Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I have been writing as long as I can remember. It's how I process life.
What makes writing your passion?
On a personal level, writing allows me to take what's in my head and allow it to trickle from my fingers onto the page, enabling me to look at the world objectively. I am a truth-teller, a cycle-breaker, an authentic person to the marrow of my bones. As an author, I write to tell stories whose characters feel so real to my readers that they empathize with them, get angry with them at times, cry with them, and cheer for them when they overcome hard stuff.
How long have you been writing?
Over 50 years.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
I danced. Joy. Lightness. But also a little fear because I exposed truths about myself and what I have survived. My first, second, and third books, The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, and Truth), were inspired by my own recovery journey from Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) I wrote them over the span of the six years I was in intensive therapy. At first, I was not ready to reveal myself as being the inspiration for Ashley's character, and my publisher said I was inspired by a student I knew. But survivors of CSA knew better; they could tell that I have walked the path they tread. When the response to the book was supportive and loving and overwhelmingly positive, I revealed my truth, and I've never looked back or regretted it for a moment.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
The glacial pace at which traditional publishing moves, and the mercurial nature of trends that cause agents and editors to reject meaningful work.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Tell the truth and don't stop. Ask for help and don't stop. And know that there is always hope.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I do read them, and the bad ones used to bother me more than they do now. The most memorable negative review I've ever had contained falsehoods about plot elements, revealing that the person had not even read the book prior to trashing it.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Of course I'm human, so positive affirmation feels great!
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
It's what I DO.
Find the Moon, my most recent novel, was the most difficult I have written because in some ways it is the least autobiographical; on the other hand, I share a LOT of Kylie's grandma's characteristics. She was a trip to write.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love connecting with readers. I have many long-time online friends who started out as readers and became friends, too.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Chris Crutcher is the reason I became an author. It was in reading his book STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES that showed me that there is a place in the world for the stories I want to tell, and that I do tell, now. Chris' assessment of FIND THE MOON was so gratifying!
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
All authors see elements of their books they'd rewrite if they could. I did a pretty heavy revision of COURAGE IN PATIENCE, my first book, when I released it, HOPE IN PATIENCE, and TRUTH IN PATIENCE under my own label, Steady On Books, in 2016.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Jeff Zentner, 'cause he's an amazing writer.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I don't say anything to them because I would not want them to think they are important enough to me to acknowledge.
What would you say to your readers?
THANK YOU SO MUCH! And, please post your reviews on GoodReads and Amazon and please join my Street Team! The link is on my website, http://bethfehlbaumbooks.info
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in the middle of a forest about an hour SE of Dallas, on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods region. I have been married to my soul mate since 1985, but we've been together since we were in high school. We met in 1980. We have three daughters and a son-in-law: a college professor, a political consultant, an English teacher, and an ICU nurse. Our family is tightly bound and close,. And, we LOVE our animals. Our dogs are our furry children. Fun fact: I always use the names of our dogs in my books! In FIND THE MOON, I used the names of our Nigerian dwarf goats, too!
What is your day job if you have one?
I am a high school English teacher.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love writing, of course, and I also enjoy working out daily, including walking our dogs on our country road. I freelance tutor and edit, too.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I am at work on a New Adult novel about a young woman who lost a hundred pounds after she had gastric sleeve surgery.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
As a teacher, I think that education should not be used as a political tool by public figures. We're not indoctrinating your kids. Critical Race Theory is not being taught in K-12 schools; it's a topic in law school. I was once accused of teaching CRT in my classroom because I merely answered a student's question about a reference to "white men of privilege" in the context of a textbook-recommended article about Sonia Sotomayor being on the Supreme Court with men whose upbringings were very different from her own. The student requested more information and I showed a definition of the term. A kid took a pic of the definition, texted it to his mom, and she posted it on a private community chat room, asking if the community was aware that CRT was being taught in the school. The harassment I endured online and in-person was so horrible that I actually left that job. It traumatized me terribly.
Teachers are just trying to do their jobs in an increasingly difficult environment, partly due to the pandemic's effects on kids' learning and their ability to adapt to being in a structured environment again, but partly because politicians and TV hosts who know better are filling the public's heads with lies about what's going on inside schools, causing parents to often co-sign their kids' negative behaviors. They assume the worst about teachers, and whatever their kids tell them, they believe without even pausing to ask for context.
I recently saw a statement online that suggested that people should have to substitute teach in the same way they are summoned for jury duty. While the statement was tongue-in-cheek, I believe that if the politicians and TV hosts who denigrate public education and teachers as they do had to be in teachers' shoes for just one day, they would change their tune. Parents should go through their kid's day with them and see what it's like for them and for teachers to be in school these days. I used to feel sorry for the students I had who actually came to school to learn because there were so many kids who showed no interest in learning at all.
I guess what some elements of society lack is the ability to research credible sources for themselves and think critically about issues rather than being motivated by fear and hysteria by people who have an agenda. Before they decide that teachers are doing something wrong, I really encourage them to ask questions and allow the teachers to explain themselves.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. Health care and sufficient food availability to be treated as a right, not a luxury.
2. Children to always be in homes where they are protected and loved.
3. All people to be accepted as they are, where they are, for who they are, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We need to see each other as fellow travelers on our journey on this planet.
What is your favorite music?
I love love love anything by The Avett Brothers, and I adore the "Hamilton" soundtrack.
Share a secret with us 🙂
Math makes me cry.