I first met Bethany at The Jemima Layzell Trust Literary Festival in 2018 where she was busy promoting ‘Counting the Days’. We became great friends and have supported each other with our writing ever since. Bethany introduced me to her publishers and the whole rather long and tricky process of releasing a novel. So it’s fitting that she is the very first guest author to feature on my blog.
Bethany Askew is the author of eight novels: The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years, The Two Saras and I Know You, Don’t I?
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Her new women’s fiction novel The Next Step is due for publication in 2021 and she is currently writing another one.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.
1) How do you approach starting a new novel?
When I have an idea for a new book I always ‘live with it’ for a while before I start writing it. I allow myself to think about it when I’m doing other things until gradually more ideas come to me: characters, places, reasons why things may be happening. When I start to write it I often still don’t have a clear idea of the characters but as I go along I begin to see them in my mind and hear their voices in my head. At that stage I write down descriptions of them, their ages, what they’ve done in the past, what they do now and keep it in a notebook. I never plan my novels in advance, I just write them a ‘scene’ at a time as the story evolves in my mind.
2) Do you like reading the same type of books that you write?
Yes, definitely. I like books that deal with relationships, characters with flaws like we all have and real life with all its happiness, sadness, mistakes and mis-haps. Although I do understand why people enjoy them, I am not keen on the chick lit type of book with cosy Cornish cottages and happy-ever-afters. Life is just not like that for any of us. I like to write about women’s lives and family values and dynamics, about how we all handle our relationships: the secrets we keep and the compromises we make to keep our relationships going.
3) Is there a scene that you loved but had to edit out of your book?
I often wondered if I should have edited out the sex scenes in Poppy’s Seed. Although they are an integral part of the story, showing an important aspect of one of the characters and explain why she does certain things, they have invoked a lot of reaction and I have been concerned that they detract from the story. However, they are there now and there they will stay!
In my most recent novel I wrote a long narrative about the main protagonist’s sister, going right back to her childhood, which I was really pleased with but my editor felt it was too long and detracted from what was happening in the present day so I had to cut it down to just a few sentences. I have kept the original though: I may use the same or a similar character in another story and I can use it then!
4) Would you like your book to be made into a film? Is there a particular one that you feel would translate well onto the screen?
Yes! All my books would work well as films. When I’m writing I see the characters acting out the story as though they were in a film. When I was interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol the interviewer said that Poppy’s Seed would make a good TV three-part mini-series. My two historical novels on Samuel Taylor Coleridge would be particularly suited to a TV series, one set in Somerset and one in Cumbria and I’m open to all offers!
5) Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Oh, how I hate it when the words won’t come. I know there’s no one out there desperately waiting for my next book but I want to write it, I want the words to come easily, the ideas to flow. For me, writing is a compulsion, something I have to do. Yes, it’s enjoyable, stimulating and satisfying as the word count adds up but it’s also so frustrating when you know what you want to happen but you just can’t move the story forward. So, what do I do? It varies actually. Sometimes I leave it, do something else, write a blog for my website or do some promotional work for my other books. Other times I sit at my computer and force myself to write something, anything, however bad. Both approaches eventually work. I get ideas when my mind is idling, like when I’m cooking a meal, or in the shower or dropping off to sleep at night. I suddenly see how I can lead on to the next bit of the story. It’s not unusual for me to spend hours on a paragraph, re-write it, and then delete it altogether. Writing is about so much more than the word count each day - there’s the re-reading, re-writing and re-arranging. And then there’s the endless editing!
6) Have you always wanted to write?
I’ve always loved reading and writing. When I was little I used to write stories in an exercise book and read them to my sister and brother. At school I told my friends I was going to write books when I grew up. I’m sure that they didn’t believe me! We choose our careers for a variety of reasons and despite my love of books and literature and my antipathy towards Maths and Science I became a Dispensing Optician! I never regretted it: I enjoyed the contact with people, being able to use the professional skills I had learned, the intricate measuring and fitting of spectacles and helping people choose the correct frames and lenses. It was also a career that allowed me to work full-time as well as looking after my children. I always felt I could do something more creative though and when my children had grown up and left home and my parents had died and I found myself with more free time, I just sat down at my computer one day and started writing a story.
And here I am, some twenty years or so later, starting work on my tenth novel!
Bethany’s new novel ‘I Know You, Don’t I?’ is out now on Amazon.
When Carly Spurway is mistaken for old school friend Caroline Westminster, she has the chance to re-invent her life. As the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred, the web of deceit Carly weaves around herself for protection threatens instead to trap her. But what has happened in her past to make Carly want to escape? And is Caroline’s life as perfect as Carly thinks it is? This story explores how well we really know the people we have relationships with; the different versions of the truth we tell ourselves and others; and the impact of the past on the present.