Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson is a Chicago area native, and the author of six published novels, among them one romance, two mainstream novels, and three thrillers.

Two of her recent books have been nominated for the prestigious International Frankfurt Award. Two were EPPIE finalists. Her bestselling 2003 release, SECOND GENERATION, won the 2003 Bloody Dagger Award, the 2003 Rendezvous Magazine Rosebud Award, and the 2003 FMAM (Futures Magazine) Fire to Fly Award. Her website is www.bethanderson-hotclue.com

Questions from Sloane Taylor for Beth Anderson

Q: How do you write? Are there any quirks that make it easier for you to lay down your story?

A:How do I write: Hmmm. In my sweats and socks, usually, even in the summer when the A/C is on. I love writing with a computer. My first book was written on an IBM Selectric typewriter and I re-wrote that sucker eight times, counting the two rewrites I did for Harlequin Superromance. One before the contract was signed, to add another point of view (which I wasn’t expecting because at that time all romances up to then were in two points of view.) They wanted me to add another one, my heroine’s uncle, who was suspected of hijacking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company where both he and my heroine worked. (I was a crimewriter even then.) Then, I had to do a complete rewrite a second time, when I went through a grueling six-editorial-pages-edit which involved almost all of my 400 book pages.

I don’t regret a bit of that because I learned, OH how I learned. Never forgot any of it, either. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had great editors who really made me sweat. It was the best training ground in the world and I pity today’s authors who don’t have the advantage of that training as I did, because when they got through with me, I had it right. As for how often, I write, when I’m hard at work on a book, which I am right now, I do as much as I can during rational working hours, weekdays. On weekends I take time off and do other things, like bathe 😉 wash my hair, clean the house, wash clothes 😉 Was that what you wanted to know, or TMI?

Do I have any quirks that make it easier to lay down a story: Hmmm again. Well, to tell you the truth, most days it’s *not* easy to lay down a story. Writing is about the most tiring thing I’ve ever done, especially when I’m really into it and go on for hours at a stretch, which I try to do because I’m not one of those people who can write in short snatches. I drink a lot of coffee and a lot of water while I’m writing, which is good because I don’t often remember to eat. I never write with my shoes on, which pretty much belies the rumor that I think with my ass, oops, posterior. It’s really my feet, and I like to let them breathe, 😉 (To tell you the truth, my husband calls me an Eastern Shore Hillbilly because I’m barefoot most of the time.)

One thing that might strike some as quirky is that if I’m going into a scene that I know is going to be difficult, I lie down ahead of time and meditate until I’m in an alpha state – I learned how to do that years ago in a mind control course – and instead of counting myself back up, I go straight into my writing room while I’m still in alpha and start writing. Some of my best stuff comes out when I do that. I think I have that to thank for the reviews I’ve had which call my writing poetic and lyrical because God knows I’m not personally poetic and lyrical. I’m probably one of the most straightforward, pragmatic, matter of fact people you’ll ever meet.

Q: Define head hopping? Can you give a short example?

A:Not from any of my books. 😉 Head hopping is when a writer switches POV too many times on a page. The problem with head-hopping is that you don’t give the reader enough time to fully get into the head of one character before you zap her into someone else’s, and the reader never fully connects with any of the characters. She can’t if she’s back and forth, back and forth.

Keep in mind, the reader wants to form a personal connection with your characters. That’s what will keep them coming back next time you have a new book coming out. The reader wants that satisfying read, which affects them personally and takes them out of their own lives for a while.

Q: Why do you write? Give two or three reasons. Why do you write murder mystery and not romantic suspense or paranormal?

A:I write because I want to see how the story in my mind plays out on paper and I never know for sure what’s going to happen, except in a loosely plotted way, until I see it on the page. I write because it’s in me to write and I love doing it. I write because I pretty much understand the human condition and most of it either tickles or fascinates me in some offbeat way.

As for murder mystery v/s romantic suspense or paranormal, Night Sounds, was basically a mainstream romantic suspense. Sexual obsession was Joe’s motivation for trying so hard to help Zoey. You could also classify Murder Online as a romantic suspense, although the romance is not the emphasis, but by book’s end you know for sure they’re heading for bed.
The book I’m writing now, The Scoutmaster’s Wife, is a mainstream thriller with paranormal overtones that affects one of the lead characters.

I think in all of my books except my first, a Harlequin Superromance, the emphasis has been on the main story instead of will they or won’t they wind up in fully detailed bedroom scenes. Of course they will in real life, that’s only human nature when a healthy heterosexual man meets and is attracted to a healthy heterosexual woman, but most crime fiction readers don’t want graphic sex scenes because it distracts from the story. I give them what they want, and what they want is the crime and the logical solving of it, along with some human interest elements to make them fun to read.

Q: There are basically three types of point of view. First, second and third person. As a mystery writer, which point of view do you think works best and why?

A:They all work fine, depending on the story and how you want to tell it. I’ve grown fond of first person because it brings the reader more into the mind of the protagonists, plus, I just love writing that way.

Q: What are the basic mistakes, in your opinion, new writers make when establishing the point of view of their main characters?

A:The main mistake is usually that they don’t know their lead characters well enough when they start. That can be corrected by taking a few days and writing out a detailed background of each lead character IN first person, as if the writer is the character, and starting form when they were very young. This works well, v/s simple character sheets you fill out, because it brings out a lot of things that happened along their life’s pathway that affect who they are today and how they see the world. Some of what you write will wind up in the book, most won’t but it’s time well spent because you KNOW how your character will react to things that happen at this point in their lives. You can’t escape your past. You can change your actions as you grow, but your past is always going to figure in some way, in the decisions you make today.

Another basic mistake is not fully understand what point of view is. I have a long article about that on my website, if anyone wants a thorough lesson on what it is and how you arrive at it for each lead character.

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