Today I’m pleased to welcome author Beth Rodgers to share her writing life with us. Beth writes contemporary novels for young adults. She’s also an editor and college English instructor.
Linda Covella: Welcome, Beth!
When and why did you decide to become a writer?
Beth Rodgers: I have wanted to be an author since I was a little girl. It sounds cliché, but I honestly have journal entries from first grade that say just that. I used to write stories, mainly about animals, and over time, I started to write about kids and then teens. I think writing is a great way to explore so many different modes of thinking, and so many different types of stories and people. You can make the story whatever you want it to be, and adapt it however you please. It’s hard work, but thrilling at the same time, because you never know quite what you’ll come up with, but you can be sure it’ll be worth it in the end!
LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?
BR: I tend to write while sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table. Sometimes when ideas come to me, I write while sitting in bed at night. I like typing my thoughts, since I type 90 words per minute, and therefore can get the words down very quickly, but I also find it soothing and incredibly rewarding to write my thoughts down pen to paper. It’s really incredible to me how different ideas come from both of those modes of writing.
I don’t write as often as I’d like, but there are so many other things going on in my life that I find it difficult to set aside the time as often as I really want to. Yet, I’m always thinking of ideas and writing down words and thoughts to bide the time until I start delving full force into my writing again. It is invigorating to think of something new, and that makes me want to get back to it all the more. So, I guess you can say I’m a part-time writer, but I think about it on a full-time basis.
In terms of outlining or plotting as I go, I do a little of both. I used to be more of a plot-as-I-go type author, but as I’ve written more and more, especially about the same characters from book to book, I find that outlining in a manner I call “character mapping” allows me to see my characters for who they are, what they know, who they know, what they’ve learned, and so much more. It brings to light how their experiences and the ways in which I’ve written them have shaped them into unique and powerful individuals for whom I am responsible and excited to share with my readers.
LC: Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?
BR: Some of the ideas for my stories comes from personal experience, but that is a very limited amount. The beginning idea for my two novels was for main character Margot to be a little bit like me when I was in high school. She is not too sure of herself, always has unrequited crushes, and things don’t always go perfectly for her, but that is where the similarities end. The conflicts I used in my writing, and the issues that plague Margot, were totally made up and not at all what happened to me. I just used myself as the basis for her beginning personality and then explored how she was a unique person that I could have grow in her own way.
LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?
BR: I really loved writing Mrs. Gribble, Walter’s mom from my first two novels. Walter is kind of dorky and not popular. He really likes my main character, Margot, and she does like him back, but just as a friend. However, his mom, Mrs. Gribble, is not having any of that, and she is determined to make them work together as a couple no matter what it takes. She doesn’t take no for an answer, but she does it all in such an annoying, yet obviously loving way that Margot can’t bring herself to say anything about it. The way she talks to Margot and Walter was fun for me to write because she’s really overprotective of Walter, but the humor of each situation she finds herself in comes out and makes me chuckle each time I read her. Honestly, though, even though she was so fun to write and enjoyable to read, if I had to deal with someone like her on a regular basis, I think I’d go crazy!
LC: She sounds like a fun character, and I love the name!
You mentioned some of the inspiration for your stories comes from your own experiences. Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?
BR: Sometimes I see myself in the story, especially when Margot is writing in her journal or acting extremely uncertain about something. When she likes someone but isn’t sure they like her back and is trying to figure that out by overthinking the situation, I can definitely relate. I think I also take characteristics from people I know, or even people I watch on television shows or in movies. Creatively speaking, it is important to observe the world around you and see it for more than it is – finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is a vital component of being creative and being a writer. It’s just that little something extra that can make your writing stand out and feel even more special!
LC: Such great advice!
Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.
BR: If I had to choose, I’d say they are more character driven. I always start with the characters and try to find the plot. However, as a creative writing presenter, I make sure to share the other side of the coin, too, and that is starting with a plot and shaping a character around it. Sometimes you may have an idea for a plot and you want to fit a character you’ve already created into it, but it just doesn’t work. They would never do that certain something or be caught dead in that situation. It is definitely a worthwhile tool to look at both character and plot when conceiving your writing. In Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen, I started with Margot as my main character and then did my best to place her around people she liked, wasn’t too keen on, envied, was annoyed with, and more. Having a little bit of each type of personality injected into the story helped me to come up with further plots and subplots to help drive the story in a positive, and hopefully not-too-predictable way.
LC: Did you read much as a child?
BR: I have always loved reading. I used to sit on the couch and read a whole book in one morning, just because it was fun for me to do that. I really enjoyed the Babysitter Club books when I was in elementary school, and eventually I started reading more middle grade and young adult type stories. In high school, I also loved reading the classics, like The Great Gatsby, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, etc.
LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?
BR: Reading is a vital component of being a great writer, in my opinion. I read constantly, and I review books constantly, because I think that it is essential to know your craft in a way that isn’t just about writing. It is about reading, interpreting, and gauging why different writers choose to write in their own unique ways. Learning how other authors write twists and use certain words to get their point across can be extremely illuminating and powerful as other writers work to hone their own craft.
LC: Yes, I also believe reading is essential for writers; you explained why so eloquently!
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?
BR: I adore Sonya Sones’ novels-in-verse. What My Mother Doesn’t Know is the first one I read by her, and I still highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great young adult read. I also love J.K. Rowling and the entire Harry Potter series, most especially her seventh one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The way she answers each and every question that I had about the entire series before that book ends is one of the most amazing and worthwhile aspects of her writing, and has helped shape who I am as a writer, in my opinion.
LC: Anything new in the works?
BR: I am so excited to announce that TODAY (November 5th, 2018) is the day I am releasing a short story in a young adult anthology with eleven other authors. The anthology is a product of YA Books Central, a book review website that I work for as a staff reviewer. I am super excited about my short story, “Hearts & Homes,” because it follows a character I’ve already written about in my first two novels. Cassie Shearer is one of my main character, Margot Maples’, best friends, and this short story allows her the opportunity to shine when she takes a trip over winter break and meets some new friends. It is a sweet contemporary romance, and even though it follows one of the same characters as my first two novels (with a cameo from Margot), it can also be read as a standalone story.
I’m also working on a children’s holiday picture book with an illustrator friend of mine that we are planning to publish in 2019. I’m very excited about that because I’ve always wanted to write a picture book, and since I am not someone who draws well, it is very thrilling to be able to work with such a talented and great friend who is able to capture my words in his illustrations!
LC: Congratulations on today’s release of the anthology!
Bonus question: Do you have anything you’d like to add?
BR: Besides my writing, I also work as an editor (developmental and line editing, as well as proofreading), creative writing presenter, and college English instructor. You can find more information about all of these topics on my website at www.BethRodgersAuthor.com. Check out my blog while you’re there, too, and read through some of the book reviews of young adult, middle grade, and children’s books.
LC: Thanks so much, Beth. I enjoyed having you and learning about your work!
Beth Rodgers is the author of two contemporary young adult novels, Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen, as well as “Hearts & Homes,” a short story that follows her second novel, but can be read as a standalone story. It can be found in Mistletoe & Magic; A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology. She also works as an editor and creative writing presenter.
In her free time, Beth loves to watch binge-worthy TV shows, travel with her family, and read plenty of good books that she spends time reviewing for her blog and as a staff reviewer for YA Books Central. She lives in Michigan with her husband and children.
Connect with Beth:
Amazon links for:
Freshman Fourteen: http://amzn.com/B00PIWYU92
Sweet Fifteen: http://amzn.com/B01MTSHL0H
Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology: http://amzn.com/B07K23DV7G