by Bethany Maines
Bethany Maines is an award-winning writer and native of Tacoma WA, who writes romantic tales of action-adventure that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. Bethany is actually very much like her fictional heroines: she travels to exotic lands and has the ability to kick some serious butt with her fifth-degree black belt in karate. And while her travels may not necessarily include fighting mercenaries or super agents of evil so much as eating spicy foods and hiking to the tops of mountains (okay, really big hills), her black belt skills are mainly employed in teaching karate to a classroom full of kids (although there was that one riot in Paris…), and her day job is something she actually enjoys (graphic design is fun!), she’s pretty much a super hero in her own right
1. Covid-19 has messed with all aspects of life as we know it. Has it affected your writing? If so, how and how are you dealing with it?
I feel like it has made me more driven to write as I attempt to escape reality, but at the same time it’s shortened my attention span so that I end up hopping from story to story, starting new stories, and ignoring stories that I had been intending to have done by now. Or at least, COVID is what I’m going to be blaming for this problem.
2. How do you decide what genre your next book will be?
All of my novels are basically what I’d call women’s action-adventure. Whether it’s in the San Juan Islands with Tish and her grandfather the ex-CIA agent solving mysteries, the Deveraux family taking on mercenaries, make-up ladies turning out to be secret agents, or wolf shifters trying to save the world, every one of my books has a heroine who is kicking ass, taking name, and occasionally freaking out while falling in love. What happens to me is that I get an IDEA. It’s usually what sounds like a great idea until I actually start to write the dang thing. But if the idea is… “I bet werewolves would be really great at oral sex” then that presents a series of questions that really need answering. And if the idea is… “what would happen if Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers founded Mary Kay”then obviously that needs to be explored. Long story short, I get an idea and the idea dictates what the genre will be. This of course, can be a problem for marketing because it looks like I skip from genre to genre. Probably if I’d been smart when I started indie publishing I would have done pen names for each genre, but… too late now. So yes, if you look at my book list and think… romantic suspense, mystery, paranormal, sci-fi?? How does all this fit together? The answer is: they all have romance, action, humor and smart heroines.
3. What is something that you wish you knew before you got in the industry?
Ha ha ha ha ha! Wow. Yeah, how long do we have? The industry has actually changed a great deal since I got into publishing back in 2000… whatever. I really wish I’d how important a marketing budget was and how the publishing industry actually functioned. I thought it was just… write some books. I had no idea about the business side of things.
4. How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
I’m more empathetic. I spend a lot of time wondering why my villains do the things they do. Very rarely is the answer, “Because I’m evil and I want to.” And since twisting your head around in a pretzel to get someone’s point of view is a learned skill, I can apply it to the real world and real people. I was far more rigid in my thinking as younger person. I really believe that I’ve become more compassionate through writing. Obviously, not more humble, but… baby steps.
5. What is something you do when you’re needinginspiration?
There are different kinds of inspiration required to get a book written. There’s the “I don’t know what the fuck happens next” inspiration. And for that I will usually pull a writer’s group plotting session with some of my fellow writers. They’ll ask questions, kick the tires on my existing plot, and listen to me babble. Usually, they solve it for me, or at least get me further down the road. Then there’s the “Dear fucking God, I just need to get some words on a page today” inspiration. For that I’ll listen to some music, delay the inevitable by reading a topic adjacent article, or give myself a “writer’s sprint” where I only have to write for thirty minutes and quality is irrelevant. Then there’s the “where will my next story come from” inspiration. And honestly, I have no idea what people do for that. I’ve got like eight stories waiting in the wings. Coming up with ideas has never been an issue for me (knock on wood).
6. What did you find to be the hardest part of writing when you first began? Has that changed over time?
When I first started, I was such a pantser. Writing that way is a joy. It’s like reading because you discover who did the thing and how it everything fits together. However, writing that way also means that I do a lot of rewrites. And as a parent I no longer have the time or the patience to let a story marinate that way. I’m much more of a plotter these days. It takes the fun factor of writing down a teeny bit, but I swear my books are stronger because of it.
7. Do you have any advice for someone who is contemplating jumping into the Indie community?
Do it! But for actual advice, I say, join groups, review books, and get familiar with the world of indie authors and blogs. You’ll see trends, make friends, and get a better understanding of how it all works, which will only help you when you get to your own book.
8. How do you manage your time being a full time worker, mom and author?
Well, let’s just say the dishes don’t get done… a lot. I realized after my daughter was born that there choices that I was going to have to make. Some things weren’t going to get done if I wanted to keep writing. I wish my house was cleaner, I really do, but I love my fictional people more.
9. Who, as an author, do you look up to and draw inspiration from?
This is going to sound a little weird, but I have a great fondness for a British mystery author named Dick Francis. He was a jockey and a pilot and I love that his real world passions informed his books. I also love that he got out there and experienced things that he wrote about. I love that and aspire to live life and not just write about it.
10. I love this next question. Who would you have mentor you in the business?
That is a tough question! If I could pick anyone? Stephanie Plum maybe? We’re similar enough in style that I think we’d get along and I like that she is attempting to build a large brand and spin off other writers.
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