Q & A with Beth Albright
1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
For this particular story, as part of a series I just knew this character so well. But her development actually happened as I wrote. I was surprised at how sarcastic and funny she was, self- deprecating yet charming. I saw so much of myself in her! But usually, Ideas are lurking everywhere! I get about 5 or 6 ideas a day! I had two just before bed last night and they kept me up for hours! Every person I see, every gate I pass, every old house— stories, stories everywhere! I also draw on my real-life, especially my past growing up down south in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was my original inspiration to write—homesickness, perpetual homesickness! The women represent the women who raised me after my dad died suddenly in a car crash when I was only four years old. They were and always are my inspiration. They are hilarious and strong and oh, so sassy! The titles are always wandering around in my head, many times before stories pop up so I have a list of them I keep in case I need them.
2. When did you take up writing?
I have been writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember. As a child I wrote poetry, and wrote and read essays to my elementary school classes. I began Sassy Belles during a particularly hard time when I closed my acting school for children in Sugar Land Texas. I was so homesick for my mother and all my sassy sisters. I needed them all to hold me up through that difficult time so I created The Sassy Belles, my first novel. I finished my novel in 2012, got an agent rather quickly at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, and she sold my book soon after that. My Sassy Belles trilogy came out in 2013 and was re-released in mass market size in 2014. My current series, In Dixie, is a spin-off of that series. . “In the south, we are good at stories. We hold them close like fine diamonds, polish them up like precious silver, and we hand them down like a priceless heirloom to our young with the hope that they will tell our stories for us when we are buried beneath the red clay of home.” Except from Southern Exposure, Tales From My Front Porch. (Beth’s memoirist book of essays.) It’s just what we do down south, pass on our stories.
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
It is like another character. I describe it and describe it over and over, give it personality and temperament. It is so very important for the reader to feel the story unfolding if they can smell the air, feel the rain, see the grass. I have always been told my setting of Tuscaloosa, Alabama—my home town, is like another character in my novels. I believe it is the best way to develop plot too. If they have to deal with the place on a moment by moment basis, it helps the story feel much more real to the reader.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
I love Abigail, my heroine. We are very much alike! I didn’t mean for that to happen but I am a very good combination of Abigail and her sister Annie. I am a clean-freak like Abby and a priss-pot like Annie. Sarcastic and self- deprecating yet love my make-up and girlie stuff! I didn’t mean for that to happen with Abby but more of me came through in her than I had even planned. It was fun watching that happen!
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given? Write what is in your heart. This is YOUR story. My first agent taught me this the moment she signed me and I had so many worries and questions. Write it as true to yourself as you can and don’t stop. Always tell us where you are and what is happening around you so we, the reader, can be there too.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
I write with a word count goal for the day—usually 3-4 thousand if I can. Toward the end that number increases naturally because I know exactly what I want to say. It takes me about 2-3 months and when I am done, I have a margarita! (and a bubble bath—usually at the same time!) I take a few days off then begin editing—which for me means decorating and smoothing, adding in things and descriptions I want to make sure I include. After my smoothing and decorating are done, usually 7 LONG days, I hand it over to my proofers and then edit from their notes one more time. I do one last read of the entire manuscript and smooth it out some more then turn it in to my formatter. And have another margarita, of course!
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I learned not long ago from my dear friend Robyn Carr that I am a pantster—not a plotter. I write by the seat of my pants. I have tried in vain to write with an outline or even bullet points on a legal pad and it is useless. I love getting into the heads of my characters and feeling their story unfold. I have so many “ah ha” moments this way! The outlines always make me feel so trapped. I really hate them so much! So I just sit down and meld into one with my heroine and write for hours. She is telling me the story and sometimes I can’t write fast enough! I listen and see the surroundings and feel as though I am out of my own body and into the story living it right along with her. I can’t imagine writing any other way—it would totally take all the fun out of it!
