Bette and I met for coffee at the Red Cup Coffeehouse in Boothbay Harbor, Me, after I’d finished my stint of book selling at Sherman’s a few doors down. I had my usual latte and Bette had tea. My husband bought some scones to go with, since I’d missed lunch. This gave me lots of time to pepper her with questions!
Bette, where did you grow up?
From the age of one until I was ten my family lived in northern California, where my mother was born and raised. When Dad, a New Yorker, developed serious lung problems, we moved back to upstate New York. Mom, a stay-at-home mother for most of those years and a creative soul, always had books and art projects at the ready when weather kept us indoors. My childhood holds a treasure trove of happy family memories.
What led you to start writing?
I was always a reader. A good story—whether poetry or prose— continues to capture my imagination. When our daughters were young, I started journaling and writing poetry as a way to capture our family adventures.
So you’ve actually been writing for a long time!
Decades, but my first published pieces didn’t appear on the page until 1996 when I wrote two human interest articles for ECHOES, The Northern Maine Journal of Rural Culture. Then, the first edition of THE TANGRAM ZOO and WORD PUZZLES TOO! was published in 1997 by Windswept House Publishing, Mt. Desert, ME; a second edition was self-published in 2012. AMAZING MATILDA, my second children’s book was published in 2012. It won a 2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Award, which is an Honorable Mention for Excellence in Children’s Literature – Ages 6 and older category, and also placed #9 on The 2013 Gittle List for Self-published Children’s Picture Books.
So when did you start writing books for older folks? 😉
In 2013, when I published my first book for the Middle-grade/YA/Adult audience. I titled it PURE TRASH. It was a short story of a boy growing up in rural New England in a family whose poverty and alcoholism mark him as a target for bullying by young and old alike. It ended up being the prequel to my novel DOG BONE SOUP, released January 2015. Inspired by nature and human nature, I continue to write poetry as well.
What sparked the idea for DOG BONE SOUP?
I have always loved to listen to friends and family talk about their lives, past and present. It seems that everyone has a story to tell. One of those stories had a lasting effect on me. Perhaps that’s because it was hard to wrap my mind around growing up in a dysfunctional family—about poverty or mean spirited people— because my own life was not touched by such things. At the same time, I was teaching and knew that many of my students faced these things and worse every day. I was sure that DOG BONE SOUP was a story worth telling.
Which character, if any, has a personality that most closely resembles yours?
When writing DOG BONE SOUP, I found that I had to learn to ‘walk in the shoes’ of each character as I wrote for them or about them. Having grown up in a loving family and supportive community myself, many of my characters were alien to me. Shawn Daniels is the character that most resembles my personality, but only in the respect that he is the eldest of four children. Being the eldest of five, I was responsible and expected to set the example for my siblings.
Which character was the hardest to write and why?
Eddy Daniels, Shawn’s father. Yes, he was the hardest. I had never met such a self-centered, uncaring person in my life. In fact, I didn’t realize that such people existed. In fact, all the negative characters were hard to write. The positive characters like Uncle Ted, Aunt Miranda and Mrs. Ashley were easy. I knew and their counterparts well in my own life and loved them.
What’s your next project?
I’m currently in the outlining stages for two stories—a sequel to DOG BONE SOUP and a story about a teacher and her students, set in the 1990s. Inspired by nature and human nature, I continue to write poetry as well.
Is there one place where you find writing the easiest?
Once my ideas are sketched out, it’s at my computer. But, I do journal daily in any comfortable spot at home and have paper and pen ready to jot down ideas when I’m on the go.
Do you prefer e-books, hardcovers or paperbacks to read?
I prefer paper and ink. There’s nothing like holding a book, putting it on a shelf and reading, rereading or leafing through it at will. In fact, we have hundreds of books, on tables, on bookshelves, on desks—so many that the grandchildren have called our house a library. But, I love my Kindle too. Especially when traveling, even if it’s only to an appointment.
Whom do you admire most and why?
I admire people who show kindness and love to all they meet and those who are not afraid to tell the hard stories that need to be told.
- Bette A. Stevens, Maine author/illustrator WEBSITE/BLOG http://www.4writersandreaders.com
- Amazon AUTHOR PAGE http://viewauthor.at/BetteAStevens
We left the coffee house with hugs and a promise for further visits!
As you can tell from this interview, Bette is a very special person. She lives on a farm and delights in growing flowers and other things, and I can just imagine why her grandchildren love to visit her. I am so happy I had the chance to meet her while I was in Maine, and I encourage everyone to read Dog Bone Soup. I think children would love it, too.