Author Spotlight Interview: Beth Carter
Today’s interview feature is with Hidden Gems reader favorite, Beth Carter. Beth is a multi-award-winning author of women’s fiction, contemporary romance, romantic comedy and children’s picture books. It was an honor to chat with her about her path to writing, the advice she has for aspiring authors and to learn more about her life outside of writing.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
BC: For many years, I worked in corporate America (in education, banking, and healthcare) and was a single mom. At age fifty, I shed my suits and heels and decided to pen my first novel. I had taken many creative writing classes in college, but was at a loss as to how to begin the publishing journey. I joined three local writers’ groups, took a six-week course, “How to Write Your First Novel,” at a community college, attended numerous conferences, connected with many authors, and the rest is history. I call my writing style rollercoaster women’s fiction and heartwarming romance.
I write the popular Coconuts series (Coconuts is a tropical-themed Happy Hour bar where my main characters meet for what I call friendapy over cocktails.) This series includes: Thursdays At Coconuts, Chaos At Coconuts (Book 2), Babies At Coconuts (Book 3), Cowboys At Coconuts (Book 4), Brides At Coconuts (Book 5), and #6 will be revealed this summer! I’m still writing the final book, which is bittersweet. I love these characters, and so do my readers. I’m humbled to have received hundreds of reviews, over a thousand ratings, and many awards. I’ve also written standalone novels and novellas: Sleeping With Elvis, Miracle on Aisle Two, and Santa Baby.
Like my characters, I embrace all facets of life—the ups and downs. I love to laugh, commiserate, and appreciate my girlfriends. My Coconuts series is about four best friends who are very different professionally and personality-wise, yet they cheer each other on through the unbreakable bonds of friendship. They lead chaotic lives, and of course, there are boyfriends, spouses, kids, and villains too!
Here’s the tagline for Thursdays At Coconuts:
BFFs, hippies, sexy bad-boy cops, and neurotic brides.
What could go wrong?
HG: Wow, you put in the work! Books about strong friendships are so special. Thank you for writing those stories. You are a multi-award-winning author of women’s fiction, contemporary romance, romantic comedy and children’s picture books. How do you switch gears between projects or genres?
BC: I find it fairly easy—and a welcome change—to switch gears, as long as I’m writing entirely different genres, such as a novel and a children’s book. I cannot seem to write two novels at the same time. I have too many characters and like to get lost in one world at a time. I’m pretty sure I’d put the wrong character in the wrong novel, however, that could be fun. I can also work on a nonfiction book at the same time as a novel, which I’m doing right now.
My children’s picture books include: What Do You Want To Be?, The Missing Key, Sour Power, and Santa’s Secret. I really enjoy writing kidlit in between long novels. It’s a welcome break and an entirely different creative process to go from penning 85,000 words to less than 900. And when the illustrator brings my words to life, you’d think it was Christmas morning. Pre-pandemic I visited several schools, including my own elementary school, York, where I took books to all the first graders. They were thrilled and enthralled while I read to them and discussed writing. They even helped me come up with names for a certain stuffed pink pig.
HG: That’s awesome! Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Has it changed since the pandemic? Where and when do you write?
BC: During the early months of the pandemic when we were all in utter shock, I could not coax my funny muse out from under the bed. She stubbornly refused to join me at the kitchen table. Normally, I write at Starbucks because when I’m home I get distracted by laundry and other chores. But all year, I’ve camped out at the kitchen table instead, much to my husband’s chagrin, since I’m a messy pantser with notes everywhere. I’m also an afternoon writer. Much as I’d like to join the 5 a.m. writers’ group, I cannot make myself write in the mornings after rushing to work for decades. I’m as stubborn as my muse on that one.
During Spring 2020, I tried to force my novel writing since I have a contract for my Coconuts series, plus I knew readers were waiting for the fifth novel. But the words wouldn’t come. My muse had locked herself in the closet.
So…after drumming my fingernails on the table, I had an aha moment. I decided to try something entirely different and penned The Quarantine Cookbook in just thirteen days. I couldn’t believe it. I dictated nearly 200 recipes and added six-word memoirs about quarantine life, humorous food quotes, as well as several sheltering-in-place activities. It was a fun project during the horrific pandemic and got my mind off the scary news, plus I won a gold medal from Readers’ Favorite for my first-ever cookbook. I decided I did not want to benefit from a health crisis, so I donated 100 percent of the proceeds to Tunnel to Towers during 2020. My readers were greatly supportive and bought multiple cookbooks for themselves and as gifts. Besides raising over $1,000, I’m also going to send fifty signed cookbooks which will hopefully go in the kitchens Tunnel to Towers builds for injured veterans and fallen healthcare workers. This year, my focus is getting cookbooks in the hands of healthcare heroes who worked in COVID units or the ER. My brother is a flight nurse. I’ve already mailed some cookbooks out and plan to donate over 100 cookbooks to healthcare professionals at two local hospitals. I’ve been waiting until they’re less busy, and when it’s safe for me to go. By the way, my cookbook is filled with easy, delicious, recipes and makes a great Mother’s Day or graduation gift!
