I’m delighted to welcome today’s guest, Beth Daniels, a multi-published author who also writes under the pen names of J.B. Dane, Beth Henderson, and Nied Darnel. Beth is the outgoing president of my local Sisters in Crime chapter, Derby Rotten Scoundrels. In her 30 plus years as a writer, Beth has explored a variety of genres: urban fantasy comedic mysteries, tales about the Claus family, romantic-comedy, historical romantic adventure, and Steampunk adventures. Her favorite book, SUPER STAR, features an unforgettable rock musician. She’s also taught numerous writing classes, founded writing groups, and written extensively about the art of writing genre fiction.
Hi, Lynn! Thanks for asking me over for a chat!
I know this has been a busy year for you. Tell us what you’ve been up to.
As I’m a combination of traditionally published and independently published author, when there is a gap between traditional releases, I fill in with indie titles. Currently the latest editions of these are related to my J.B. Dane name, although there was one new Steampunk Weird West entry released in 2020 as Nied Darnell, a novella called The Case of the Hole in the Wall. I had a lot of fun with it, because I loved my hero, an actor known as the World’s Greatest Villain on the melodramatic stage. He had a British accent and a lovely sneer, and I got to use words like “twaddle”!
But the bulk of the year went to Bram Farrell, the “star” of the Raven Tales. This is urban fantasy PI mystery comedy. I added two novellas to the indie releases to lead up to the splash for the second novel, Marked Raven, January 12, 2021. But I also found a publisher for Until…, a historical romantic mystery set in Idaho gold country in 1863, which goes under my Beth Henderson name.
It’s probably no surprise that as Beth Daniels, my real name, Savvy Authors Press released (on December 2nd) How to Write a Funny Mystery. They’ve got me tapped to write How to Write a Novella for later in 2021.
Tell us about your journey to become a writer and the path to your first publications.
I’ve been doing this for over 30 years now, though I decided I wanted to be a novelist when in the 7th grade. Back in those Jurassic times there were no personal computers, no genre fiction writing classes or degrees. We taught ourselves how to write by reading voraciously. I really didn’t settle down to write a full publishable manuscript until the late 1990s. The motivation for writing really seriously came at 30 when I was divorced and out of a job. Historicals were huge bodice rippers at the time and I sent mine off to an editor who sadly rejected it but with a complimentary letter on my writing. She gave me some pointers, and said that if I rewrote it, she’d like to see it again. After I got over the depression of the rejection, I started it over from scratch, keeping her suggestions in mind. She’d moved to a different publishing house by the time I had it done but I sent it to her and she rejected it again, made some more suggestions, and extended the offer to see it again. Well, by the third time (and, yes, I rewrote it from scratch yet again) she was at a firm that didn’t do historicals.
I’d also written two other contemporary books over those many years, and rewritten them, too, a couple times. Which meant I had three manuscripts that had gone through the rewrite wringer by the summer of 1989. I decided that I’d send them all out at the same time but to different places. The historical went to the agent who I’d heard speak at the first RWA National conference I ever attended, and she took me on in August. Two weeks later the editor I’d sent the romantic comedy/romantic suspense to called and wanted to go to contract on it, Nikrova’s Passion. (I was 43 when it was published.) And she said the even more magic words, “Do you have anything else I can look at?” I sent her the third completed manuscript and she picked it up, too.
Do you consider yourself more of a pantser or a plotter?
I used to say I was a total Pantser but when I started to write mystery more, I needed a bit more structure, so I’d say, I’m mostly Pantser these days and it depends on the book on whether I have 5% or 25% plotter working its way in there. But I’ve always loved mystery, particularly funny mysteries, so perhaps I’ve really finally found my home.
Are your characters ever based on people you’ve known?
