Born and raised in New York, featured author, S.R. Betler now lives in Kentucky, where she passes her days collecting stray animals, torturing her characters, and inventing new worlds while attempting to keep her husband and offspring from destroying this one. Ever since she could talk, she’s had a passion for storytelling, much to her parents’ dismay, and they taught her to write just for a moment of silence. While she enjoys experimenting with genres, low fantasy is her first love. S. R. Betler is an up-and-coming author who made her writing debut in charity anthologies such as Stardust, Always, whose proceeds went to St. Jude’s cancer research, and she can be followed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/srbetler/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/srbetler In addition to Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths, she has had the honor of having short stories chosen for inclusion in several other upcoming anthologies in the next year.
Featured Author: S.R. Betler Interview
LHP: How long have you been writing?
S.R. Betler: I’ve been writing since I was three. My mother still has the first “story” I ever wrote, and will likely one day require a bribe to keep her from sharing it. I didn’t think much of it until I was eight, when I was doing the activities in a “Zoobook” and ended up writing a poem and realized that, hey, I could actually kind of do that. From there, it led to fanfiction, then to short stories, then to NaNoWriMo, classes in college, back to fanfiction, and again short stories and novels. So either a long time or a short time, depending on how much of that you want to count.
LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?
S.R. Betler: I don’t think anything initially inspired me, except maybe that from the time I was one, my parents and grandparents read to me daily. Everything. If there were no books to be found, I’d drag over the daily paper and listen to whatever was that was going on in the ’90s. The problem with inspiration, though, is that it’s almost never-ending. I started writing naturally on my own, but everything inspires me, from hearing Stephen King’s background and struggles to start making money, to reading fantastic literature that makes you think such as Le Petit Prince, to marveling over the apparent ease of writers like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett to convey humor. I find inspiration in the simple things, too. I had a phone call from a friend recently, whom I’ve known for a couple years now, but she’s only just begun to tell me her life story. She’s a bit older, so there’s a lot of it. Involved in it, of course, is her husband, who’s a painter. He’s also missing an arm and a leg and battling early stages of dementia. By gosh, if that man can get up every day and do the thing he loves and be better for it, what’s keeping me? So people unintentionally inspired me to write to start with and they continue to, probably still unintentionally, inspire me to do so.
LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?
S.R. Betler: Low fantasy is my first and primary love. Recently, though, I find that I’ve been cheating, just a smidge, with comedic fantasy. (Shh, don’t tell anyone. Genre jealousies can be messy.)
LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
S.R. Betler: My entire writing process consists of being mauled by ideas randomly throughout the day, most often at inopportune moments. In the middle of a shower with your hair lathered up? Here, have a plot bunny. Chilling on the toilet? Yup, plot bunny. Oh, it’s 3 a.m. and you’re trying to sleep? Here, have a brilliant idea that you’ll forget by morning. Sometimes it’s a plot first; sometimes it’s a character. I’d say it’s pretty evenly matched. The characters are my favorite, because if a character comes first, then that character is generally very strong and compelling. It’s a character I can fall in love with and want to know their story. If the plot comes first, that’s great, but generally I don’t fall in love with the same immediacy.
If I’m honest, I’m a mix of the two. I’ve heard it referred to as being a “plotzer,” but I’m not sure how common that is. I always say I’m going to outline, but then I get halfway through the outline and then pants the rest. Or I pants it up until I hit a snag and then outline. I like to think of it as the best of both worlds (though, I suppose, it’s probably more like a hot mess with lots of crumpled bits of paper on top).
LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer.
S.R. Betler: Put a few words on the page. Check Facebook. Promptly delete what I just wrote. Check Facebook again. Write a few more words. Bemoan existence. Check Twitter, just to change it up.
In all honesty, my routine is just write the words. Some weeks, it doesn’t work so well, because I don’t have the luxury of doing this full-time and sometimes that pesky thing called life gets in the way (and I’ve been informed I’m required to have one, much to my disappointment). I try to pack in writing time on the weekends, as they tend to be less hectic. Evenings are my favorite time of day to write. My routine is mostly non-existent, though. I just try to doing something “writerly” every day, whether it be writing, editing, or, the necessary evil everyone dreads, researching.
LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
S.R. Betler: As far as tools go, I like to keep it simple. I am a big fan of Google Docs as a word processor, especially since it makes it easier dealing with my betas and writing on different devices. I have a stopwatch program that I use to track my time. I use Grammarly for an extra grammar spotter (though, it’s sometimes hit or miss). For everything else, I use Google, because Google knows everything, or so I’m told. For marketing advice, I am absolutely in love with the Facebook group 20booksto50K. For writing advice, I listen to the Writing Excuses podcast as well as Jenna Moreci’s vlogs most frequently. Also, never underestimate the ability of Pinterest to spark new plot ideas. It’s not all recipes and crafts there, I swear.
LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
S.R. Betler: My day job. I feel like that’s a common one, though. Wouldn’t every writer be much happier if they could write full-time and not have to have a day job? Either that, or they’d go insane from talking to the voices in their head all day, but that’s a risk you take. Aside from that, I suffer from this really ugly infliction that I know haunts a lot of writers: imposter syndrome. Actually, the first time I heard this term used was in a talk by Neil Gaiman, and I thought, of course that can’t be true. Surely Neil Gaiman knows he’s a fantastic writer and deserves to be admired! The more people I meet and the longer I’m in this game, though, I’ve come to accept that there are a lot of people who carry this weight, myself included. I think that sometimes we’re our greatest obstacles, and it’s certainly true in my case. One day, I will vanquish the evil beast known as imposter syndrome; I’m sure of it. On that day, there will be parties and feasting. You’re all invited, of course.
LHP: Do you have a set number of words per day you target? or do you set other goals to meet?
S.R. Betler: I tried the words per day thing and found that it actually stressed me out more than anything. The problem is that there are going to be a lot of days where, by necessity, you write no words or very few words. Some days, you just need to hack a piece to bits. That doesn’t mean you didn’t do any work. Just means there’s no official word count to show for it. I measure by time. I have X hours today that I can dedicate to some aspect of writing, whether it’s outlining, doing research, editing, or actually writing. Start the stopwatch and then, go!
LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full length novels in your writing?
S.R. Betler: Both. I could never choose one over the other. They both offer their own benefits. Writing a short story is nothing like writing a novel and vice versa. Each have different challenges to conquer, and I love that aspect of it. I think short stories pose the most difficulty for me, because in case you haven’t noticed, I’m wordy. I like to build long plots, which sometimes I have trouble fitting into the limits of a short story. Which is all the more reason to do it, right? I like a good challenge.
LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story, “Heaven’s Eyes” in Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Vol.1?
S.R. Betler: So, I love the idea of “villains” not really existing. No one’s a villain in their own mind; everyone is the protagonist of their own story and someone else is in their way. Then, I played with the concept some more and thought what if sometimes the bad things that happen in life have a reason, and the person we thought was the villain was actually the hero? That’s not exactly how “Heaven’s Eyes” worked out, but that’s how it started, at least. I really wanted to write a story that, for all intents and purposes, appeared one way on the first readthrough and then totally different on the second, because I wanted it to be about perspective. First impressions can make a huge difference, both in a positive way and a negative way, and sometimes people impact others in ways they can’t even begin to imagine.
LHP: What advice can you give other writers?
S.R. Betler: Find your why. Everyone has one. Mine is because I want to, and I have never wanted anything more than to write (although, if you were to ask five-year-old me, being a paleontologist was tied for first). You will have slumps. You will have times when you hate your writing. There will be moments, maybe even days or weeks, when you just can’t stand to even think about writing. The only thing that gets you through it is your why. And maybe coffee (or tea if you’re one of those people).
After you have your why, just do it. Write like your life depends on it. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10,000 hours to master something. Unfortunately, you can’t master writing. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You can, however, become really good at it, but to do that, you have to actually write something. I know. Not just that, you have to read something, too. You can’t be a writer without first being a reader of something, even if it’s really out there, raunchy smut novels. You go right ahead and read it to your heart’s content. Without even being consciously aware of it, reading can make you a better writer and exposes you to different techniques. You don’t want to lose your own unique voice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others, just the same.
Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Vol.1
S.R. Betler recently authored “Heaven’s Eyes” for Beautiful Lies Painful Truths, going on sale in November 2017.