Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 5/26/2021 – I WROTE A BOOK. NOW WHAT? is for new and aspiring authors. After several writers reached out to Beth multiple times for advice, she decided to compile everything she has learned over the past decade. Her nonfiction book is part craft, part author journey, and part marketing. She is also the author of The Quarantine Cookbook which is not only packed with delicious recipes but also has an altruistic recipe to give back to our healthcare heroes.
You left the corporate world at the ripe age of 50! What led you to change gears?
I was a single mom for 16 years and needed a full-time job, salary, and benefits. Writing fiction wasn’t even on my radar except for the many nonfiction articles and press releases I wrote while working in education, healthcare, and banking. At night, I attended college and shuttled my darling daughter to dance classes six days a week. Once I got married, my supportive husband encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Even though I had taken several writing courses in college, I really didn’t have any idea how to approach writing a novel and getting it published.
Within weeks after quitting my job as a bank vice president, a flyer from a local community college arrived in our mailbox. I noticed a class called “How to Write Your First Novel.” I immediately signed up for the six-week course, which was taught by an 80-something author. Since that date, I’ve penned eight novels, four children’s books, one cookbook, and a new nonfiction book on writing, publishing, and marketing. It has been a whirlwind. I much prefer working at home or at Starbucks in jeans to my corporate suits, heels, and 8 o’clock meetings! Plus, I enjoy watching deer in my backyard.
You write Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance, and Children’s Picture Books. What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love every aspect, really. I always fall in love with my characters—even the villains who are a little too much fun to create. I enjoy the challenge of providing humor, escapism, and heartwarming stories (with some suspense and many plot twists!) I’m what is called a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. With my Coconuts series, I do have a few bullet points for any ongoing threads for the next book, but other than that, my characters veer left when I expect them to go right. It’s a fun, messy process that’s akin to wrestling a grizzly when I complete my first draft.
Another thing I love about writing is the writer’s mission statement: DRINK COFFEE AND MAKE STUFF UP. I’m not sure who coined this phrase, but it’s certainly true. My husband says I talk about my characters as if they’re real people. My readers say the same thing. One even posted in a review that she half expects them to friend her on Facebook. Other readers have said they want to have cocktails with my characters at Coconuts! That’s when I know I’ve done my job in making them realistic and relatable. I love the challenge of bringing characters to life. The setting is important too, and I am a big fan of dialogue. That’s the best way to differentiate characters, in my opinion.
I turned to writing children’s books after a horrific family tragedy since I was unable to pen humorous novels. It was the therapy I needed and brought much-needed joy to others and to me. One six-year-old reader sent a fan letter and called me “The Princess of Writing.” It doesn’t get any better than that. I knew I had to continue writing for children from that point on. Picture books are also a nice break from writing long novels.
Do you have favorite books?
This is such a tough question because the last book I read is always the one I love. But I’ll attempt to answer. Two books have really stayed with me for decades: A Raisin In The Sun and Sounder. They were required reading in an African-American Literature class I took in college. I remember sitting on the couch after a stressful day at work, when my daughter was tucked in bed, and reading with tears streaming down my face. Both books touched my heart and soul. Another book that has stuck with me for years is the little known Molly by Sandra White. It’s outstanding and is about a physician who deals with mental illness and becomes homeless. The plot was unique and the depictions were so believable that I requested a meeting with the author to see if she had ever been homeless. I also read a lot of thrillers and always say that genre has taught me more about creating plot twists and cliffhangers than any writing class I ever took. Many of my readers say they can’t put my novels down, and I attribute that to reading thrillers. One of my favorites is Tell No One by Harlan Coben. And for comedic relief, I love anything by Sophie Kinsella.
The pandemic brought out the nonfiction bug in you. Explain.
It’s interesting to me that my muse switched from novels to nonfiction during the pandemic. I normally write humorous, heartwarming women’s fiction and romantic comedy. As we all know, there wasn’t anything funny about the pandemic. My funny muse hid under the bed, but I still wanted to write.
Most of us cooked more than we ever had during the pandemic, and one night while preparing dinner, a lightbulb went off. I decided to create The Quarantine Cookbook. In my cookbook, I include nearly 200 recipes including appetizers, sides, soups, entrees, meatless meals, and desserts. I also added the pandemic lingo we all learned such as shelter in place, social distancing, masking, and so on, so this could be a hand-me-down keepsake of this crazy year. After all, our grandkids will never believe everything that happened in 2020.
Tell us about your new book, I WROTE A BOOK. NOW WHAT?
I Wrote A Book. Now What? is for new and aspiring authors of any genre. This is my fourteenth book. I’ve written novels, children’s books, and a cookbook, as previously mentioned, and have won several national and international awards. I worked in marketing for nearly 20 years, so I enjoy that aspect while many writers detest it or don’t know where to begin. My new book is for writers of any genre. In fact, I just heard from a horror writer who said he found my book very helpful. I Wrote A Book. Now What? is written in a conversational, humorous tone (much like my novels) and as if I’m chatting with the aspiring author over coffee—or wine—while discussing my pot-holed, hive-inducing (seriously!) journey. I detail how I attended conferences, pitched to agents and editors, and how I got my first book deal. I’m traditionally published but have also gone the indie route a few times, so I share and compare that information as well.
