Ten Things About... Beth Bolden - An Author Interview

Today we feature another author whose backlist I've pretty much devoured... especially all those foodie books she likes to write...Beth Bolden!

Since we couldn't actually get together so I could be part of one of her live cooking streams she hosts in her Facebook group, let's dive right into the interview...

Indie or Traditionally published? - Tell us how this works for you…
I’m independently published because I’m a control freak. No . . .really. That’s it. I like the ability to make my own choices and my own decisions. When I started writing in 2012/2013, there were a lot of cautionary tales out there (successful cautionary tales, but cautionary tales nonetheless). Suzanne Brockmann talked openly about how her publisher wouldn’t let her publish LGBT storylines. At the time I was writing MF romance, but I was shocked at the fact that she was basically told NO. JR Ward, same thing. Nalini Singh, similar stories. These were all authors I enjoyed, and I couldn’t imagine myself being in their shoes. The characters have always talked to me, told me their stories, and I knew that I couldn’t let a publisher dictate what I was going to write. Also, I went to a really interesting publishing class given by a bestselling MF historical romance author who was signed with Harlequin and others. She could not turn a profit. Her first year self-publishing, she made six figures. I was sold, from that moment, on being my own publisher.

Plot or Pants?  Do you pre-plot your books, use an outline, fly by the seat of your pants or some combination of things?  How do you keep track of characters in a series?  Do you keep a journal of your characters’ statistics, such as hair and eye color, relatives, hometown, etc.
God, I really should have a character/series bible. I think this, and I try to do it every time and every time I fail. Sabella, my fantastic, wonderful PA actually did make me a list of every character in my shared universe, because I kept trying to re-use their names. That was super helpful!

I am a weird combination of pantsing and plotting. I have to have SOME idea of where I am going with a story. Usually I have a strong idea of character first. Characters often come to me fully formed and start whispering in my ear (and yes, this is usually the moment when I tell people and they assume I am schizophrenic LOL). Often the plot will come as well--or at least the bare bones of it, and the tropes. Sometimes I will think, I want to write X trope, I haven’t written that yet.

I don’t usually outline much. If I do write an outline it will typically only be the first half of the book, then when I reach the middle-ish, I will outline the rest, usually on sticky notes, that I place everywhere on my desk and that my cat Earl tries to eat or run off with. My outlines are shorter because I’ve found if I over outline, or plan too much, my brain gets bored and shuts off. Also, because some of my very best ideas have come to me in the middle of writing, so I don’t want to lose that spontaneity.

But I do have to have at least the first half at least a little bit planned out, because if I don’t, I will get to about 15-20%, right after the beginning + the meet cute + the start of the plot and I will go, “What am I writing? What is writing? What are words?”

Not usually the best way to write a book, in my experience.

But if I have some idea of where I’m going, even if I literally do not follow it (which also happens, occasionally), I don’t get stuck and I can keep pushing forward, which is the most important thing.

Tell us about your first… published M/M fiction/romance 
My first published MM romance is The Rainbow Clause. A lot (ok, almost all) my books exist in the same universe, so often I will have a character or two crossing over here or there, because I enjoy revisiting them and I think my readers do too. Also, it just makes sense to use someone who already exists, a fully created and visualized character, instead of a two dimensional side character who never gets mentioned again. I bring this up because more than any other book, Colin O’Connor and his (eventual) husband Nick Wheeler, like to show up.
Occasionally I will tell them, you only get ONE scene. Usually they stretch it to a whole chapter. Or two. Or three.

Almost five years in, and I still love the two of them and their love story.

Colin O’Connor is a NFL quarterback and bisexual and he has decided to come out of the closet. He’s unique in that he’s introverted and extremely private--but he’s also ready to be honest with the world. Nick Wheeler is the journalist who has been assigned to write his coming out profile, and he ends up spending several weeks at Colin’s compound, and they end up falling in love.

 and then your most recent one..
Merry Elf-ing Christmas came out November 18th, and is a whimsical, fluffy, sweet holiday romance about an elf who doesn’t fit in at the North Pole, and a human engineer who’s looking for something, but has no idea what’s missing from his life is actually Christmas magic.

I was inspired because of this adorable Oreos commercial I saw a few years back and knew I had to write this story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v3oCYUJkVI

Strap in for the sweetest meet cute of all time (literally, it’s sweet, it’s all about cookies), a snow dusting of fluff, an adorable romance, and a magical race to save Christmas.

Which character still pops into your mind to visit from time to time?
I think I’m duty bound to say Colin, since I talked about him earlier, but I really also want to say Heath Harris from The Rivalry, because he is a character I still think about all the time, like he’s a real person. Like I’ll wake up in the morning and think, “I hope Heath is having a good day today.” Obviously I wrote him so I can imagine him having a good day, but with him, I felt like I created the most complete, whole character in my career, so like all real people, he doesn’t always have a good day. Some days the shit he’s been through still creeps up on him. So, that’s why I wake up and sometimes think, “Oh, I hope Heath will have a good day and Sam doesn’t give him too hard of a time.”

What is the funniest scene you’ve written?
This is probably going to be really surprising, but I think it’s also the most memorable? Also the sexiest? We will call it the best, most fun I have ever had writing a scene LOL. I literally sat in a Jason’s Deli, ate lunch, typed this scene and giggled to myself the entire damn time.

