buried
after being told they had about 8 months to live. So they had time to 'get their affairs in order'.
I did the arithmetic, and in the best case scenario, how many years do I have left? if God grants
me good health and good brain health, and I live to TGB, who managed to write 135 stories,
then that is a good use of time
I have lived in places where you do not have freedom of speech. I have also seen people fortunate
enough to live in the West who have chosen to be in relationships where they self-censor in order
to stay in this marriage/keep the peace. Stifling oneself is no way to live -> you just get resentful
and then it is hell on earth in that household. I am fortunate enough to exercise my freedom to
think and that keeps me going.
For now, I still find teaching fulfilling - although when I get another class of holy terrors, well, life's
too short for THAT.  I might just turn my back on it all and write full time πŸ™‚
God bless you, Keira, for the website and for the FB site!

And thank you Betty Janice for being such a good sport!

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Lark in the Meadow--Video Review

My video review of The Lark in the Meadow explores the developing mid-century rabbit situation in New Zealand. What do you mean "niche"?