8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
I love reading Kristan Hannah because she is not just a writer, she is a wordsmith—stringing words together like threads of a fine silk scarf. I want to be that kind of writer. I just bought The Nest and can’t wait to dive in! But I also love my fellow southern fiction writers—they inspire me always—Dorothea Benton Frank and Mary Kay Andrews are two of my favorites!
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
Having just released my new book, STARDUST IN DIXIE, book 4 in my IN DIXIE series, I am working on my preparations to attend the fabulous Barbara Vey Readers Appreciation Weekend in Milwaukee at the end of the month. Then I will be heading to my beloved Alabama for a huge book release party and Kentucky Derby Hat competition! That book party will be a doozy, complete with mint juleps! After that, I will be working on a fabulous cookbook, “Southern Comforts, A Southern Girl’s Guide To Cooking & All Things Southern.” That comes out this fall. After that, my Christmas novella will be out at Thanksgiving to end this current series, A Christmas Wedding In Dixie.
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Make notes when you see something or think of something or even hear something. I keep a notebook going all the time and include titles that pop into my head. Don’t be too critical. That stops many writers on their tracks!! Don’t ever listen to that voice that says this isn’t good. It IS and you can make it better later—just tell the story! Write to please yourself. Just write—as much as you can. Write as if you are telling a story out loud to a group of people who fit the genre you want to hit. And write as you hear the words in your head. Edit later—NOT EVER while your writing—just get the story out and fix it later! Write what YOU love—write the book you NEVER find in the book store, the one YOU want to read—that one helped me tremendously! WRITE!!! And don’t stop!!
Blurb for Stardust in Dixie:
Abigail Harper Cartwright was coming undone. As the promotions director for a Tuscaloosa radio station, a huge upcoming Mother’s Day live event could make or break her career. But at the same time, two former lovers have stumbled back into the picture turning her life upside down.
One old boyfriend – who works for a competing radio station, seems to be out to sabotage everything she does, while another may just be her knight in shining armor. But after being dumped during a very public marriage proposal, he may not be able to give Abby a second chance.
To make matters worse, a nosey neighbor has started an epic turf war and azalea bushes, a stolen mailbox and some front porch graffiti are the result.
As event day draws near, the dirty tricks at work get more intense and Abby has to call on her sassy sisters to help get to the bottom of it.
And Abby’s new/old love has another love of his own – a three year old thoroughbred horse whose name holds the secret to some long harbored feelings.
It all culminates in some Derby Day and Mother’s Day fireworks that will get your heart pounding and tears flowing.
National best-selling author Beth Albright does it again with this new Southern page-turner filled with romantic comedy, emotion, passion and laugh-out-loud humor. Grab your best girlfriends and hang on tight for this hilarious, exciting, sassy, southern tale.
Barnes &Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stardust-in-dixie-beth-albright/1123583595?ean=2940158030994
About the author: Beth Albright is the author of the award-winning, best-selling series The Sassy Belles, and the nationally best-selling series In Dixie. After spending nearly 15 years as a talk radio host in talk radio, acting as a principal character on the soap opera, DAYS OF OUR LIVES, owning her own acting school and children’s theater, and raising a son who was a nationally ranked figure skater, Beth returned to her roots; storytelling. “In the south, we are good at stories. We hold them close like fine diamonds, polish them up like precious silver, and we hand them down like a priceless heirloom to our young with the hope that they will tell our stories for us when we are buried beneath the red clay of home.” Except from Southern Exposure, Tales From My Front Porch. (Beth’s Memoirist book of essays.)
It’s just what we do down south, pass on our stories,” she says.
Though Beth has had a remarkable career, literally from New York City to Hollywood, she has never forgotten where she came from, and what she loves: The Deep South!
Beth is also a screenwriter, a voice-over talent for commercials, and a nationally known speaker and emcee. Beth lives with her TV producer husband, award winning promotions and branding executive, Ted Ishler. Her son, graduating with Distinction from Berkeley in the top 10%, is on his way to graduate school in the fall.