It’s in book four of Kitchen Gods, Indulge Me, which was about Bastian, the head chef at the high end restaurant I’d created and his intern, Kian. There was a power imbalance there, and they’d been dancing around each other for several books at that point, and at some point I realized that we actually needed to learn what Kian and Bastian were doing during all these other books in the series. So Indulge Me ran from before the first book in the series, timeline wise, and through the third book, plus additional time after. The reader learned that (spoiler alert!) they’d basically been in love with each other for years but hadn’t done anything about it because Bastian was Kian’s boss and his mentor.

It was a super slow burn and IMHO super romantic (imagine someone thinking you are going to be so brilliant and amazing and even though they’re in love with you, they keep their hands off of you so they can keep teaching you), but at some point, Kian gets really frustrated with the whole situation.

He goes to Bastian’s house. He tells him he’s done with waiting. And he starts taking his clothes off. One piece at a time.

It was a glorious scene. I enjoyed the hell out of it. And I do think Bastian’s panic and Kian’s determination were both sexy and surprisingly funny (maybe just to me? I guess we’ll find out when my readers read this LOL).

What’s the hardest part about writing?
Sitting down and actually writing. This sort of fits with the question about how and when I write so I’m going to combine those LOL. I can make the rules! You can’t stop me!

I write in two different ways: in my office, with my music (and my noise canceling headphones) on! I often will do sprints, by myself or with some other author friends. I will turn my internet off. I try to get all my words done in the morning (or at least by lunchtime). I find that I am just way more productive in the morning, and if I have to write after lunch, I feel myself kind of panicking that the day will be wasted (panic is the antithesis of creativity, in case you were wondering) or that I won’t make my word count.

The second way I write is that I will take my iPad with my magic keyboard (best invention ever, better even than parentheses and em dashes) and go to a coffee shop or a restaurant with my portable pair of noise canceling earbuds (sensing a theme?) and write. I know a lot of people look for places with WiFi but I actually look for places that don’t have WiFi or I will turn it off on my iPad once I’m connected and the scene I’m working on has loaded.

I know a lot of people who write on the couch, in the living room, or in bed, and like I will do some work at those places, but I can’t write that way.

Basically, no distractions. Distractions mean that books don’t get written. And there are a LOT of distractions as an author.

Who’s your biggest supporter/cheerleader?

This is such a cliche, but my husband. He is absolutely my number one fan even though he doesn’t write my books. He is incredibly supportive though, and I will often catch him bragging about me to other people (like his coworkers? I once walked into a meeting they were having and my website was up and they were all sitting there discussing it LOL). He has also named quite a few of my books, most notably Bite Me and also Snow Job. I think he suggests a lot of stuff as a joke, and sometimes one just sticks.

Also, I was lucky enough to be able to make the transition from writing part time and working full time to writing full time when we moved from Oregon to North Carolina. It was something we discussed at length, and at some point he said to me, “If you don’t try it now, you’re never going to know if you can actually do it.”

His faith in me has helped me have more faith in myself, and that is the kind of supportive partnership that I always try to create in my books. So I guess you could say there is a little bit of Mr. B in every single Beth Bolden book.

What do you do if you hit a wall while writing?  How do you combat writer’s block?

I am actually super lucky in that I don’t hit writer’s block often (knock on wood). When I do get stuck, I am also extremely lucky in that I have some great author friends and a few reader friends who are always willing to talk me through it.

Most of the time it’s just my friend Jacki James, who says to me, “you’re wrong, this is fine, stop overthinking.” And you know what, 99% of the time she is absolutely right.

Also, my very good friend Angela will say to me, “Just let me read it and we’ll figure it out together.”

When I first started writing, I wasn’t lucky enough to have those resources and those friendships, and I had to figure it out on my own. Now, I don’t think I could?

I mean, I guess I could always record myself saying, “You’re overthinking this!” and just play it for myself, but I’m not as tough as Jacki is LOL.

What is your favorite thing about writing M/M romance?
It’s a really difficult tie between 1) the readers and 2) the characters.

I have to say the readers because there is something absolutely magical about the way I write these words that live in my head and then I publish them and then readers connect to them. I get the most wonderful emails and PMs from readers who tell me that they’ve been through X and that I understood them and saw them and they felt heard and seen. That is an incredible thing that happens, and I feel so blessed that I am able to do this and do this full time, and get to have those conversations and provide those connections and those experiences to readers.

Also, I think we all read romance because we’re looking for some hope, and that I can be even a tiny part of that hope in the world is a hugely meaningful thing to me. Awhile back, I had a bad experience with a therapist/coach who I was using to actually work with me on my professional anxiety. She got very rude about romance, and said some things that made me really think about why it is I write romance, and why I love it, and why I think it has an important place in the world. And then I asked my group why they read romance, and I was just staggered at the huge range of answers I got, and also, incidentally, the support I got after that bad experience.

It proves to me that we are all in this shared, supportive community together, and honestly, there is nowhere else I would rather be.

I also have to say the characters are my favorite thing. Because there is nothing more wonderful to me than occupying a character’s mind for a few months. These guys (and occasionally these girls! Because I absolutely adore writing strong female side characters) become like friends and family to me during the time I spend with them. I know them inside and out. I have conversations with them. We talk about stuff that never ends up in the book. And the best part about writing in this shared universe is that I never really have to say goodbye to them. They’re always around, always wanting to be involved, to show up in this chapter or that new book.

I never in a million years thought I could be making a living doing this thing I love so much, so yes, I definitely have to say first the readers, because readers are who makes that possible, and I could not be more grateful, and second, the characters, because those guys are who roped the readers in in the first place.

How can we connect with you?