Thursday, March 29, 2018

Writing With Betty: Interview with Alina Voyce

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from long-time Betty, Sue Grainger. Her pen name is Alina
Voyce and you've likely read some of her offerings on the TUJD FB page from time to time. Her
Amazon author page says this about her: "Sue Grainger is a wife, the mother of two adults (at least, that's what the law calls them - but they're fighting it), and has lived in East Yorkshire, England, for her entire life. It's an area she's proud to call 'home'."

Our interview was lovely and I was gratified to discover so much more about her. Away we go!
Betty Keira wondered if she could winkle the secret of
Betty Sue's gorgeous hair from her if she kept her talking long enough.

What full-length novels have you published?
All my full-length novels are shown on my Amazon page, but my collection of short stories (which I
put together after a couple of the Bettys asked if I’d ever thought of doing that) is published under
my ‘real’ name, and Amazon doesn’t allow me to link it to my Alina Voyce page, unfortunately.

Add caption
Here is the blurb to Lifelights, the first book in her Lifelights series:
"It seems to Mara Austin that the Lifelights have always been a part of her life. They’re a secret she cherishes, the nearest thing to a family that she has and the one anomaly in her otherwise predictable existence.

On the day of her 22nd Birthday things begin to change. An American businessman, Sebastian Oran, visits ‘The Tea Cosy’ café where Mara works and a telepathic voice invades her mind.

Drawn to Sebastian, Mara’s main concern is for the Lifelights. It wouldn’t do for someone like him to find out about them…

But as attraction is transformed into a deeper bond, the result is unexpected. ‘Her’ secret reveals a truth that spans the globe - a supernatural species with the power to enlighten or destroy."

And here's a link to her Sue Grainger author page.
Do they all tend to share the same genre and Brighton-rating?
I would say that all my full length novels definitely share the same Brighton-rating –there’s the
occasional trip, all the way into town, but Brighton is generally covered by a thin veil of mist, turning
the scenery from high-definition to slightly out-of-focus. I never have been able to write graphic
‘Brighton’, and anyway… where’s the mystery in that?
The biggest compliment I’ve ever been paid, with regard to my Brighton scenes, was when an
adult reader told me that she thought those parts were ‘steamy and hot’, but at the same time,
she’d have no qualms about letting her teenager read one of my books. She felt that I’d written
those sections without ‘actually’ saying much of anything, and by leaving the ‘heat’ to the reader’s
own imagination. I was absolutely thrilled with that analysis, because it was exactly what I’d been
aiming for.

Betty Sue wanted her prose to be steaming, but not too hot.
Much like a good cuppa.

I loved the short story you posted on the TUJD Facebook page about the soldiers returning from war. Do you often work in short stories?
I love writing short stories, and have quite a few up on my website under the
‘free reads’ heading. I like the fact that I can explore an idea briefly, but hopefully leave the reader
with something to think about, long after they’ve read the last sentence.
I try to write at least one short story a month; for either my writing group, or as part of an online
What are the challenges to working in the shorter format? Some authors take 30 pages just to clear their throat.
Keeping it short is THE challenge. You need to create a focus for the reader within the first few lines,
and keep the ensuing story as tight as possible (depending on what word-count you’re aiming for).
As you’ve noted, some authors (and I can definitely be one of them) take pages and pages to get into
their stride. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, so long as there’s plenty to keep the reader
interested, but at some point the plot line needs to take centre stage; and make it difficult for the
reader to put the story down. With a short story, you haven’t got the option to slowly pull the reader
in, which makes it a very precise way of writing.

Betty Sue does not need extra pages to be awesome.
However, along with the challenges of writing in the short form, I think that, on occasion, they can allow a writer to explore a subject in MORE detail than a novel. A novel needs to be filled with ideas that are intertwined and woven together. Keeping a reader entertained over 40,000+ words is no easy feat. However, with a short story, although it still needs a beginning, middle and end, I can focus on one particular idea or view point. For all the constraints, short stories can be liberating, too.   
Your pen name is Alina Voyce. I think it must be terribly hard to come up with pen names. What made you choose this one and was there a reason you didn’t want to use your given name?
My pen name came about through one of my early stories, and a website. When I first joined the
WeBook site, I needed a ‘pen name’. This seemed a sensible precaution more than anything else,
as this was the first time I’d joined an online writing community—and I wasn’t sure if the experience
would be favourable!
Betty Sue liked to keep a pen name in her back pocket
for just these occasions.

