Interview with the Writer’s Digest award winning author, Beth Burnett

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Several years ago, at a GCLS conference far, far away, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the coolest women ever.

I was a con virgin, and she was a one woman welcome committee.

She wasn’t actually the only person making people feel welcome. In fact, the conference is one of the most welcoming I have ever attended. However, every time I felt overwhelmed and ready to run to my room and hide, there she was.

It is like her super power.

Today I got to talk to Writer’s Digest Award winning author, Beth Burnett, on a more intimate level.

I am excited to share our conversation with all of you.

Let’s talk Coyote

Coyote Ate the Stars, which is a bad ass title, by the way, was released in 2018. This fantasy novel set in two worlds is unlike your previous novels. Can you share a little bit about why you decided to give voice to these particular characters?

Coyote has been rattling around in my brain for almost a decade. I love him and I knew I CoyoteAteTheStars front coverneeded to find a place for him. But I kept trying to force him into different stories and none of them worked. I even had a version of Coyote in the first sketchings of The Love Sucks Club, but it didn’t feel right. Finally, when I was getting ready to start NaNoWriMo in 2017, I did something I never do—I started writing without an outline. The first 25,000 words flowed out and by then, Coyote’s story was in full bloom. I did take a day to flesh out a beat sheet and the rest was history.

Coyote won first place with Writer’s Digest in the self-published book awards for 2018. Why did you decide to submit to this contest, and what was the process like from submission to announcing to your readers that you won?

This is a great place to talk about Impostor Syndrome and self-doubt. The Writer’s Digest contest is expensive. Of course, if you win, the prize money is more than worth it. But it’s expensive and they get hundreds, if not thousands of submissions. I read about the contest and vacillated about it for weeks. Finally, my wife told me to just do it. I submitted it, paid the 125 dollars, and waited. When I got the email, right before Christmas, that I won, my first thought was that it was a mistake. I didn’t tell anyone until I got the actual judge’s feedback and the official seal, about six weeks later.

I can picture you and your wife dancing around, one dog trying to contain his excitement and one cat trying to look vaguely interested, weaving around your legs. Or maybe that’s just what I would do.

It’s like you were there!

I wish I had been. How exciting!

I would love to hear about the research and planning that happens for you when you are ready to write of a novel. Talk to me about researching for Coyote, or any novel, really.

I do very little research before writing a novel. It’s quite the nebulous process. I have a concept that floats around in my head. I usually spend a couple of weeks spinning around in my chair, staring at the ceiling, muttering to myself. After a while, inspiration hits and I write out a chapter by chapter outline or a beat sheet. (An evolution of the beat sheet from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book on screenplay writing.) If there is research to be done—it’s done either during the writing or at the end in revision.

I love how different our processes are as writers.

One more Coyote focused question, because I just love these characters. Who is your favorite character in Coyote and why?

Coyote. He’s like the person I might have been if I hadn’t done so much self-work to help myself through the worst of depression. He’s like the alternate timeline Beth, the person I would have become if I hadn’t taken the steps to really change my life back in 2009. And he’s fat and scarred and ugly and filled with self-loathing, but at heart, he just wants people to love him. And he’s good. He’s just good.

Well, I love him, and I am sure everyone else will, as well. I hope we get to see more of him. Will this be a standalone book, or is there a sequel on the horizon? 

There is a second book coming. It will only be a two-part series—if things go the way I intend, everything will wrap up nicely in book two. I won’t give much away except I’ll say that Hazel and Coyote are back on Adumbrate, Glog the Insane will come back into their lives, and Coyote’s mother will play more of a role in this one.

Oh good! As a mother, I am always happy when a mom gets a bigger role in something as exciting as Coyote. Will she “travel?”

If by “travel,” you mean abducted by evil Inktings and thrown into the pit of tormented souls, then yes. She will travel.

EEEEk. Yes!

Coming Around Again

Coming Around Again cover

Okay. That was three more questions about Coyote. Let’s talk about the other novel you published in 2018. Can you tell us a bit about Coming Around Again?

It’s the story of hope in the face of abuse. Two young women meet and instantly know they are soulmates, but their own experiences with abuse, both emotional and physical, keep them apart.

It sounds wonderful in a real-life-happens-here kind of way. What genre does it fall into?