Other than historical events or contemporary settings, none of my stories feed off the lives of friends, family, or my own. Well, I did give one romantic comedy heroine my old job in retailing, though she’s got the upgrade of a promotion to higher management in her store. And, as Nikrova’s Passion takes place in England and my heroine is an American on vacation there, she visits the same places I did when I headed to the UK for three weeks prior to meeting either of the two ex-husbands. (If they took notes from my heroes, they might have lasted longer.)
Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?
It’s hard to pin down a favorite book, because so often it’s the last one I wrote, but not when it comes to Superstar. I got the idea for the story and started writing it prior to 1986 but I wrote the final page in December 2014. It wasn’t a story like those I was selling and yet Paul Montgomery, the hero, wouldn’t let me forget him, no matter how often I stopped work on it, and sometimes that was for years at a time.
Tell us about your experience doing online teaching.
The Online Fiction Writing Workshops that I have been doing since around 2009 started when someone asked me a question about writing genre fiction and the answer just popped out without me even thinking about it.
Savvy Authors opened their doors in March 2010, and I was one of the instructors that first day. Prior to this I’d been doing workshops for various RWA online chapters, and I still do quite a few with RWA. I love helping fiction writers out. My 2021 workshop schedule can be found at www.4taletellers.com/workshops.
What advice do you have for new writers?
Read. Read. Read. Read. Not just in the genre niche you’ve chosen, but also outside of that genre…though I’d recommend staying within genre fiction rather than read literary titles, and that’s mostly because genre fiction has a different model, a different goal, than literary titles do. There is a lot of genre mixing these days. Mystery and romance have mixed for a long time but now fantasy is also in the mix in mystery (urban fantasy) and romance (paranormal romance) and historicals get the alternative mix where 90% of the world stays the same but the other 10% gets twisted.
Join writing groups to get feedback by both published and unpublished authors, as well as by non-writing readers. You can find them online with or without group affiliation (like Sisters in Crime’s Guppy group) and Savvy Authors’ various writing groups, or where you live through your library and bookstores, or online via MeetUp.com. It’s where I found my fantasy writing group.
Don’t discount any feedback you get, even if it rubs you the wrong way. Often pondering on it might give you a new way to overcome what others see as a problem area. It can lead to a better story.
Don’t give up. Sure, you can get discouraged, but keep at it. It took me from 30 to 42 to write something that a publisher wanted to go to contract on. That’s 12 years, but at the end of that period I’d learned a heck of a lot and produced three saleable properties. And there will be slumps even once you’re published. The market changes. Which also means, read what is currently being published, the latest releases, because that is what editors are buying…or were buying two years ago. It frequently takes nine months for a manuscript to work its way through the publishing process. Even if you go the Indie route, readers want to read the same type of stories that are being published by the traditional houses.
I also recommend that you start submitting to traditional presses rather than just jump into the Independently published pool. You don’t need to aim at the large houses, go for the smaller ones. They turn out a lot of books, and the more you write, the better you get. Or you should. When I pick up earlier things that were published, I cringe. I’ve grown as a writer so much since then.
All in all, writing genre fiction is the only thing I’ve really ever wanted to do. It’s the best “job” I’ve ever had and I just wish I’d started concentrating on it much earlier than I did. Maybe in the next life…unless I become an archaeologist or an astrophysicist next time out.
And I think that probably has not only exhausted all of the questions you gave me, Lynn, but given everyone eyestrain as well.
You can find me at my website: www.4TaleTellers.com or….
Beth Daniels on Twitter @BethDaniels1
J.B. Dane on Twitter @JBDaneWriter
Nied Darnell on Twitter @NiedDarnell
Beth Henderson on Twitter @Beth__Henderson
Facebook Beth Henderson: http://bit.ly/2GvFyog
FB Nied Darnell: http://bit.ly/2tquccW
FB J.B. Dane: http://bit.ly/2GJtejL
FB Beth Daniels: https://bit.ly/3mvig3h
Pinterest board Writing Genre Fiction: https://bit.ly/3muGyKV