Friday, February 6, 2009

Louisiana Saturday Night with Betsy St. Amant

What a joy to introduce my young friend from north Louisiana. I've watched Betsy work hard to learn the craft, hone her skills, take the necessary steps to sell her manuscripts and get a super-agent. I enjoy watching a writer evolve into a novelist. Keeping an eye on Betsy's writing career was a pleasure, but I must have blinked because she has four books under her belt with more to come. I hope you enjoy our Q&A, and visit her website and blog to learn more about her books.




1. First, tell us about yourself and what kind of books you write.I’m a new mother, a wife of 4 ½ years, and an author! I write romance, though I have done a romantic suspense novel that my agent is still shopping around. We’ll see how that goes!

2) Tell us about your path to publication, how long you’ve been writing, how long it took you to publish.I’ve been writing in some form since I was about 7 years old. I have stories saved on old disks of my first attempts at writing. So funny to read back over now! I got
serious about writing around the age of eighteen and attended my first conference on writing/speaking called CLASServices. Fabulous author Gayle Roper was a small-group teacher there and encouraged me to join the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). That advice changed my life! I joined immediately, started learning the craft of writing and networking, and my first novel, MIDNIGHT ANGEL, was published with The Wild Rose Press in January 2007. Then in the fall of 2007 I signed with super-agent Tamela Hancock Murray of Hartline Literary, who soon after sold two of my romances to Steeple Hill Love Inspired! (July 2009 release and February 2010 release)

3) How much do you know about how your books are going to be structured, who the characters are, and what the plot is going to be, before you start writing, and how much comes to you during the writing process?Since I now submit proposals for new stories to my agent before writing the entire manuscript, I usually plan things out in advance. A proposal includes a story synopsis (a detailed summary of the entire book), therefore, I have to know what happens ahead of time—though there is still always room for surprises!

4) Are you a member of any writers’ group and how do you think they help you? I’m a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (http://www.acfw.com/) and they have been invaluable to me as a writer. I’ve made the best friendships within this group, learned how to write for the Christian market, learned what the market is after, networked and found my current agent, attended conferences and bolstered my confidence, etc. etc. etc. I would advise any new authors to join ASAP! They won’t regret it.

5) What has been your biggest frustration within the publishing industry and how have you dealt with it? I guess every author would complain about the pace. Things happen SLOWLY in the publishing industry and there is no way around it. God teaches us patience that way I suppose. =) It can take weeks for you to hear back from your agent on a new proposal or manuscript (though my agent Tamela is great about that and usually responds much faster!) and then it takes even longer for them to hear back from the editor they submitted your proposal or manuscript to. Then if you get a contract, you’re still waiting for the thing to come in the mail, then you’re waiting for your check, then you’re waiting for your edits, then you’re waiting for your cover and then you’re waiting for your release…..etc. etc. etc. That’s why it’s so great to keep writing and keep getting more contracts so you’ve always got something going/circulating at any given time! No room for boredom.

6) Give us your best brainstorming tip or how you ‘grow’ and idea. Talk it over with a friend. You’d be surprised how many “DUH” moments I’ve had when I get stuck with a problem in my storyline and take the problem to a fellow writer. My crit buds and I have “fixed” things for each other too many times to count. It really helps to have that neutral, outside opinion from someone who understands why it matters and doesn’t think you’re crazy for worrying about it.

7) What do you dread the most when you sit down to write? Interruptions! Which is my life now with a newborn! Haha! My daughter is sooooo worth it, and I’d give up or do anything for her. But when its naptime, I hit that keyboard!!

8) If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning writer, what advice would you offer? Don’t compare yourself! It’s so hard in this industry, even in the Christian market, not to compare yourself with other authors, but it’s just not wise. Someone will always have more contracts than you, more published books than you, better covers than you, a more coveted publisher than you, a better sales record than you…When you’re starting out, it can seem especially daunting because you think “I’ll never get there!” I would tell myself “don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, worry about what YOU are doing and why you are doing it.”

9) Do you have a critique group? How would you advise beginning writers about critiquing each other? If you don't have one, who were your early readers and how did they help you?I don’t have an official crit group but I do have two fellow author friends that read my stories for me and help me out. One friend reads my work chapter by chapter as I write it, the other reads my books in full and it’s a great system!

Two pieces piece of advice for new authors about critting: One is to be kind and constructive. Try to give as many compliments as you do criticism, or at least close to it. It really makes the difference for a new author’s moral! And secondly, crit within your genre (it really does you no good to get writing advice/crits from a Sci-Fi author when you write sweet romances!) and make sure the people in your crit group have a variety of experience. No blind-leading-the-blind scenarios or no one will ever get anywhere.

10) Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" driven writers. Which are you? Did you strive to be that kind of writer or did it come naturally for you? I’m more character driven, I believe, and it’s just how I always have been. I see my characters before I see situations. I always struggle with the “stakes” of a story – the urgency that keeps readers turning pages. I tend to focus more on the motivations and hearts of the characters and what their circumstances mean to them personally, than I do their actual circumstances. Which isn’t necessarily good, because you need a healthy balance of both to have a great story! (but that’s why crit buds are so very valuable, they help you brainstorm those stakes and make sure you have enough!)

11) You have a couple of different publishers. Tell us about them, how you got their attention, and how they differ? I’ve been published with The Wild Rose Press and am contracted for two stories now with Steeple Hill Love Inspired. (I also write for an online magazine, Crosswalk, and have had a story published in a compilation book by Tyndale, but I won’t focus on that here) The Wild Rose Press is a small POD (print on demand) press that pays royalties, but no advances, and is relatively new to the publishing world. They also print e-books. I found them when an editor there requested submissions through the ACFW email loop, and submitted. I had a great experience with them and it was a wonderful first stepping stone into the publishing world! The Wild Rose Press doesn’t require an agent to submit to them, so there are more opportunities for authors starting out in that regard. But the marketing falls solely on the author, and since it is POD, it is harder to get your book into actual bookstores—so most of your sales come through Amazon or other online catalogues.

After acquiring my agent in fall 2007, we decided to broaden my horizons a bit, and she sold two of my romances to Steeple Hill. Steeple Hill Love Inspired is a division of Harlequin, a well established publisher that’s been around for a very long time and has great sales records. Both publishers were wonderful to work with and I look forward to continuing to grow in my career.

12) How do you juggle a baby, a husband, a home, marketing and writing?
You must be incredibly organized. I am definitely a Type A, organized, detailed freak! I look around sometimes and wonder myself how everything gets done! Somehow I manage to work a full time job, be around for my husband, be there for my daughter in the evening, keep the laundry/dishes/housework going, and write. WHEW. Multi-tasking is a must! I think it’s by the grace of God I don’t whirl myself into exhaustion. But the good part of being so busy is that everything I am doing, I love. I love caring for my family, I love writing, I love keeping things neat and clean in our home, etc. (I don’t always love my job, but that’s a different story! Haha) So, loving what I do definitely makes the craziness easier to handle.

13) What’s your greatest publicity/marketing tip and does promotion come naturally to you? I believe online promotion is a must in today’s society. I have a presence on Shoutlife, Facebook and Myspace, and I KNOW that effort has earned new readers and friends! Promotion is pretty easy for me, because I’m a naturally friendly person and I am comfortable on a computer and know my way around those types of websites. It’s hard at times because I feel like through promoting, I’m bragging on myself—but I know any success I’ve had is by the grace of God alone! He gave me my talent and I am simply seeking to use it for Him.

14) What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I love kickboxing, reading, watching movies, and shopping. I’m a shoe girl! And of course I spend every moment I can with my baby girl and my hubby.

15) What kind of research went into the writing of your books? Do you research as you go or do you need to have it all out there before you start writing? I research as I go. My release in July, RETURN TO LOVE, is set in New Orleans and I had a blast pulling up pics from my last visit there, talking on the phone and through email with various workers at various stores, businesses, etc. At one point, I even called the famous Gumbo Shoppe in the French Quarter and asked the hostess that answered the phone “are your floors concrete or tile?” Haha. I could just picture her looking down on instinct before answering. Research can be a lot of fun and with today’s internet and Google access, there really is no excuse for not getting things right!16) Tell us how to keep up with your books, what's next for you and anything else you want us to know. Readers can always find me at http://www.betsystamant.com/ and http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com/ or email me at betsystamant (at) yahoo (dot) com. Next is my first release with Steeple Hill Love Inspired in July 2009 – RETURN TO LOVE. The sequel, yet to be titled at this point, will be released February 2010. Hopefully I’ll have more titles to share with you soon!

Check out these titles by Betsy St. Amant!



3 comments:

Erica Vetsch said...

Yay! Betsy's right about her being naturally friendly. I can't wait to read her LI books.

Tamela said...

Betsy, what a great interview! I love working with you! Hugs, Tamela

Georgiana said...

Great interview and advice!