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 Buonaparté, 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.

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