I’ve had this book on the back burner for years. I’m actually glad I waited because I learned something new nearly every week! Aspiring authors often reach out to me for advice. During one taxing, deadline-filled week, three authors asked for help just days apart. They spurred me on to finish this book. I’m thrilled to say it’s getting stellar reviews, and two authors have already compared it to Stephen King’s On Writing which is the highest compliment.
All of my books are on Amazon. My author page is https://www.amazon.com/author/bethcarter Some are also available at Barnes & Noble and other indie booksellers.
Can you share a few key points?
I Wrote A Book. Now What? is part craft book, part author journey, and part marketing. Here are the various sections:
- Writing Advice
- Website Tips
- Building Publishing Credits
- Query Letters
- Grammar & Punctuation
- Finding Agents, Editors, & Readers
- A Marketing 101 Primer
My Table of Contents is over two pages long! In addition to the bulleted items above, I discuss creating realistic characters, believable dialogue, mention two important observation exercises I learned in college, and much more. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/I-Wrote-Book-Now-What-ebook/dp/B092NMDP6J/
You’ve had a passion to help healthcare workers. Tell us about your work with Tunnel to Towers and The Quarantine Cookbook.
When the world was turned upside down in 2020, I wanted to create some joy but knew I didn’t want to profit from a pandemic, so I considered multiple charities and decided on Tunnel to Towers since they were building houses and paying off mortgages for families of fallen COVID workers, as well as fallen military families. In 2020, I donated all of my cookbook proceeds to Tunnel to Towers.
My readers really got behind The Quarantine Cookbook. Many bought multiple cookbooks as birthday, graduation, and Christmas gifts. I have an affinity for healthcare employees for many reasons. My younger brother has been a flight nurse for thirty years and has saved countless lives. I also worked in healthcare marketing for nearly a decade and have seen firsthand the behind-the-scenes acts of kindness by doctors and nurses at two different hospitals. For these reasons and for their tireless work during the past year, I’m now focused on getting my pandemic cookbook into the hands of healthcare heroes, plus others who would like a keepsake of this crazy year—and people who simply enjoy cooking easy, delicious meals!
What are your favorite delicious recipes?
I have so many favorites. I’ll break them down by category.
Appetizers: Strawberry Cheese Appetizer or Crockpot Hot Artichoke Dip
Salads: Trees ‘n Raisins Salad or Asian Salad
Soups: Southwestern Bean Soup or Curried Pumpkin Soup
Sides: Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries or Beth’s Famous Baked Beans
Entrees: Parmesan Chicken, Asian Salmon, Tangy Pork Chops, or Salmon Patties
Meatless: Vegetable Primavera or Stir Fry with Cashews
Desserts: Strawberry Yogurt Cake, Peanut Butter Pie, or Brownie Pie
Cookies: Quarantine Balls (of course!)
Now, I’m starving! All of these are in The Quarantine Cookbook, by the way!
You have plans to give your Quarantine Cookbook to healthcare heroes. Tell us more.
The Quarantine Cookbook is available on Amazon as an e-book or paperback. Just look for the one with the mask on the cover! Photos of a few of my recipes are also pictured on the front and back. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Quarantine-Cookbook-Beth-Carter/dp/B087H9N4RD/
Once the COVID numbers are down (and they are coming down, thankfully!) I plan to meet with our two local hospitals to donate books to those who worked in the COVID unit and/or the flight crew since that’s where my brother works.
I’d invite everyone to buy copies for their favorite doctor or nurse to show their appreciation. In addition to nearly 200 simple, mouth-watering recipes, I also included stay-at-home activities, six-word memoirs on quarantine life, and hilarious food quotes.
What is next for you in 2021?
I’m so far behind on my novels and am excited to get back to the final book in my Coconuts series, even though it’s bittersweet. It’s due to my publisher by the end of this Summer and will be released before the holidays. I bill this series as a mash-up of Sex & the City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Italian-style!) and Modern Family. First and foremost, this series is all about the unbreakable bonds of girlfriends who, of course, have chaotic personal and professional lives.
Here’s the series order Thursdays At Coconuts, Chaos At Coconuts (Book 2), Babies At Coconuts (Book 3), Cowboys At Coconuts (Book 4), Brides At Coconuts (Book 5), and I haven’t yet revealed the title for Book 6. I’ve also written standalone novels including Miracle on Aisle Two, a holiday novella, and Sleeping With Elvis where the hero is an Elvis impersonator who has a cursing parrot. My mom raised me to be an Elvis lover, and I actually saw him in concert as a teen two months before the legend died. I’ve also attended several Elvis impersonators/tribute artists’ concerts. One tribute artist, Chris MacDonald, inspired this novel. When I met him after the show the following year, I took him a signed copy. After he glanced at the title, he asked, “Was I good?” Actually, my novels are on the sweeter, funnier side but it was a funny reaction. He promised he’d read it on his tour bus.
Finally, I will have a follow-up book to my new writing book called I’m Published. Now What? that will take an even deeper side into the marketing side, which many writers detest. My job is to make it tolerable, and dare I say, fun! I’m working on that book, as well. We’re also building a house and visiting grandkids, so my summer and fall are totally booked. Thanks for interviewing me! It was a pleasure. Find all of my books on my website at https://www.bethcarter.com