Friday, April 11, 2008


Bettye Griffin writes women’s fiction for Dafina Books. Her 14th novel, Once Upon a Project, will be released on April 29th. A native of Yonkers, New York, Bettye lives in the Far North Chicago suburbs with her husband. For more about Bettye and her books, visit her web site ( and her blog (


Turning 50 is especially traumatic for four lifelong friends who grew up in the projects of Chicago's South Side.

ELYSE considers herself to be in her prime, but her husband, 13 years her senior, is slowing down. Is old age creeping up on him, or is something really wrong?

SUSAN's breast cancer has created a rift in her marriage. Fortunately, there's someone waiting to love and care for her. But illness is expensive. Dare she take her children and just walk out on the comforts and security her millionaire husband provides?

PAT gave up the love of her life to please her parents and never recovered . . . or married. Now a new man enters her life. Will she grab a late-life chance at happiness . . . or will her lingering feelings for a love long gone create a new barrier?

GRACE, twice divorced and her only child grown with a family of her own, fears growing old alone. Can she actually find happiness with a younger, less successful man?

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

Just a feeling that it was time well spent. I definitely wouldn’t want anyone to say, ‘Well, that’s six hours of my life I’ll never get back.” But there’s no lesson to be learned, no moral. There won’t be a test when you’re done. I just want readers to enjoy the story. It ain’t homework.

What do you like about writing mainstream fiction?

For those who don’t know, mainstream fiction was always my first calling. I guess I like it for the obvious reason . . . because my only restrictions are reality and plausibility. There’s no long list of don’ts to follow.

What did you learn while writing this book?

In hindsight, I probably had a lot of nerve, deciding to use the city of Chicago as the setting for my new book (the original setting in my proposal was New York) about longtime residents like I’d lived here all my life (I’d been here less than 6 months when I started writing). I picked up quite a few tidbits about Chicago history, like the Blizzard of ’67 and the evolution of what is now known as Six Flags Great America. A PBS documentary about growing up here in the 1960s helped a lot; and so did my husband, who’s a native of Gary, Indiana (I’m an East Coast girl myself).

What is the hardest part about the writing business?

Probably trying to stay focused. It can be difficult to prepare for the release of a new book while still trying to work on the next one. Sometimes I find I have to leave my WIP untouched for a week at a time, which isn’t good for my output. Fortunately, the enthusiasm I have for my work allows me to jump right back in. It’s not like I can afford to hire an assistant.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I’m not really concerned about being understood, but I do have to laugh at some of the ideas held about writers. To that end I’d say that books don’t just write themselves, and it’s not as easy as it sounds. Okay, so it’s not digging ditches, but nor do you sit down and complete a book in two weeks, get packed for your whirlwind book tour and then wait for the money to roll in. Uh-uh.

What marketing have you found that particularly works well for you?

Probably the simplest one. I never leave the house without a supply of business cards, which I print myself using Print Shop and update regularly (with art from two my most recent releases (I print on both sides of the card). It’s simple, inexpensive, and the net gains can be extraordinary, if that lady who’s reading in the gynecologist’s waiting room turns out to be a newspaperwoman or in public relations for a major corporation.

What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?

Uh . . . where exactly am I? Seriously, I’m just a struggling artist. This question is better reserved for someone a lot higher on the mountain.

This month our theme is Men In Fiction. Can you give us five male authors you read?

I can’t say that I read anyone’s work on a regular basis – my schedule just doesn’t allow for it – but I did enjoy The Million Dollar Divorce by RM Johnson and look forward to the sequel. I had a hard time putting that one down, which rarely happens for me, even if the book is extremely well-written with a good plot. I thank him for waiting a few years and giving me an opportunity to read other authors in the interim. Carl Weber wrote a novella in a collection called, I believe A Dollar and a Dream that I found remarkably vivid and quite impressive. I thought Casanegra, partly written by Blair Underwood and Stephen Barnes, was the best book I read last year. I read a few of E. Lynn Harris’ early works before coming to the conclusion that I tend to get bored by continuing and connecting stories (although I believe he’s an excellent writer). Strangely enough, I’ve never read an Eric Jerome Dickey novel. My all time favorite book by a male writer has to be Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan. He’s not a black author, but he’s got great wit and was one of the head writers on the Frasier TV show for years and until recently worked on Desperate Housewives (although his later books weren’t nearly as good, at least not for me).

Do you have any advice for the aspiring writer?

Learn your craft, of course. Every writer has a bad habit they need to work on, whether it be sentences that run too long, starting every other sentence with an ‘ing’ verb, etc. Find your weakness and get rid of it.

Finish the book (simple advice, but it tends to separate the men from the boys, as they say) polish it, and then start another.

Remember that a bad agent is worse than no agent.

Ask yourself if you’re well aligned with current market tastes. Are you willing to chuck it all if the market turns toward in a direction you’re uncomfortable with, or are you willing to write whatever sells?

Try to avoid being pigeonholed, unless you’re content to stay in one genre for your entire career.

And plan to be a Luther Vandross, not an Angela Bofill. In other words, if you’re unmarried and want to write full time, for God’s sake get health insurance, or else you’re a charity case waiting to happen.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Bettye: Mail: P.O. Box 9171, Gurnee, IL 60031. Email: . Website: Blog: (comments welcome).


Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Betty, This sounds like something I'd read. Congrats on your new release.

Love & Peace,
Vanessa A Johnson
Author of, When Death Comes a Knockin', a self-help, inspirational book about loss and grief.

bettye griffin said...

Thank you, Vanessa! Continued success to you, as well.

shelia said...

Great interview ladies. I've heard nothing but good things about Once Upon a Project and can't wait to read it myself.

bettye griffin said...

Thanks, Shelia!

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