It’s hard to classify and it doesn’t have a lot of readers, I think because it is sort of a romance, but really, it’s about finding the strength to stand on your own before giving your heart to someone else. It’s not as light as a typical romance—there are some tough issues in it.

Just how I like them, but I know it is a hard sell when so many readers are searching for something lighter. I am sure it will find its audience. 

I have talked to writers who write passages that hold meaning to them because of their own life. Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

No, but I do love to write short stories based on characters in my novels and share them with my Patreon folx. That said, there are definitely pieces of me that some people might recognize if they know me well enough.

Now I am going to have to read more closely. I do know you well enough to know that you are “enthralled with super-charged girl power books.” Elaborate on that for us.

I just love stories where girls are the heroes and they don’t rely on a boy to save them or fix them. I think young women are really coming into their own now and finding role models in a way I rarely did as a young woman. My nieces are so much more confident and bad ass than I ever was as a teenager.

My daughters, too. I love that about the generation coming up now. Let’s hope that trend continues.

And a few random fun facts for your fans

When you have your author hat on, what takes you out of your comfort zone?

Promotion. I find it so difficult. I know my work is awesome, I just don’t know how to let other people know that so they buy my books and share them with their friends.

What about when you have on a different hat? What takes you out of your comfort zone then?

Pretty much everything. I’m so scared of everything. Grocery shopping. Talking to people I don’t know. Crowds. Going to a restaurant I’ve never been to before. Everyone thinks I’m such an extrovert, but they don’t realize that inside, I constantly feel like that kid standing at the front of the cafeteria with their tray of food, wondering where to sit. My saving grace is that I go into super-nurturer mode around someone with more anxiety than me. So if someone approaches me in a crowd and tells me they feel awkward and scared, my anxiety instantly goes away as protective mode comes on.

This both surprises me and doesn’t. With all of your fears, you still managed to land yourself as the director of education at the GCLS. That sounds like a great job!

I love the GCLS. My position involves every aspect of education for the organization. That means scheduling master classes, running the writing academy, heading the scholarships for the writing academy, ensuring the students are happy, updating the webpage, searching for new students. It’s a ton of work and it is so rewarding. I’m blessed that my wife is also so passionate about the academy because it is not a one-person job. It’s actually more like a three or twelve person job. We need a team. If you know anyone who wants to donate about 8 hours a week, let me know. What we lack in pay, we make up for in undying love and devotion. THE GCLS board itself is amazing… we are all volunteers, so it is truly a labor of love. But it’s so worth it.

What do you do with your spare time? (HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHA)

I feel this should just be a GIF of someone laughing so hard they have tears in their eyes. In my spare time, I am a grad student getting my second master’s. Since that wasn’t time-consuming enough, I am also an online adjunct teaching composition for a community college and a Lit class for an MFA. In the winter, I hibernate, but in the spring and summer, I love to hike and camp. I try to get as much outdoor time as possible in the nice weather so I can sit on the couch buried in blankets and complain about the cold all winter.

This has been a lot of fun. Thank you for chatting with me today. Last question, if you could have written any book in the world, what would it be?

The Bible. With a lot less misogyny and way more celebrating of the gays.

You can purchase the books we discussed today from the following links:

Coyote Ate the Stars

Coming Around Again

You can learn more about this year’s GCLS conference and about the GCLS Writing academy from the following links:

GCLS conference 2019: Why Pittsburgh

GCLS Homepage

GCLS Writing Academy

And last but not least, you can find all of Beth’s social media contact information on her webpage. What are you waiting for? Go follow her! 🙂

Beth Burnett

GCLS Annual Conference: Why Pittsburgh?

Frivolous Views

The Golden Crown Literary Society’s Annual Conference is held in a different city each year – except for that 3 year period when we were in Orlando. (That whole “let’s go to the same city in consecutive years” thing won’t be repeated.) Since I’ve been a member, we’ve been to Orlando, Minneapolis, Dallas, Portland, New Orleans, Washington DC, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Prior to that, the conference was held in Atlanta, Phoenix, and New Orleans (the first year – we returned for our 10th anniversary). 

In 2019, we’ll be travelling to Pittsburgh, PA for our conference!

Now, I’m excited about this location. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but I’ve heard so many great things about the city. So, I’m pretty psyched about going. But I know there are people out there saying, “Oof! Pittsburgh? Why?”

Well, as a member of the Board, I have a little insight I can share…

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Reading through the Ages: YA Book Recommendations for Teens of Any Age!

