BETSY SCOTT FITZMEYER
- Guest Author -
Today, I interview and author who is 84 years-old.
Welcome, Betsy ...
I was around 20 years old, married at 18 a mother at 19. I seemed to have been a born writer and had always been asked by my teachers to go into writing as a profession. But I had been trained up to be a wife and mother, keeper of the home. When studying piano I was offered a chance to play for a teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It wasn’t a particularly showy piece of music that I had played for a former student at the school, but it seemed to her that the notes I played came from my soul. I was just sixteen and had fallen deeply in love with the man I would marry. When the words, “Marriage will be forgotten for now, possibly in the future…” reached my ears, I shut down any thoughts of a professional career in music and went on to be married and have 4 children.
For good measure, though a promising student, I had quit high school in the 11th grade.
Back to my 20th year. I had a King James Bible in my hands. I had the question in my mind for God, “Oh, Lord am I good enough to be a writer?” and my finger ready for any answer as I closed my eyes and opened the book. “Write for my words are true and faithful,” was the answer that I was given. I never took down the verse or the book until I was asked for an interview by Mr. Clancy. I knew that my motivation to become a writer would probably be involved in the first question. So at long last I typed into my browser the words I had kept in my brain.
Up came the book and verse, Revelations verse 21. I was absolutely amazed. Still, outside of a poem and two published essays, I went on to have four children. Along the way, I was living in Virginia, across from a community college; the cost of only eight dollars per credit snagged me in to register. Though initially, I was an Architecture Student, I moved on to Interior Design – to the horror of my father, an Architect -, and eventually graduated Summa Cum Laude with an associate degree in Fine Arts.
Sandwiched in the degree were writing courses. Eventually, I went to George Mason University, became a writer for the school newspaper and during my second year was interviewed and chosen to participate in the Michaelmas Honors Term at Oxford. Outside of being a wife and mother, it was at the highlight of my life. My children were grown and off to good starts in their lives and my husband had died. There seemed no reason that I should not enjoy three months of study at the oldest English speaking University in the world.
Of the studies offered, Arthurian History (the search for the real Arthur) and 19th Century British Fiction Writers, appealed to my interest, to say the least..
When and how did you become a writer.
I became a writer the first day I researched Arthur. There seemed to be an endless volume of notes to take down and study, but little legitimate documentation that the pagans had not destroyed. Still, I had embarked on a quest that had to be put together come what may, so I plodded on.
At this point, I must interject a dream that I had before leaving for England:
It was very dark. A little man, dressed in century’s old clothes and wearing a greenish blue knitted Helmut, was waving me on and pointing to what was obviously a war horse that I should climb aboard. The thing that I most remembered about him is that he seemed to know me, and I him, and that he smiled. While I was doing his bidding in climbing aboard the giant being, my eyes looked to my right and I beheld a magnificent trio of warriors who nodded to me, inviting me to join them as they moved forward to the line of battle. The dream ended there.
During the ensuing years, I would often think of that dream and its meaning.
The manuscript just takes form in my mind and then I seat myself at the computer and pray in my mind, “Lord, please give me the words.”
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
Fulfilling a quest to a spiritual truth is the most joyful reward.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
The hardest thing about being a writer is to keep true to oneself.
What were you in a past life, before you became a writer?
I like to think that I was an observer, taking in and saving each experience to write about.
What is your greatest writing achievement?
Without a doubt, my greatest writing achievement is my book, ARTHUR. Due to the sparse actual documentation of his life, I had to resort to my making up much of his life. But there is no uncertainty in my mind that he actually existed. He was the greatest defending warrior the world has ever known and has been an inspiration to countless defending warriors that have guarded well the good and decent life enjoyed by free peoples the world over. One of my tutors at Oxford was a reader for the opening chapters of ARTHUR, my senior project at my home university, George Mason.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a Kindle entitled WORLD WAR II, Through the Eyes of a Child. I had just celebrated my 11th birthday when the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.
What inspires you?
Good and thoughtful people inspire me. I was around 4 when my father turned on the heavyweight fights on Friday nights. I remember Joe Louis, the greatest fighter the world has ever known to my way of thinking; how he refused to talk to reporters until he had gently talked with his Mom after every fight. I was truly impressed.
What genre do you write?
I do like to write historical books best. I love research; it’s probably the main reason I love delving into history.
Do you have any tips for new writers?
Once you become a writer, never, never give up the blessed quest.
Do you suffer from writer’s block?
No, I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. There is always something to write about.
Do you have a preferred writing schedule?
I usually prefer to write in the early morning; sometimes after dinner.
Do you have a favourite writing place?
Before I got a computer, I used to write long hand on yellow legal pads; since I have had a computer, I type out my thoughts as they come.
Do you have a favourite writing place?
I write at my computer.
What is your greatest joy in writing?
When things are going well, and the words spill out unhampered onto the paper.