HG: Incredible. What a wonderful thing to do. What do you find is the hardest thing about being a writer?
BC: By far, it’s balancing social media, writing time, and finding time to market my work. I have ideas galore for a gazillion books. I wish I had a genie in a bottle to handle everything else. But it’s all a necessity. I worked in marketing for nearly twenty years and helped market goods and services for three vastly different industries. Marketing is equally important for authors.
HG: Totally! So tell us, how do you come up with your character names?
BC: Sometimes I purposely use a name that’s ironic. For instance, I used the name Hope, a high school counselor, who hates her frizzy hair, appearance, and name. I liked the irony of that, and my readers really relate to Hope. Likewise, I have a dirt-poor cowboy who is named Cole. When I thought about his surname, I came up with Cash. Again, the irony made me laugh, plus he gets involved with a socialite from New York who is trying to keep her wealth under wraps, so it all tied together.
Many times I have contests for character names online and involve readers. I’ll give them a brief description of the character like surly teen or hippie art teacher, and they come up with the best names. Readers named the teen Izzy, a surfer guy Brody, and the art teacher Willow. I never would have thought of those names.
Here’s a funny story: When I wrote my debut, Thursdays At Coconuts, I hired a freelance editor to give me an overall evaluation. She said, “Do you realize you have seven character names beginning with ‘S’.” No, I did not. When you’re writing 400 pages and have some minor characters toward the back, these details often get past you. Needless to say, I changed Sara to Tara, (clever, right?!) as well as several other “S” names.
HG: How fun! What was your dream job when you were younger? Did you enjoy writing at a young age?
BC: I was an avid reader as a kid. I loved going to the library or bookmobile and bringing home an armload of books. The first writing I did was as a reporter for our middle school newspaper. I was a roving reporter (loved that!) and also wrote articles about school events. And I kept a diary like most teens. As an adult, I wrote many nonfiction articles for work but didn’t try my hand at fiction until midlife. My dream jobs as a kid were teaching and flight attendant. The closest I came was being a horrible substitute teacher. I’m going to write about that someday.
HG: We’ll be on the lookout for that story! What do you like to do when not writing?
BC: I love to shop at T.J. Maxx, boat with my husband either at the lake or on the ocean, play board games and Dominoes with family, watch movies, cook, bake, and read, of course. I bought a pickleball set and can’t wait to try it. Oh, and I should probably get back to my piano lessons and bike riding. We have thirteen grandchildren (I know!) and haven’t seen them in over a year since they live several states away. Travel is going to be at the top of my list once this pandemic is over.
HG: Aw, that will be a sweet reunion I’m sure. If you could ask your author idol one question about their writing, writing process, or books, what would it be?
BC: That’s hard. I would ask James Patterson or Harlan Coben how they keep up their frenzied pace year after year. I know Patterson uses coauthors, but he still says he reads each manuscript. If I could ask a second question, I’d want to know if they’d have dinner with me, so I could ask an endless amount of questions, one of which would be how they keep from getting carpel tunnel. I always end up in wrist braces at the end of each novel.
HG: Oooh, good thinking! Now, what advice do you have for aspiring authors or new authors?
I’m glad you asked. I’m going to give you a scoop! I’m writing two nonfiction books for aspiring authors right now. I just received the edits and have the cover art. I remember how I felt when I began writing and how daunting the entire publishing process was. I’ve noticed many books for aspiring authors are too advanced and many focus solely on marketing. Mine is more of a primer for those who don’t have a platform, agent, editor, website, fans, or simply need writing advice and inspiration. I also include important basics in a Marketing 101 section. My book walks new writers through the process as I hold their hand, nod, and tell stories about my crazy journey.
I Wrote a Book, Now What? releases this spring. The follow-up book, I’m Published, Now What? will release summer or fall 2021. The second book will be more heavily marketing focused.
Aspiring authors should concentrate on writing a well-written story first and polish it before pitching (or indie publishing) because they don’t want to destroy their early career by putting out a bad, error-filled book. Seek professionals for editing and cover art, and write the story that won’t leave you alone. Providing escapism is great fun, and hearing feedback from readers is priceless.
HG: Excellent advice! For readers that want to find out more about your stories and future projects, where should they go to connect or learn more?
BC: Readers can find me on:
- Also, I have a fun, private reader group, Beth’s Book Babes, on Facebook and would love for you to join us, request an invitation to join via my website
- Amazon Author Page
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Thanks so much for the great interview. I’m so glad I saw this. We’ve been involved in a home building project, and I almost forgot! You did a great job.
Beth Carter, Author