Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interview with Betsy St. Amant

I'm super thrilled to have author Betsy St. Amant with us today! Betsy is a multi-published author through Steeple Hill. She also has a short story that appeared in a Tyndale compilation. In addition, she freelances for her local newspaper. She is the proud wife of a fireman, busy mommy to a toddler, and an avid reader. 

Today, Betsy is here to talk with us about her first young adult novel, which releases this January!  

Questions & Answers with Betsy St. Amant 

I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. Most of your books have been written for the romance market. Why the switch to young adult fiction? 

The way this story came about is nothing short of a God-thing. It started when a publisher requested my romance proposal at an ACFW conference a few years ago. She rejected the story because of the current market but asked if I wrote YA. I’d always wanted to try it, but never had. I thought I’d give it a shot, because who would say no to a publisher’s request anyway? ::wink:: I brainstormed with a friend for a YA plot and we both realized that my “secret book” was already perfect for what the publisher wanted – my secret book being a novel I had started recently as a just-for-fun, never-see-the-light-of-day book, that only this particular friend knew about. The really interesting part is that while that publisher ended up rejecting Addison 
at committee level, Barbour swooped in and picked it up immediately after. Talk about God opening doors! And I still write romance, as evidenced by the strong romance thread in Addison’s story. I can’t help it J
Did you find it more difficult than you anticipated to write a young adult novel?

Actually, I think it was easier. Writing first person and really becoming Addison for a time made me feel like I was putting back on my own teenage skin. It was a really fun experience!

Compared to most authors in this genre, you're still fairly young yourself. At what age were you first published?

I still get carded at the movie theater, but I’m 27 J My first novel was published in January 2007 by The Wild Rose Press’s (now known as White Rose Publishing) inspirational line. It’s a romantic suspense titled MIDNIGHT ANGEL and while everyone looks back with a little bit of embarrassment at their first book, it will always be special to me.  J So to answer your question, when the book released in January 2007 I was 23.

Can you tell us a little bit about your newest novel? 
So glad you asked! J I can’t tell you how much I love Addison. Her story is one I felt led to tell. While I’m not a PK (preacher’s kid) I did grow up in a large church that my grandparents helped found. I had labels and was always “so and so’s grandchild”, not ME. That was a lot of pressure, so I had an idea of what Addison went through, in a lesser extreme. 

I’m also passionate about helping teenagers realize (as I had to realize for myself not too long ago) that they need to KNOW what they believe and why, not just absorb what they’ve heard growing up in church. They need to ask themselves the hard questions, investigate doubts, and go on a spiritual journey for themselves. Otherwise their “hand me down” faith will be nothing but ash at the end. I wanted to compose a story of a character going through that same faith journey. She doesn’t drink like her friends at school—okay, why? She isn’t having sex—okay, why? Addison has to answer those questions among daily temptations that are real and relatable to teens today. 

Before reading this book, I never imagined the pressure that pastor's children must feel. What inspired you to write about a pastor's kid? 
(see above, I already answered this on accident. Lol)

What do you hope young adults will gain from reading this novel?

I hope they’ll laugh and smile and enjoy the story for entertainment purposes, of course, but ultimately, I hope reading Addison Blakely, Confession of a PK will make teenagers evaluate their own hearts—especially those who grew up in church but might not have ever actually made their faith personal and real for themselves. I hope the story will also show non-Christian readers that Christians aren’t perfect and we don’t have all the answers, and that the story will help lead them to Jesus. 

Now, I've been dying to ask this question. Do you use celebrity pictures to cast your characters?  

Sometimes I do, but for this story, I did not. However, a book trailer from my publisher will be coming out soon and you can get a visual on Addison and all her friends then. :)

You deal rather openly with the issue of a personal relationship with Jesus in this novel. Would you be willing to share your own experience with readers?
Of course! I grew up Southern Baptist and had a salvation experience at the age of 7, after a Sunday night church service on heaven and hell that shook me up. I remember talking to my mom in my room on my bed that night and praying the prayer of salvation. Later, I always doubted if that “took” or not, because of my age. I wrestled with the doubts for years, until finally as a teenager, I “got saved again” at a youth rally and really got lit on fire for Jesus. 

Looking back now, I feel confident that my heartfelt prayer as a child was all I needed to be saved, but it was nice to nail down the doubts and know for sure. For me growing up, it was hard to hear preachers talk about “How are you different since you’ve been saved?” Because, well, I was a kid. I didn’t steal or kill or really even lie or cheat as a young child. When you grow up in church, and don’t have a lot of trouble being a “good girl” in the first place, it’s hard to answer those questions. But now I see that it’s such a blessing when Jesus calls His Children to Him at a young age. It gives that person their entire life to devote to Him. This is part of what Addison 
struggles with in the novel. Is her faith real for herself, or is she just living out what got handed down to her?

What did you personally learn while writing this novel?

I learned how much I truly love mochas with sprinkles :). Seriously, I learned a lot about the craft of writing. This was my first story to tell in first-person, so it was one huge craft lesson in tense and pacing. 

You mentioned some classic novels in this story. If you could recommend one to your readers, which would you recommend?   

I would recommend Pride & Prejudice, for sure, and I think every person should read Jane Eyre at least once in their life. I love classics – for the same reasons Addison does :)

We see a lot of coffee in this novel. Are you a regular coffee drinker? If so, what is your favorite coffee? 
I am a die-hard Starbucks white chocolate mocha fan. Their peppermint mocha is a good seasonal break, and one time they had a dark chocolate cherry mocha that was awesome at Valentine’s Day, but I always go back to my true love ;)
Is there any verse in the Bible or biblical account that you love more than others? 
My life verse is Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It’s special to me, because faith is special to me, and I love the mystical/spiritual quality of trusting in what you can’t see. When we trust Jesus to this level, when we show Him our hopelessness and dependency on Him, that’s when He really works in our lives. It’s beautiful.

You mention Carrie Underwood living in your character's ipod? I have to ask this. Do you listen to Carrie Underwood yourself and did you have Cowboy Casanova in mind when you wrote the Wes scenes?   
I LOVE Carrie Underwood and really, I heart country music in general. I’m Louisiana born and raised, and while I adore my high-heeled shoes and flirty dresses and Starbucks mochas, I also love shooting rifles, wearing cowboy boots, cooking deer meat and attempting to shoot my husband’s bow and arrow. Haha! So I had to give Carrie a shout out in this novel. I didn’t have Cowboy Casanova in mind when I wrote Wes’ scenes, but wow it fits, doesn’t it? J  I actually incorporated a lot of emotion and scenes from Taylor Swift’s lyrics in this novel. They’re subtle, but they’re there

If you had to recommend one Bible study to young adults for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?

This is tough, since I feel like every Beth Moore Bible Study she writes is just better than the last one! I’d have to say though that every teen should do Beth Moore’s “Believing God.”

And finally, can you tell us what to expect next from you? 
Sure! My next Love Inspired romance is coming out in March 2012! It’s called HER FAMILY WISH and is about a female photographer and a hunky vice principal/single dad. It’s a story of internal and external scars, biases, unfulfilled dreams, and God’s unconditional love and acceptance—along with a strong romance thread, of course :) I hope you’ll love Hannah and Jude as much as I do!

Looking forward to it! It's been wonderful to have you on here today! Thank you so much for stopping by Shelf Life!

If you'd like to learn more about Betsy, you can visit her website and blog, or find her on Facebook and Twitter!

Right now, Betsy has an awesome quiz on her website!

Find out which character you would date from Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK!


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