I have two favorite authors, Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen. I will say this about Sir Walter: He wrote with great passion but never slid into unseemly descriptions that would have upset his audience. He was always known as the father of historical fiction and set the bar high for those who came afterward. As a young girl, I used to love the stories of Goethe about his hero Goetz, the super warrior who defended against any kind of calamity. Sir Walter translated the stories. One wonders if his Ivanhoe was modeled after the beloved German hero.
Jane Austen wrote in the same time period as Sir Walter. I loved her characters and the gentle hazing she meted out to the worst and the praises she bestowed on the best. As I think of it, I do believe that I read all of her books.
What’s the greatest compliment you ever received from a reader?
The greatest compliment that I ever received from a reader was that my writing should be translated to film.
What was the worst comment from a reader?
The worst comment from a reader was that the characters I created deserved more time upon the page.
Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives are you?
I am influenced by things that happen in my own life; my first novel is like reading my live over again and again, although everything the heroine endures did not happen to me.
Other than writing, what else do you love?
I love to paint, especially children. I have been too long without a piano; I would love to play again.
Did you have your book/books professionally edited before publication?
I had my last book professionally edited before publication; just one typo was discovered on the first page.
Describe your perfect day.
My perfect day as I recall was my wedding day. It was June, but rather than a hot day, it was perfection; cool breezes, a cloudless azure sky and a lovely sun beamed down upon Bride Betsy.
If you were stuck on a desert island and with one person, who would it be? Why?
If he were alive, my answer to this question would startle my husband because of reasons I am not going to disclose at this point. But he was the best conversationalist I had ever encountered in life. Being stuck on a desert island demands such a being.
What would you say if you had the chance to speak to world leaders?
If I had the chance to speak with world leaders, I would say “Don’t ever allow your countries to become like the bandit nations the world suffered just before and during World War II.” Our President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt called them, our enemies Germany, Japan, and Italy, our three bandit nations. Why did he call them that? Because they were bad bandits, had no good in them, and wanted to kill the free world.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan a future of writing, if it is in the Master’s plan.
What are your views on book trailers? Do they sell books?
I’m not sure if book trailers sell books or not. I have not looked into having book trailers for any of my books as yet.
I used to see myself as the heroine of my first novel and fourth. Now, I see myself in Hez, a character in my first and fourth novels.
Does the publishing industry frustrate you?
The publishing industry frustrates me at times, because to my way of thinking, sleaze seems to always sell big-time.
Did you ever think of quitting?
The closest I ever came to quitting was years ago when I cut up my first novel and put it in the garbage. But though it was gone, the novel rolled around in my head until I had written it out again and began sending it around to publishing houses.
What was your favourite manuscript to write and why?
My favourite manuscript to write was ARTHUR. I feel that even though I had to make up quite a lot of it, I felt proud of what I had written. The quest was reached beyond measure, I thought.
How would you define success as a writer?
Success as a writer is defined by earning the respect of an ever expanding audience that one never deceives.
What should readers walk away from your book knowing? How they should feel?
Readers should walk away from my books knowing that they have learned some truths they have never thought about.
Would you like to have your books made into movies? Ever written a screenplay?
I’ve never written a screenplay, but yes, I would like to have my books made into movies.
How much thought goes into designing a book cover?
I already had my book covers in my artist’s paintings, so very little thought went into designing. They were already mine to use.
What’s your ultimate dream?
My ultimate dream is to leave a nice legacy for my children to remember.
I have had many thoughts about marketing me, my books, and brand. Unfortunately, I have not had the funds for much marketing, I am sorry to say.
Are your books self-published?
In the beginning, some years ago, I had sent off an entire manuscript. It took many months of anxious waiting to get notice that my books had been rejected for one reason or another. One publisher was effusive in his compliments and wished me well. Unfortunately the company wasn’t in the market for other than cook books at the time. So, after many tries, my 80th birthday loomed on the horizon and I decided the only way to get my books in print before I died was to self-publish.
Describe yourself in five words.
I am ardent, a person who never gives up, the original believer in the good things in life, a constant striver, and a Patriot.
What p’s you off?
The whiners of the world do a great job of making me very mad.
What is the title of the last book you read? Good one?
I am rereading right now a book that I have loved for years. It’s entitled THE DUCHESS of ASHERWOOD, by Mary Garratt. It is a wonderful novel, set in the Regency Age and teaming with the sprightly language of the Ton. It would make an excellent movie!
What would be the very last sentence you’d write?
She went to her Lord gladly, knowing that she had lived life to the fullest and that she had shared her experiences with her appreciative audience.
What would make you happier than you are now?
To have my children tell me that I was a good mother. Jackie Kennedy suggested that if you failed at being a good mother, you failed at life.
Anything you’d like to add?
Yes, I would like to add my prayers for the free world. The last time, during WWII, the free world came together as one against the Nazis, the Empire of Japan, and Italy, the three bandit nations, FDR called them. That unity was wonderful to see and feel.
Clancy's comment: Go, Betsy! You're an inspiration to young and aspiring writers.