Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Author Interview #142: Bette Lee Crosby author of Spare Change

Spare ChangeOur interview today is with Bette Lee Crosby author of several books including Spare Change (4.5 stars, 164 reviews). Before we get to the interview, a brief book description: Reviewer’s Choice 2012 Award Winner! In a story that’s been compared to John Grisham’s The Client, eleven year-old Ethan Allen Doyle has witnessed a brutal murder and now the boy is running for his life. In the time-tested tradition of Southern Fiction, Crosby unveils the darkest side of human nature and then rewards her readers with a beautiful tale of love, loss and unexpected gifts. Olivia Westerly is the only person Ethan Allen can trust, and he’s not too sure he can trust her. She’s got no love of children and a truckload of superstitions–one of them is the belief that eleven is the unluckiest number on earth. Olivia avoided marriage for almost forty years. But when Charlie Doyle happened along, he was simply too wonderful to resist. Now she’s a widow with an eleven-year-old boy claiming to be her grandson. With a foul mouth, dark secrets and heavily guarded emotions, Ethan Allen Doyle is not an easy child to like. He was counting on the grandpa he’d never met for a place to hide, but now that plan is shot to blazes because the grandpa’s dead too. He’s got seven dollars and twenty-six cents, his mama’s will for staying alive, and Dog. But none of those things are gonna help if Scooter Cobb finds him.

Interview with Bette Lee Crosby

What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
Actually in the case of Spare Change, the setting was what gave birth to the story concept. We were visiting friends on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and as we drove through long stretches of road lined with nothing but emptiness and scrub brush, I commented that a murder could take place out here and nobody would hear the screams. That started me thinking about the lives of people who live in those outlying farms.
What specific themes did you emphasize throughout this novel? What were you trying to get across to the readers?
The theme that runs throughout is the irony of life. As the reader follows the lives of two very different people, they discover that the thing you spend your life running from is the very thing that will ultimately bring you great happiness.
Do the Characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments and to what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?

With Spare Change most of my reviews focus on the believability of the characters. Many talk about the authenticity of Ethan Allen, the eleven year-old boy in the story, but others point to even the minor characters. In virtually all of my books, the characters ARE the story. I find that once you have the character’s voice imbedded in your brain—that character doesn’t change or act uncharacteristically. I spend more time on character development than any other element of the story. And yes, characters are built on not just someone I know, but a collage of many people who are part of, or have passed through, my life. My mom was a funny, strong-willed Southerner and there are bits and pieces of her in just about every protagonist I create.
How do the characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
Olivia, a woman who spent her life avoiding marriage because she believed children weigh a woman down like a pocketful of stones, learns that the troublesome boy claiming to be her grandson will bring more happiness that she could have possibly imagined. And Ethan Allen, a lad who from birth had to fend for himself, learns to trust others. Just as with life, it’s not a single event that changes people, it’s circumstances and a series of events. I can’t say more without offering up a big fat spoiler.
In what ways do the events in this book reflect your world view?
I believe the world is made up of people with differing sets of values, some good, and some bad. Spare Change is a story of faith, hope and trust overcoming the challenges life presents.
Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way?
No really. Although I teach Sunday School to young children, I am well aware that people swear, that people can have violent tempers, and love is not always faithful. I think you have to face these evils to come out on the other side and recognize the good when it comes along.
Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
In a roundabout way. I know a couple whose daughter walked off and left them with four young grandchildren to raise. Fortunately, they wanted the children, but it caused me to think – what if they didn’t. I find the most interesting stories come from looking at the flip side of the coin.
What research did you have to perform to back up your story?
Since Spare Change takes place in the first half of the twentieth century, I had to research the cultural and environmental aspects of the time—cars, hotels, other modes of transportation, baseball players, television shows, etc. The research for this particular book was basically fun stuff. Back in 1950 you didn’t have wi-fi or cell phones.
What is your method for writing a book? Do you have a certain routine? Are you a character/story builder, outliner, or use some other method?
I am a strong character builder. I start with the beginning and end of the story in my head and then let the characters work their way through the maze of challenges that confront them. I find that when I understand, and can think like my characters, it is easy to determine what they will or won’t do in the face of danger. As for routine, I write just about every day. I do yoga in the morning and during that time I’m usually thinking of where my story is going that day. When I turn on the computer, I already know what I want to write. At that point it’s just a matter of putting the words in place.
How do you get past writer’s block or distractions like the internet?
With writers block, I simply turn the computer off and go for a walk. The thing you’re looking for can’t be found on a blank screen, but it can be found if you give your imagination permission to roam free. As for the internet, I don’t even log on when I’m in the process of writing. Social media, wonderful as it is, can be a time-consuming gorilla, so I don’t let it loose while I’m writing.
Favorite book from childhood?
Grimm’s Fairytales. I loved the anything is possible magic of those stories
What’s on your desk? Describe what you see.
First off, I have a desk that’s way too small so I tend to spread out to adjoining tables and chests. On my desk—a Victorian brass lamp, a replica of an antique clock, a photo of my husband and me together, several notebooks (I tend to use different ones for different purposes – storyline, marketing, must do, etc,) a line of books held in place by bronze dog bookends (the line includes a dictionary, thesaurus, my address book, Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and a DVD of 5 minute yoga exercises) a ceramic jar filled with pens and pencils and my laptop.
2010 Royal Palm Literary Award
2011 Reviewer’s Choice First Place General Fiction
2011 Reader Views Best of the South Award
2011 Jack Eadon Contemporary Fiction Award
2012 BookBundlz Finalist
2012 FPA President’s Book Award
Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.
Born in Detroit and raised in a plethora of states scattered across the South and Northeast, Crosby originally studied art and began her career as a packaging designer. When asked to write a few lines of copy for the back of a pantyhose package, she discovered a love for words that was irrepressible. After years of writing for business, she turned to works of fiction and never looked back. “Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”
Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since that, she has gone on to win several more awards, including another NLAPW award, three Royal Palm Literary Awards, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal and most recently the 2011 Reviewer’s Choice Award and Reader’s View Southeast Fiction Literary Award.
Her published works to date are: Cracks in the Sidewalk (2009), Spare Change (2011), The Twelfth Child (2012), Life in the Land of IS (2012) and her latest release Cupid’s Christmas (2012). Life in the Land of IS is a memoir written for Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as the world’s longest living quadriplegic.
Crosby newest novel What Matters Most will be released in early 2013.

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