Bett Norris


The Next Big Thing: Writers Discuss New Work

I’ve been tagged by my friend and fellow writer, the inimitable Joan Opyr, (Shaken and Stirred) to be #30 in a series of blog posts designed to get writers to talk about their newest book (What’s Best for Jane) or their work-in-progress (Brown Eyes).  The idea is to encourage us to promote our work and to gin up interest in upcoming books. Who knew writers needed to be encouraged to talk about themselves? Here goes.

What is the working title of your book?

Brown Eyes. Let me state up front that I never choose titles for my novels. I name the file, of course, usually with the main character’s name. But I wrote a little piece in the first draft of this story, set in the late 19th century, early 20th, that I really liked, and from that came this working title.

Where did the idea come from for the book? Seriously, I got into researching my own family background, and learned a few interesting tidbits that stuck with me. In trying to trace my own genealogy, I found a little mystery. I spent a lot of time in family cemeteries and online, just trying to answer a simple question about my family roots. It is really hard to describe the feeling you get when you find that elusive piece of paper that tells you something for sure that had always existed only in family lore, in hints and hushed phrases, whispered stories, half-remembered tales from front porches on late evenings. When you hold a document in your hand that says, I guess that story about my heritage might be, must be true, it feels like you are transported back to that time and place.

What genre does your book fall under?

I suppose you can call it historical fiction, or fictional memoir, or a generational saga. I don’t think about that when I am writing, following an idea about a character. No one really sits down and says, I am going to write a romance novel, a science fiction novel, a murder mystery. Writers sit down and say, I am going to write the most astounding novel so great that it can never be categorized or duplicated, the great novel of the Western world, etc.  At least, that’s what I tell myself. It is going to be the best, most poignant, funniest, blah, blah, so on. In fact, we all tell ourselves when we sit down to write, all aflame with our brilliant ideas, that this book is really going to be the next big thing.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Let’s talk about What’s Best for Jane, if we are casting a movie. I like Ellen Page. She can play all the characters, young Jane, teen-aged Jane, old Miss McGhee, she can even play Jane’s parents. It would be great.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Things, and people, aren’t always what they seem.

What is the longer synopsis of your book?

A girl grows up in the rural South, on a farm at the end of a dusty dirt road. She wonders about her family, about the societal heritage lost to them because of the Civil War, about the secret heritage no one talks about, ever, and she wonders about herself, why she doesn’t seem to really belong, about where she will go when she grows up, because she can’t stay there, on that muddy-in-the-spring, dusty-in-the-summer farm. She can’t forever run barefoot through the woods when the dogwoods first bloom, because she is a girl, who will become a woman. And what if she doesn’t want to keep the family secret? What if she wants to embrace the secret part of her heritage?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Ha. I will submit this masterpiece to Bywater Books when it is finished. They get first dibs. Bywater is doing something amazing, and finding some amazing writers and books.  I want to be on the Bywater list, just because I want to rub shoulders with all the excellent writers they are publishing these days, like Jill Malone, Sally Bellerose, Hillary Sloin, and Joan Opyr. Val McDermid. Georgia Beers. Jesse Blackadder. I can go on.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started over a year ago, got 50,000 words in, and that’s when the family research really took hold, so I may be starting over. Usually, a first draft comes to me in a dream, all in a piece, and I sit down and don’t stop writing until it is finished. It will go through several drafts. In fact, I don’t really stop working on it until an editor takes it away from me.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My mother died four years ago. Grieving is a process, they say. I found myself wanting to ask her questions about the family history, like I did all my life, and now I can’t any more. So I started looking.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

How about a mocked up cover?

Sample Book Cover

A lot of people have asked me to write something funny. I can’t say yet if this is the book for humor, but I can tell you that writing funny is very difficult, and attempting it greatly increases my admiration for writers like Mari SanGiovanni, Lisa Gitlin, and Joan Opyr who do it so well.

Tune in next Wednesday over at to see Lisa Gitlin tackle the same questions.

2 responses to “The Next Big Thing: Writers Discuss New Work

  1. Sally Bellerose January 17, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Even your synopsis had great heart – can’t wait to read this booj, Brett.


  2. Andi Marquette January 19, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Rock on, Bett! Looking forward to this one!


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