Meet Author Bettye Griffin
Bettye Griffin's first novel was published back in 1998. Since then she has written 14 novels. A native of Yonkers, New York, she now makes her home in Southeastern Wisconsin with her husband.
ONCE UPON A PROJECT
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• Tell us what motivated you to write this book,ONCE UPON A PROJECT.
I had just turned 49, and naturally started thinking that I'd be 50 in another year. It's quite a milestone, and I thought about where I was in life vs. where I thought I'd be and thought it might be nice to write a book about how life brings us places we never thought it would. The characters and their situations quickly came to life. It was actually an extremely easy book to write.
• Who did you write this book for?
Most characters in popular fiction are in their twenties and thirties, a fewer number in their forties. I thought that women over 40 might enjoy reading about characters closer to their own age.
• Bring your 3 main characters to life. Tell us who they are and what you love about them.
Pat, from a poor family even by public housing standards, gave up the love of her life to ease her parents' pain at having lost their sons. She went to college and law school with help from school loans and became a prosecutor . . . but she entertained romantic fantasies about her lost love and never married. Then she gets a second chance with an old law school crush when he returns to Chicago. I love the fact that she's a dutiful daughter, but it was a mistake for her to let her parents run her life.
Susan felt forced to walk out on the love of her life when she was in her mid-20s, after he and his brother, her former boyfriend, came to blows over her, infuriating their mother. She picked up the pieces, married a millionaire and had two kids as an older mom. Now breast cancer surgery is destroying her marriage, and then she sees her old love at a reunion. I love her strength, the way she tried to do the right thing, whether it was giving up the man she loved so as not to interfere with his family, or to try so hard to hold on to her marriage and to fight the pull she feels toward her old boyfriend.
Grace was one of the so-called "nice girls" who got pregnant at 17. A brilliant student, she took her scholarship, raised her daughter largely alone after her divorce, while simultaneously working and going to school. She ultimately became quite successful, but she has two failed marriages and has no romantic prospects. I love her determination to make something of her life after becoming a teen mother.
• Where are you from? What is your favorite book, music, movie, play?
I was born in Yonkers, New York, and lived there for over 30 years. After spending 17 years in Jacksonville, Florida, I now live in Southeastern Wisconsin, 50 miles north of Chicago and 30 miles south of Milwaukee.
I can't really say I have a favorite book, piece of music, movie, or play. I have many favorites and cannot choose just one.
• How do you spend your free time? Do you write poetry or sing?
Poetry, no. I sing all the time, although not for an audience. I'm quite fond of show tunes. I usually sing a few verses of "I Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night" from Annie Get Your Gun. ("Got no diamonds . . . got no pearls . . . still, I think I'm a lucky girl . . .") I also like jigsaw puzzles, the kind with 1,000 pieces or more. And I'm a great fan of old movies on the Turner Classic cable channel.
• How did you feel when you saw your book on the shelf for the first time?
It was a wonderful and exciting time, the realization of a lifelong goal. Even now, ten years later, I remember my joy.
• What is your process for creating a novel? Do you plot out the story or do the characters speak to you?
I plot out the story. I know writers are supposed to be a little nuts, but no, my characters don't really speak to me.
• Could you image your life without writing today?
No. I've been dabbling in writing since I was ten, abandoned it for some time and then picked it up again on January 1, 1983. I've been writing constantly for 25 years.
• Do you feel writing is for those trained to write or for anyone who has a story to tell?
I doubt that most of today's novelists have English degrees, which is the main "training" I can think of, so no. But nor is everyone who has a story to tell a writer, either. It takes work to develop the skill, and quite frankly, most of us aren't as good at writing as we think we are.
• What is the best thing about being a published author?
Seeing my books in print and hearing from people who've enjoyed my work. The pay isn't half bad, either, but I must add I am not motivated by money.
• As a writer, what are some of the most important things you try to convey to readers through your books?
I'm not interested in preaching or trying to get people to see things my way. I just want to entertain them.
• What are you doing next? When can we expect to see you touring online or on the road?
Right now I'm trying to finish my next book, a first-person novel with plenty of attitude, still untitled, due out May 2009. I haven't looked into online tours. As for book tours, I often drop in at bookstores when I'm traveling for personal reasons. Unless you have the backing of a publisher, book tours are financially impractical - and my publisher isn't going to send me anywhere.
No reflection on me, of course, but the fact is I'm just a writer telling stories, a little fish in a big pond. Getting the publisher to back you requires you to either have a marquee name with huge sales or be an author the publisher is willing to build up. Personally, I don't think any publisher is going to be much interested in building up grandmothers in their 50s when they have much younger writers to work with.
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