Interview with women’s fiction author Bethany Askew

cover for i know you don't iMy special guest today is women’s fiction author Bethany Askew to chat with me about I Know You, Don’t I?

During her virtual book tour, Bethany will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops, and enter there, too!

Bethany Askew is the author of six novels: The Time BeforeThe World WithinOut of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed and I know you, don’t I?

She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm.

Bethany likes to write about women’s lives and is particularly interested in their role in society, their positions as wife and mother and the impact of marriage, children and divorce on family dynamics.

Bethany was born and brought up in Somerset and has lived there all her life. A Dispensing Optician by profession, she was able to fulfil her lifelong ambition to be a writer when she retired from employed work seven years ago. She is married and has four grown-up children and six grandchildren.

Welcome, Bethany. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Optician Carly Spurway moves back to the West Country to start a new life and put her past mistakes behind her. When she is mistaken for old schoolfriend Caroline Westminster she seizes the opportunity to create a whole new persona.

As the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred, the web of deceit Carly weaves around herself for protection, threatens instead to trap her.

But what has happened in her past to make Carly want to escape? And is Caroline’s life as perfect as Carly thinks it is?

This story explores how well we really know the people we have relationships with; the different versions of the truth we tell ourselves and others; and the impact of the past on the present.

What inspired you to write this book?
This story was inspired by an incident that happened to me one day. I was sitting in a cafe when a woman came up to me and said, “I know you, don’t I? You’re Catherine. We went to school together.”

I told her she was mistaken, and we laughed, but afterwards I thought, “What if I had said I was Catherine? I could have invented a whole new life for myself, pretended I was someone else.”

I have always been interested in identity, on the different characters we assume in different situations and with different people, and the versions of the past we tell ourselves and others.

Excerpt from I Know You, Don’t I?:
Carly may not be jealous but Mark, illogically, is. With no one to be jealous of in her present life, he’s jealous of anyone in her past.

“Is this your grandmother’s wedding ring?” he asks one evening, idly twisting the plain gold band on her right ring finger. She could lie, but why should she?

“No,” she says. “It’s mine.”

She couldn’t bear to take it off, couldn’t bear to think of one of her last links with Graham shoved at the back of a drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day again. Anyway, she argued to herself, her marriage might be over but it was still a part of her life. Why should she be ashamed of it? So, with the aid of a bar of soap, she had forced it over the bigger knuckle on her right hand. Now she can’t get it off again. She even wears her engagement ring with it sometimes–the antique diamond solitaire she and Graham had bought in a little shop in the Cotswolds. It was always a bit big and she’s glad now that she never had it re-sized. No one else has noticed, and she’s surprised Mark has. But he’s noticed a lot of things lately: the new top she bought, the inch she had cut off her hair, the new perfume she’s started wearing. They’re lying in bed naked as he twists the ring on her finger, in that quiet and sated time that follows sex. Carly is on her side, Mark curled around her back. She can’t see his face, but she can tell from his silence when she tells him it’s her own wedding ring that he’s not pleased. She knows that if she turns to look at him, his face will have that stern unsmiling look he has when he’s talking about Paula.

“What about before?” he asks suddenly.

“Before what?” she says, confused.

“Before you were married. You must have had other boyfriends. That boy at college—Greg what’s-his-name—did you sleep with him?”

She almost laughs. It seems so absurd to be jealous of a boy he taught at college. “No,’” she answers. She can’t imagine Caroline would ever have slept with Greg, not while they were both at home anyway. And obviously they split up after that.

“What about at uni then?” he asks.

“Oh, you know…” she says vaguely.

“I want to know,” he says. “Tell me.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
My work in progress is called “You Must Remember This….” It’s a bit of a departure for me. There’s far more mystery in this book than in my previous ones. I don’t want to give away the story in advance, but I have finished the first draft and it should be ready to send to my publishers in early spring. I have another women’s fiction novel, “The Next Step”, being published by Wallace Publishing next year.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It took a while! I wrote my first book, “The Time Before”, while I was still working part-time and I considered it a hobby really, something to channel my creative energies into. It took me about two years to write and even at the time, I realised it wasn’t good enough to be published. It was an important learning process, however, and when I sat down to write my second one, “Out of Step”, I had more idea of how to tackle characters, timing and plot development. I have never had any formal training, but like all authors I read a lot so I have an instinctive feel for the pace of writing and the right place to start a new chapter, etc. I published my second novel “Out of Step” as an eBook on Amazon Kindle and, encouraged by the reviews, my next novel, Counting the Days was published as a hard back book. It was one of the proudest moments of my life when I held the book in my hands for the first time. That was when I thought of myself as a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write when the mood takes me. Certainly not every day. I write in fits and starts, sometimes just a few sentences, other times long sections. My fellow authors in writing groups tell me I should have some sort of routine and they extoll the virtues of special writing software, but I just write the book in one document adding chapters as I go. I’ve written ten novels this way so it works for me! Because I write sporadically I never find I don’t have enough time. When I am not writing, I enjoy reading, listening to music, going to the theatre, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
For an organized person who likes her day, week and even year planned in advance, I am surprisingly disorganized when it comes to writing! I start off with an idea for a book, I jot down a few notes in a notebook. I begin to visualize my characters and their ages, and I write these in my notebook. So far, so well-planned. It’s when I start writing the book that my organization goes to pot! Ideas come to me at the strangest times: when I’m driving or in the shower or cooking. I grab a piece of paper, sometimes a shopping list or an old envelope, and scribble it down. I keep a pad of paper and a pen in my bed side drawer for those ideas that come to me when I’m drifting off to sleep. I have been known to stop the car to write something down or drive merrily past the turning I needed while I work out what a character is going to do next. These scrappy pieces of paper, sometimes totally illegible, are tucked inside the front of my planning notebook, held in place by a rubber band. As the book progresses, they are crumpled up and thrown away until there are none left and the book is finished!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer, unsurprisingly. I always knew I could write. When I was little, I used to write stories in an exercise book and read them aloud to my brother and sister and anyone else who would listen! I was good at English and not so good at science subjects, but we choose our careers for a number of reasons and I ended up becoming a Dispensing Optician. Deep down, however, there was a creative energy waiting to be released and I have finally achieved my childhood ambition.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I would just say that it’s never too late to achieve your life’s goal.

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