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.
(Giphy)

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?
(Giphy)
...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 🙂

(Giphy)
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, Lulu.com and
Smashwords.com 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.

(Giphy)
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."
(Giphy)
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 fiverr.com
I do not speak Cree but I asked someone to translate in return for a share of the royalties 🙂 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 🙂
God bless you, Keira, for the website and for the FB site!

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