Interview with Betsy Dornbusch

· When did you start your writing career?

I've been writing since the fourth grade and finished my first book (an OUTSIDERS clone) when I was 13. I did some creative writing coursework in college. After a long hiatus, I picked up the pen with the serious intent to sell about five years ago. It took me three years to make my first sale.

· What genre do you write?

I write a lot of speculative fiction—fantasy and science fiction and horror. I also tackle the thriller genre and would like to write a mystery. I write essays and reviews on blogs and at Electric Spec. I've also done some technical writing, help text for web apps, things like that. Writing is writing is writing. It's all fun to me.

· Tell us a bit about your latest book?

There are several, actually. I just finished and sold my first erotic romance novella, written under a pseudonym with a partner. I took it on as a challenge and it was one of my easiest draft-to-market pieces, though I've since learned competition is tough! It'll be out next year with Whiskey Creek Press, with a sequel to follow later in the year.

I'm currently seeking representation for a dark urban fantasy novel. It's had great response so far, lots of requests. It's called SENTINEL and features twin brothers who have to make amends with their estranged father in order to fight a demon that has taken possession of their mother. It's a multi-pov book with a complex plot that hopefully appeals to sophisticated YA readers and adults.

'm also finishing my latest novel, THE SILVER SCAR, a futuristic thriller set in Boulder County. When a Wiccan priest and a Christian soldier inadvertently set off the Apocalypse, they have to battle an Episcopal Bishop rabid for crusade, slave traders, militant survivalists, eco-terrorists, mind-altering drugs, and, of course, the Four Horsemen.

· You also edit the magazine Electric Spec. How does being an editor help your writing career?

Editing for Electric Spec has been one of the greatest things I've ever done. I've been on board 3 ½ years, and I learn something from it every time I read my slush. It's taught me to be a critical reader, to learn what short story competition is like (stiff!), and it's given me the opportunity to work with fabulous writers, from multi-published award winners to first sales. My fellow editors, David Hughes and Lesley L. Smith are fabulous teammates and writers. They've taught me most of what I know. We've recently earned a listing in Locus, which was very exciting in terms of readership and more submissions.

I think before I had many sales, editing gave me some credibility. I've had the opportunity to speak publicly at conferences and conventions and also help writers with things like our First Page Game on Writing is such a lonely, bewildering job, especially at first. I'm a trained teacher, so I love to give back to our industry that way.

· You have been nominated for a BBA for your blog called Sex Scenes at Starbucks. Please tell us more about the BBAs and your site.

Honestly, my nomination was the first I've heard of the BBA, but it's something I'm now following closely. I've know several bloggers who've been nominated and the site provides great links to follow to learn more about books and the industry.

Sex Scenes at Starbucks is my personal blog and also serves as my rather lame professional website. I tackle writing issues and sometimes just ramble about my life. I'm always honored and bemused that people find the site interesting. I've written the blog for five years this September, and I've had hundreds of thousands of hits (my counter reads around 100k, but it's only a couple of years old).

For years I was anonymous. Now that my picture and name is out there (I joke that Locus magazine outed me a year ago at WorldCon) I've realized that I'm in the public eye on the Internet. I get emails and readers from around the world. People recognize my tag online and know me in person. So the blog is a little crazy, but great for two things: so many great friends and just pure writing. I'm a big believer in the Million Words Writing Theory (similar to the Ten Thousand Hours Theory) and I feel whatever success I've achieved is due in part to the writing I've done on Sex Scenes and the wonderful folks out in the blogosphere.

· Any advice or tips for new writers?

I think the biggest mistake I made as a new writer was to think that because I learned to read and write in school I could write stories. That was a mental block I had to get past and I didn't start learning until I perceived I had failed. Writing is a very involved, intricate art form. The other thing I'm adamant about is the importance of studying the short story. It teaches people to write in bite-sized pieces and gets them to market sooner. Not everyone feels this way, but I'm very biased toward the short form. People love to say it's dying, but don't believe them. My slush is packed every week and editors at other magazines tell me the same thing. New magazine and anthology opportunities open up all the time. I believe mastering the short story is almost essential to learn to write well, and it helps earn those coveted novel contracts. Of course there are exceptions, but many fine speculative fiction writers--Kelly Link, Nicola Griffith, Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Paulo Bagigalupi, Carrie Vaughn, Stephen King--started their careers in the short form.

· Anything else you'd like to add?

Thanks for hosting me here! It's been fun. And be sure to come visit Sex Scenes to see the interview I did with Jo!


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