If you are looking for books for yourself or a YA reader in your world, check out this amazing age-appropriate list.

Vicky Who Reads

Based on popular demand, I have some reading recommendations for teens of all ages! I have a more complete list of some of my most relatable reads coming in the future in partnership with someone else, so you’ll have to wait on that, but for now, here are some reading recommendations for teens 12+!

This post was going to be long, and I don’t have the time to write it all up. So I picked my top 5 from each age to write more in depth about, and also included more recommendations below it!

I wanted to cover the widest range of teen ages that I’ve personally been through, and some books I really wish I read when I was older (*cough*Winterspell & Across the Universe*cough*), and others I could have really used when I was younger.

Some ages (all ages, really)–twelve and thirteen…

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Sliding into 2019 as an author

writingjourneyOn December 15, 2018, Sandman was released to the world.

Sandman was my first attempt at a full novel. Before 2018, I had no idea what writing, editing, and publishing a book meant, not really. I also did not realize that writing “The End” or finding a publisher is not the end game. Oh my goodness, no. It is just a pit stop along the way.

If you are beginning a novel or nearing the end of a novel, if you are seeking representation or considering self-publishing, if you are anywhere in between, know that this journey is hard.

It is also beautiful and fulfilling and fun.

When the idea for Sandman presented itself to me, I was on vacation, on a beach, in an ice cream shop. I knew right away this was not going to be another short story.

After I wrote, “The End” on Sandman, I had my first editor/writer experience. Trust me when I say, “Even if you are a good writer in general, even if you teach writing, even if you pride yourself on putting words together, you need an editor (or two or three). You can read more about types of editors on this blog.

I also discovered beta readers. These phenomenal readers will give you feedback on your novel draft. Mine found things as big as plot holes and as small as a change in eye color of one of my characters. I had three beta readers, but you may want more. Beta readers are not editors. Editors come later, after you revise based on the comments from your betas. Here are eleven online communities where you can find beta readers.

After beta readers I had my first publisher/writer experience. This one will be different for everyone. You may want to hold out for one of the big five publishers or choose to self-publish. I chose an in-between route. I could not be more pleased. Working with the editors, cover artist, and publisher at Flashpoint Publications has been amazing. It was not all smooth sailing. If you expect it to be, you will be disappointed (whichever route you choose). I recommend just buckling up and enjoying the ride. In the end, you will have a book with your name on it!

Sandman_Flashpoint

Releasing these particular 85000 or so words into the world brought my first private message from someone I never met telling me how much they loved my book and wanting to “pick my brain.” This, dear reader, has been my second favorite moment of the publishing experience.

My first favorite publishing moment to date is the release party. Don’t skip this step (even if you are an extreme introvert). I might have if my daughter, Sarah, had not planned and executed the whole thing. I am so thankful for her. My children and grandchildren were there. My wife was there. Some of our friends and neighbors were there. And people I didn’t know showed up, too! I sold all of the books I had with me, and several people went online to purchase. I read a chapter, signed books like a pro, and made conversation that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make.

In December, I gained “author status” on Goodreads and on Facebook. This still feels so surreal. I find myself checking these two sites way more often than I should. Maybe the giddiness of seeing another message or review will wear off eventually, but I doubt it.

On Amazon, you can now click on the “Learn More” button on my cover and read the first few pages of Sandman. I have done this so many times over the past few years when conducting research, that doing it on my own novel made it all feel really really real. The growing reviews here will eventually lead to me being listed on the “You may also like” and the “This book is similar” lists that are so important to writers. I believe this step in the process will happen in early 2019, because I am speaking it into the universe right now. 🙂

I continue to build my Twitter and Instagram presence. Both of these platforms have been a blast to grow. I suspect this will take years to cultivate. Wherever you are in the process, start now and keep moving. The writing community is phenomenal. To find like-minded writers and readers, look for hashtags such as: #5amwritersclub, #50bookpledge and #bookbloggers.

From growing the idea of a serial killer hiding bodies on a small strip of sand in North Carolina to today, the last day of 2018, I have grown as a writer, as a marketer, and as a person. This is a career choice. It never ends. I may not like all of the stages and requirements equally well, but I understand the importance of each. I am doing what I love.

I wish for anyone reading this the same sense of peace and happiness in your own process.

Buckle up.

It’s a crazy ride!

Here’s to 2019.

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