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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Exploring the Writing World of Betsy Riley

Author/artist Betsy Riley left her small hometown in Kentucky to spend over 35 years working at the leading edge of science and computing in Oak Ridge Tennessee. Now she continues this work as a Program Manager for the federal government. But it hasn't been all bits and bytes for Betsy. She has owned a ballroom dance studio, been a ham radio operator and traveling lecturer. Along the way she had four marriages and three divorces, and learned that being alone doesn't have to mean being lonely.
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
This particular book is an illustrated fable that is inspirational. It uses an extended metaphor to offer a message of hope to people who have gone through relationship troubles.
Why did you choose this genre?
I had originally written the piece for therapeutic reasons after my second divorce. Recently I came across it and shared it with some friends who had been through similar breakups. Their reactions encouraged me to make it more widely available.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
The Comet is my first fiction book to be published. Before this, I had published essays and poetry in high school publications such as The Beta Club Journal. Until now my publications have been non-fiction appearing in the proceedings of computer conferences or in business magazines like The Office.
Give a short description of each. 
The Comet, print version ISBN-13:978-0615475783, ISBN-10:0615475787, is available from and and my website
An epub version for the Nook Color is ISBN-10: 0983735603, ISBN-13: 978-0-9837356-0-1
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

Often I take names of friends that inspired certain character traits, and then modify them slightly. I mostly use real locations, real place names.  Of course, in The Comet, the characters don't really have names per se. There is the comet, the sun, the moon, etc.
How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

Although the protagonist is a comet, she is based on every woman I know who has gone through a breakup, divorce, or bad marriage. Since I want all my work to have a positive message, I had to be sure that she developed strength during the course of the story.
What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any

The "bad guys" are a planet, a sun, etc. I guess that could be considered unique (chuckling).
What’s your favorite thing about your book?
The positive message and t
he images. I had originally planned to illustrate it using pastels, but decided to mockup some placeholders digitally. I wanted a primitive, iconic look. I liked the first image I did using Photoshop's paint option so much, I decided to go all digital.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
This particular book is heavily illustrated, and shorter than a novel. But I write in multiple genres (sometimes mixing prose and poetry in the same piece). The common thread in my work is the concept of "family of choice" and finding a way to show a positive message from negative experiences.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I've been writing ever since I was a child. I did my own neighborhood newspaper, complete with movie reviews, when I was 10. I never stopped writing. I wrote poems, stories, essays, and speeches. I'm hooked on writing, I can't stop. When I'm stressed, I write and it makes me feel better. When my husband had a cerebral hemorrhage while he was in another state,  and the earliest flight wasn't till the next day, writing a poem about it helped me stay calm.
What is your writing schedule?
I work full time, at a demanding job, so my writing is done on evenings and weekends.  I write while watching TV. I jot down ideas for later while sitting at stoplights, while shopping, while out to dinner.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I like to keep several projects going at once, so I can switch when I get bogged down. I'm currently working on two poetry chapbooks (one illustrated), a fictionalized memoir/guidebook for step-parents,  a zombie novel (that does NOT involve an apocalypse), and a collection of twisted nursery rhymes and fairy tales, working title "The Grimmer Goose".
I have two poems coming out in the launch edition of Empirical Magazine (in January 2012) and two short stories in an anthology to be published by Lebrary later in the year.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Don't just want to write, WRITE! With digital publishing and e-books, there are so many more avenues to publishing now than in the past. Like "you can't win if you don't play", you can't publish if you don't write.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
READ. Read magazines like Writer's Digest; read books on writing; read books in your chosen genre; read at least a sampling of books in other genres.  While I'll never write a western, if I ever have to write a fist fight scene, I'll be able to use what I learned by reading Louis L'Amour.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Besides editing, you mean? I read, or paint, or draw. I play solitaire or video games (I'm hooked on one of the AARP mah-jongg games). I go to craft shows and art exhibits.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
Getting married barefoot on the beach
at sundown on Maui.
Having a letter to the editor published at 12.
Being called out of study hall my senior year of high school to be handed a telegram from President Nixon, naming me a Presidential Scholar.
Getting a standing ovation for my winning speech at the Tennessee JayCees state convention (after I had to follow the state Poet Laureate on the program!)
Dancing the twist onstage with Chubby Checker (solo).
Being invited to West Berlin to give exactly the same speech I had given there the year before.
Successfully doing a dive to mid-air hover in Indoor Skydiving.
Seeing my first book selling on Amazon.
Having friends that I had given copies to, buying extra copies to give to their friends.
Winning first place in an online contest with my very first flash fiction short story.


justbetsy said...

Wonderful piece, Sylvia. Thank you so much. Since we talked my second book has launched on Amazon. Street People Tales is a volume of narrative poetry. There are links to it from my website

Anonymous said...

It is so wonderful to see Betsy getting acknowledged for the creative work she has accomplished. I am honored to call her my friend and that I was instrumental in helping her to get "The Comet" published. WAY TO GO, BETSY!

justbetsy said...

I'm running a "Free Fridays" promo for "Street People Tales" kindle edition. On 3/30 and 4/6 2012 you will be able to download a free copy. I've also branched out to publish work by some other authors.