At the time, I was writing a fantasy adventure called Thalamia (not that great and quickly discarded) in which the mother-figure was called Alina. So, as I am a mother, I decided to make my pen name Alina’s Voice (Mother’s voice).  A year or so later, after I’d finished writing the first of the Lifelight books, and made some good friends on the site (all of whom knew my real name), I happened to mention that I didn’t think ‘Sue Grainger’ sounded like a supernatural romance author. One of them suggested changing Alina’s Voice to Alina Voyce… and that seemed perfect!
I think that many Betty Neels novels explore themes surrounding how you should conduct yourself bravely in the most difficult circumstances (unsurprising from someone who served in WWII). Have you noticed threads that come out in your own books, repeating themselves even if you don’t mean them to?
Oh yes… I’d say that the threads repeated most frequently in my stories are about people who are
‘lost’ or feel ‘unworthy’, but discover something wonderful and special about themselves, which gives
them confidence and strength. I also love writing about strong relationships; families, friendships and
partners. Redemption and leaps of faith are other themes that seem to keep cropping up, whether I
mean them to or not!
What do you like most about your characters?
Their strong sense of loyalty, and their ability to change and grow; I try to write characters who start
out with quite a narrow outlook on life, and end up with a much broader understanding of themselves,
the people they interact with, and the world they live in.
What appeals to you about Betty Neels novels?
So many things! Where to start? I love her scene setting, the morals she weaves through her stories,
and the language she uses. Her stories are understated, yet powerful enough to make the reader
‘think’ beyond the words. One of my all-time favourite lines is from ‘The Right Kind of Girl’: February,
tired of being winter, became spring for a couple of days… - for me, these twelve words immediately
conjure up the feeling of joy I associate with bright, unexpected, early spring days, infused with
sunshine, clear blue skies, and that delightful freshness, with just a hint of warmth.  I also love the
strength of the bond between her couples; whatever the twists, turns and obstacles in their way,
there’s always that moment when all the inconsequential ‘fluff’ is blown away, and one solid truth is
left standing: their love for each other.  
What’s the hardest part of writing? The difficulty of making time for it? Self-publishing? Marketing? Querying? Editing? (That whole list looks impossible?)

Betty Sue's marketing window had OPENED.
First, I’ll confess that self-publishing, technically, hasn’t been difficult for me because my husband is
an IT specialist, with a talent for formatting books and producing cover art. Without him, even with the
excellent platforms like Amazon’s ‘Create Space’, I have a feeling I would have run into difficulties.
So, for me, a dip in self-belief is the hardest part of writing. If I don’t feeling good about the story I’m
working on, and my ability to do it justice, I flounder… and believe me, there are days when
floundering is all I do. Sometimes, it can last for weeks!    
Another major struggle is marketing, which definitely doesn’t come naturally to me. That said, I am
now making an effort to ‘network’ with other authors who have more experience in this area (and
useful tips), and to read-up on the subject through publications like Writers’ Forum. There’s a wealth
of help out there for self-published and traditionally published authors alike—and the good news is:
spending hours on social media is not necessarily the way to go about it…Hooray!!
Who is your ideal reader?
My ideal reader is someone who isn’t totally rooted in the reality of every-day life, and who isn’t afraid
to let their imagination take over. My genre of writing is not for everyone; you need to be able to make
a mental leap, in order to enjoy supernatural story lines. I like to take an idea and run with it… I’m a
daydreamer who has never quite let-go of the feeling of wonder I experienced as a child, when I first
immersed myself in books like The Narnia Chronicles. So, I guess, my ideal reader is someone who
remembers that feeling too.
I seem to remember that you’ve been traditionally published and self-published. What is the best thing a fan can do for an author in either of those fields? Write reviews? Share posts? Write encouraging letters to the author?
Professor Grainger was helpful in his own way.
I think the best thing that any fan can do, for an author in either of those fields, is leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads (or both), or a star-rating if they don’t have time to write a review. Readers who are considering trying a new author take note of how many stars/reviews have been left and what previous readers thought of the book—so ratings and reviews are incredibly important.
I am currently a solely self-published author. My first book, Lifelights, was published by a third party publisher for a few years, but due to some difficulties with them, and a lack of promotion of any kind, I have recently got my full rights back.  

Thank you again to Betty Sue for such an enjoyable interview!


  1. Thank you, Betty Keira, for taking the time to do this series of interviews. I really enjoyed answering your questions, and have loved reading about the other authors who are a part of TUJD.

    Oh, yes, and I also laughed at those GIFs... just wait until I show 'Professor Grainger' that last one! :)

  2. Professor Grainger was helpful in his own way.

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah! 😄

    Lovely interview! Mijnheer Grainger is a keeper, for sure!

  3. And did you? Winkle the secret of Betty Sue's gorgeous hair from her?
    If so, I would dearly like to know.