Today, I am meeting my friend, Bette A. Stevens, at the local tea room for a spot of afternoon tea and some of those cute little cake things with the pastel colored frosting. Actually, now that I look around, everything in this place is pastel colored. That’s not important though. What is important is Bette’s new book Amazing Matilda.
Naomi: Let’s start with just a brief synopsis of your book. In 20 words or less, tell me what it’s about.
Bette: AMAZING MATILDA faces challenges, but she never gives up on her dream. She succeeds with encouragement from her meadowland friends.
Naomi: Before we continue with the interview, I just have to say that I am very proud of you, Bette. You have diligently kept your summary to 20 words. That must be your school teacher training. Now, who is your favorite character and why?
Bette: Matilda is the featured star of the show. Her friends, Toad and Rabbit, who laugh at her aspirations at first, play a crucial role by encouraging Matilda to learn how to fly with their own stories of how they learned to do all of the things they really wanted to do. Meanwhile, Sparrow represents the character whose unconditional love and encouragement we all seek and need in our lives. Choosing a favorite character is not easy. I love them all.
Naomi: I’m afraid I love all these little desserts too but unfortunately, life is full of choices. Alright, the yellow one. No wait! The green one. If Toad and Rabbit or Sparrow called you up tomorrow and said, “Hey, let’s go do something,” what would it be and where would you go with them? That’s assuming they could call. Can those little woodland creatures use the phone? Perhaps they can only text? Maybe Toad can text but Rabbit has to email while Sparrow just tells Siri to place the call for him.
Bette: It’s fantasy.
Bette: Anyway, I’d jump up and down and flap my wings and say, “Sparrow, I want to be just like you. Let’s fly around the world and you can help me show children everywhere how very special they are. We’ll show them that, like Matilda, they can do all of the things they really want to do!”
Naomi: What’s the hardest part about writing your book?
Bette: The hardest part was keeping it simple enough for a child to grasp the lessons these characters have to teach us all. I wanted it to be an adventure, a mystery and have a happy ending, all while encouraging positive character traits without being preachy. And, of course, the language had to be fun and filled with vivid images to “show” the real life cycle of a butterfly. It took a lot of work, a lot of rewrites and a lot of encouragement from friends and family. Like all of those things in life that we really want to do, it was a lot of work, but lots of fun and very rewarding.
Naomi: That’s so interesting. Writing a children’s book may actually be more difficult than something aimed at adults. It’s critical that your grammar is correct and that the book be engaging as well understandable by the age level. For adults, some authors need only slap a few obscenities together along with a plot line that consists of getting “it” and then getting “some more” and what do you know, a commercial success, commas and structure be damned. Do you do anything else besides write and if so what is it?
Bette: I call myself a “nature nut.” I collect everything from seashells to birds’ nests and use them to decorate my home or make baskets or ornaments as gifts. When I was teaching, my classrooms were filled with all of these treasures of nature. They gave us lots of inspiration for writing, reading and research. I also enjoy drawing and painting and searching for treasures (to me) at thrift shops and yard sales. Now that my husband Dan and I are retired, I enjoy day trips to the coast when we’re not busy renovating our 37-acre farmstead in Maine. Gardening and cooking/baking are also on my list. Oh, yes, I almost forgot READING! I am a member of the Book Club at our town library and am actively involved in a Bible Study. And of course, now that I’m “online,” I’m learning new things about writing and publishing and meeting lots of wonderful new friends, like you, Naomi.
Naomi: What’s the ugliest thing in your closet?
Bette: A green mosquito-net hooded jacket that becomes the essence of my high garden fashion when the bugs are out to get me. It is UGLY! But, the veggies are SO GOOD…
Naomi: Over here on this coast, we don’t have that problem with bugs. Instead, we have thick slimy creatures called slugs and no amount of mosquito-netting will keep them away. What’s in the bottom of your purse, backpack, attaché or whatever you carry?
Bette: Lots of tissues, a few bedraggled BAND-AIDS. The grandkids or I haven’t cut ourselves in a while. Oh, yes, the all-important lip gloss and mascara. Those little extras-in-waiting just in case I leave in a rush and forget to put on my makeup. I have made that mistake a few times!
Naomi: I make that mistake daily. Then, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder who unlocked the attic door. Name one character in your book that reminds you of a real person and tell us who it is and how they are similar.
Bette: That would be Sparrow. She reminds me of my Grandma Babcock. Grandma had eight children and more than 30 grandchildren. According to her, we were all the most unique and important human beings to ever grace the earth’s surface. She told the world about it, too. I got to spend two weeks with her every summer. That was my good fortune!
Naomi: You were indeed fortunate and with 29 other cousins, it was even better if she was able to recall your name. Did you ever wonder if you were a little crazy for writing fiction?
Bette: Maybe a little bit crazy that I could write fiction. I’ve always loved reading fiction, especially historical and contemporary (including literary) fiction. All of the novels that I have read over the years have played a role in enriching my life in some way. A creative writing class in college served as an impetus. I got hooked! I had so many stories that I wanted to tell.
Naomi: Did your friends ever wonder the same thing?
Bette: Not sure, but, fortunately, if they did, they never told me. Family and friends have been great advocates, encouraging me through sunshine and snowstorms. Oops, forgot to put snowshoeing on my list of things I love to do!
Naomi: That’s wonderful, Bette and good luck to you.
Bette and I have finished our tea and cakes are now going to head out in pursuit of antique treasures which others have thrown away as trash. While we’re auditioning for the Roadshow, you can find Bette and her book online at:
Amazon (Amazing Matilda: A Monarch’s Tale)
Bette A. Stevens Blog
Author Bette A. Stevens Web Page