*Looking for the next hot summer read? Check out this exclusive interview with Bethany Maines and come back next week for a chance to win an Autographed Copy of Bethany’s new book!
Bethany is the author of Bulletproof Mascara. An action-packed thriller that has been described as The James Bond of Chick Lit. Bethany graduated from Western Washington University. During the day, she works as a graphic designer for an architectural firm. At night, she’s helping her main character, Nikki Lanier, discover a cosmetics company’s international espionage operation. In her spare time, Bethany has a third degree black belt and teaches Karate to kids. Currently, she’s hard at work on a sequel: Compact with The Devil.
1) How did you get started in publishing, how long did it take to publish your 1st book?
I wrote short stories growing up and it was always on my bucket list to write a novel. But I didn’t get serious about writing until 2001 when my aunt, Linda Nichols, published her first novel. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me until then that one could actually publish anything. So then I started my first novel and with great critiques from a college roommate (and some serious grammatical help) I finished it. Then I realized how much work it was going to take to make it decent and I decided to “put it aside.” But I’d learned so much by then that I thought I could actually do better the next time, so when I finished and edited the novel that would become Bulletproof Mascara, I submitted it to several agents and was lucky enough to land one. With my agents direction, I did another draft or two and in 2005 it was finally submitted to publishers and, again, I got lucky! By the time my Bulletproof Macara was published, I was two editors, seven years, and 9.5 drafts away from my initial starting manuscript. Most of the trouble came from my first editor (who shall remain nameless); each time she asked for a revision she would say “almost there,” but her goals became moving targets and it became pretty clear that she couldn’t relinquish the idea that she wasn’t writing the book. That level of revision really took a toll on my devotion to the book and to writing. There were times that I considered just walking away from writing entirely, but I also have to admit that it taught me more about writing than I would have thought possible.
2) What things do you wish you would have known?
There are so many things about publishing that never quite get explained to an author at the start (or sometimes ever). What’s an ARC, who markets my book and how, what the heck is actually in my contract, and of course, when do I get paid? I’ve been wishing for years that there was some sort of author manual. Eventually, I might have to write one. It would include a giant glossary. Mostly, I wish I’d known how long everything takes.
3) Who has been your biggest influence?
My biggest influence and support is probably my old college roommate and fast friend, Jennae, who edited every single draft of Bulletproof Mascara. (She keeps telling me that “it’s” cannot be possessive, and I keep arguing that that’s rude to non-gender specific objects. So far she’s winning. Yes… definitely an influence.) But in terms of writers… M.M. Kaye, Dick Francis and Georgette Heyer are probably the three that I keep returning to for inspiration.
4) What is your best author experience so far?
For me there’s something about being an AUTHOR that’s a little embarrassing. I’m not, by nature, a super public person and, even though I’ve never had a negative experience while pushing my book, having to shove myself forward for the sake of my book is a bit stressful. I don’t know if I’m afraid someone will find out that I’m just Bethany Maines (and we all know that she’s not a REAL author), or if simply having the spot light on me makes me uncomfortable, but the best author moments for me are the ones that make me feel like I belong in the greater world of books. One of my favorite moments was the day some friends and I were down in Portland and we stopped in at Powell’s to buy a copy. My friends actually went to one of the help desks and asked where to find my book. We were all giggling so loud that the help desk lady asked us, in a very amused voice, “Do you know what you’re doing?” as she handed us directions to my book on a post-it note. I told her we had no idea what we were doing, or at least not anymore than usual. Once we got to the aisle we took pictures of me with the book on the shelf and turned it so it was one of the books with the cover facing out. We were making so much ruckus that the girl down the aisle kept stealing glances at us and I’m pretty sure she walked over to look at my book as we left. And then, to cap it off, my friend made me sign my book at the buy counter. I thought the grandmotherly teller might be a little annoyed or suspicious, but when I looked up at her she looked really pleased – kind of like “Welcome to Powells young author!” And if you’ve made it to Powell’s, well, you can make it anywhere. It made me feel good.
5) What do you when you’re not writing?
I’m a graphic designer by profession, so I’m usually doing some sort of design work. Although, these days it seems like I’m always working on house fixing projects. I always wanted to own my own home, but it’s amazing how much time and money they consume!
6) Have you ever had trouble writing? What to you do?
YES! I call it the doldrums – like when sailors are becalmed on a windless sea. Sometimes I try to write through it, just force myself to sit there and write something even if it’s total crap. Other times I try to do lots of idea inspiring exercises. Sometimes though, inspiration is a bit like a rechargeable battery and I just have to go away and come back when I’ve lived enough life to recharge the battery.
7) Do you have any book promotion tips?
Tell people about your book. It feels a a little like tooting my own horn, but so far my bank teller, hair stylist, and work acquaintance have all bought books from my simply telling them about it. Other than that… Facebook ads seem to be a farily effective and relatively cheap way to gain a facebook following and broadcast info about your book.
8) Tell me about your current book, Bulletproof Mascara:
Is a simple tale about a girl, Nikki Lanier, who lives with her mother, can’t find a job, and turns to selling make-up, only to discover that the make-up company is a front for all-female, international espionage ring devoted to helping women everywhere. Because that could happen to anyone. It’s also about how Nikki learns to start believing in her own talents and really stand on her own two feet.
9) Where did you get the idea for Bulletproof Mascara?
I accidentally visited a recruitment meeting for Mary Kay (really! I swear it was an accident!). And after listening to the speaker I realized that she shared the same militant spirit as Frau Farbissina, founder of the militant wing of the Salvation Army from Austin Powers. Which was all it took for me to wonder “What if Mary Kay had a militant wing?” At that same time I remember talking to someone about Batman Begins (The comic. Yes, I love comics. I went to art school – I can’t help myself.) and realizing that prequels are almost always better than the original texts because after years of making the hero/ine cooler and cooler, going back to the beginning and stripping them of that cool is virtually impossible. “Wouldn’t it be simpler,” I asked myself, “to actually write the ‘how it all began’ story first?” Which is what I set out to do with Nikki. She’s going to become a super spy of course, but I wanted to write about how she started. My way of explaining to people was to say “I want to write about how James Bond became James Bond.” And then they made a movie about how James Bond became James Bond and I was really annoyed. That was my idea people! Mine!
10) Can you give us any hints as to what is in store for the sequel?
In Compact With The Devil Nikki will travel to Paris, tangle (in every sense of the word) with a British rock star, and of course, crash a motorcycle.
11) You have a third degree black belt and teach karate to kids. Have you considered training an all-female espionage ring?
Well, I’ve considered it, but we can’t really talk about it in such an open forum…