I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Beth Groundwater in person – yet – but I’ve conversed with her online several times over the last few years and I find her work both entertaining and intriguing. Let’s see what she has to offer!
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Beth: I wrote stories as a child and a teenager, then took a break from fiction to concentrate on technical writing for college and my first career as a software engineer. In 1999, I retired early from that career, and I had begun writing short stories again about a year prior to that. I decided to tackle a novel length manuscript then, and that was my practice book, which has been revised many times but never published. My second novel-length manuscript turned into A Real Basket Case, the first book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, which was first published in 2007.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Beth: I had placed in many writing contests and had published, and been paid for, several short stories before A Real Basket Case, but it wasn’t until I signed my first book contract that I really felt successful as a writer.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Beth: The biggest surprise for me was the amount of non-writing work involved! There’s the contracting process, research, promotion, networking and all of the other ancillary activities that are part of having a writing career, but that take precious time away from the writing itself. Promotion is something that is ongoing, which ramps up around the time of each release, and can be a huge drain on my time.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Beth: No. By now, with four books out and two more under contract, I thought I might be making a small reasonable income of $15,000 to $20,000 a year from my writing business. I’m making nowhere near that.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Beth: I find that once I achieve one goal, I set another, larger goal for myself. First, it was to get a short story published, then to get a book published traditionally, with an advance and royalties. Then my goal was to see if I could do it again and not be a one-book wonder. Then, I set a goal of developing and publishing a new series, the RM Outdoor Adventures series. My next goal is to finally reach that income expectation I had.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Beth: I remember hearing from my traditionally published author friends that it took an average of 5 to 7 years after you started writing seriously to snag your first book contract. I was starting to sweat when I neared that 7 year mark, thinking I would fail as a fiction author and wondering if I should throw in the towel. Then in late 2005, I was offered that first book contract for A Real Basket Case just in time!
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Beth: I think I went about this fairly smartly, learning a LOT about the business and craft of writing before I became published. If I was starting out now, I’m sure my publication path would be different, first because the industry has changed so much in the past few years, and secondly because an awful lot of luck, both good and bad, is involved in a publishing career. I’m convinced, from the comments my agent received from editors, that if we hadn’t tried to launch the RM Outdoor Adventures series in the depth of the last great recession, it would have been snatched up by a large New York house. As it was, Midnight Ink adopted it, and I’m very pleased with this mid-sized house and their hard-working sales and promotion staffs.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work, the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Beth: I try to focus on the writing and editing I need to get done each week first, then work on promotion later in the day or later in the week after I’ve finished the writing I need to do to meet my deadlines. I have to be very organized and give myself weekly goals to stay on track, especially because I’m juggling two series.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that has happened to you as a writer?
Beth: Because I feature the town of Salida, Colorado, and the First in Boating on the Arkansas (FIBArk) whitewater festival held there every year in Deadly Currents, the first book of my RM Outdoor Adventures series, I was invited in 2011 to be the Honored Guest or VIP in the FIBArk Parade. The whole weekend was quite an ego boost. It began with a noon interview on Friday on the local radio station, KSBV, “The River Rat.” They also had me record a promo spot for the station while I was there.
The FIBArk parade took place at 10 AM on Saturday morning. I sat perched on the top of the back seat of a PT Cruiser convertible and waved to folks lining both sides of the streets. It was an absolutely amazing experience, especially when we pulled into the heart of downtown, where the crowd was 4 to 8 people deep and the parade announcer introduced me. That afternoon, I sold a boatload of books at a table near the festival in Riverside Park with Lisa Marvel, the owner of The Book Haven independent bookstore in Salida. That parade experience is going to be a hard one to beat!
PJ: It sounds wonderful! What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Beth: Rejections are always disheartening, and I’ve had my fair share of them. I was rejected 89 times by literary agents before the 90th one signed me on as a client. And, I averaged twenty rejections per short story before they sold. I think the rejections that stung the most, though, were the ones I received on Deadly Currents and the RM Outdoor Adventure mystery series in the depths of the recession. My agent and I knew the book was good, editors were telling us that it and the series concept was good, but no house besides Midnight Ink was willing to take the risk on a new series in that down economy. I’ve been vindicated, however by the good reviews Deadly Currents has received in all four of the big review publications (Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly), the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Scene.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Beth: First, there’s the topic of my two series. No one else is writing a gift basket designer mystery series, nor is anyone writing a whitewater river ranger series. Second is the fact that I base my books in real Colorado locations: Salida, Breckenridge, and Colorado Springs, so far. Third is my voice. I feel that it’s unique, and when people do compare me with other mystery authors, it’s most often with men, such as C.J. Box and Craig Johnson, though my soft-boiled series are not as violent as theirs.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Beth: I have four pieces of advice for aspiring authors. 1) Join a critique group and listen very closely to what other writers are telling you about your work. If you need to go back and study some aspect of the craft, do it. I spent a year focusing on my weak spot, character development, and now readers tell me that is what they like best about my writing. 2) Set measurable goals, make out a weekly plan for how to meet those goals and report to someone weekly on your progress. 3) Remember that your words are not golden and that your critique partners and editors have the same goal as you: to improve your writing until it is publishable. Be willing to change anything to make a story work. 4) Network, network, network! I met my first editor and both my first and second literary agents through networking with other writers. I continue to make contacts with librarians, booksellers, media personnel and others the same way.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you would like to mention?
Beth: Black Cat Books () in Manitou Springs, Colorado, operated by Natalie Johnson, is a huge supporter of local Colorado authors, and is the source for autographed copies of my books.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Gift Basket Designer series:
A Real Basket Case, hardcover 2007, trade/ebook November, 2011
To Hell in a Handbasket, hardcover 2009, trade/ebook November, 2012
RM Outdoor Adventures series:
Deadly Currents, March, 2011
The third book in both series will be released in 2013.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title, Wicked Eddies:
Fly fishing is dangerous? River ranger Mandy Tanner had no idea until days before a huge tournament in Salida, Colorado. True, the Arkansas River can be a man-eater, but the rapids weren’t responsible for driving a hatchet into the neck of would-be competitor Howie Abbott, a secretive man who may have been cheating. While casting about for suspects, Mandy seeks clues from Abbott family members, including her best friend, bartender Cynthia Abbott. But when Cynthia becomes the prime suspect, Mandy realizes she’s wading into deeper, more hazardous waters than ever.
Where can we buy it?
You can buy a trade paperback or ebook copy of Wicked Eddies from your local bookstore (they can order a copy if it’s not already on their shelves) or from on-line retailers.
PJ, thanks so much for having me on your blog! I hope your readers will find out more about me and contact me at one of my on-line homes:
My website is: http://bethgroundwater.com/
My blog is: http://bethgroundwater.blogspot.com/
My Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/beth.groundwater
My Goodreads page is: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/471598.Beth_Groundwater
Beth, it’s been great! I love learning more about the writers and the process within the industry. I hope everyone checks out one or both of your series! Questions anyone?