CORTLAND – Liz Botts is always writing books.
She’s always publishing them as well.
“I work on multiple things at the same time,” she said. “I have all these stories. I always have a new idea. There’s always something that sparks you.”
The Cortland author recently released her 10th novel, “News Flash,” just in time for prom, which is appropriate, since that’s the book’s central theme. Accordng to a news release, the book takes a humorous perspective, in which a girl who isn’t even sure she wants to go to prom ends up being an integral part of the event.
Her first novel, “In the Spotlight,” was published in 2011. In total, she has published six novels – two for adults and four for young adults – three novellas and an anthology of short stories.
Between writing and home schooling her three children, Botts talked with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson about writing.
Oleson: Have you always written?
Botts: Yes and no. I took creative writing in high school and learned to write there. I also kept a journal, which was always important. I spent most of math and science creating characters that were more interesting. In chemistry, I had two notebooks: one for notes, the other for writing. I probably shouldn’t have been doing that, but that’s what I was doing.
Oleson: Most of your books are for “young adults.” Exactly what age is that?
Botts: The distinction between young adult and new adult, as I understand it, is simply the age of the characters. So YA has characters under 18, usually in high school, and NA has characters who are generally age 18-24, college age and just starting out.
Some of my books appeal to younger readers, and some to older ones.
Oleson: How did you get interested in writing for that particular age group?
Botts: Working with teenagers made it easy to write for teenagers, and being around them a lot. Their stories were a lot of the inspirations for the first book.
Oleson: How would you characterize your books?
Botts: My books are considered in the sweet clean section: no swearing, no sex, and no drugs. It doesn’t mean they don’t deal with heavy issues. My publisher doesn’t publish fluff. There can be drugs or sex or violence in a story, but they can’t be there for shock value or for sales. It has to have an actual role in your character’s development, rather than just tossing it in say, ‘Hey, look at me.’
‘Twilight’ is actually pretty clean for fiction. She (author Stephanie Meyer) wrote her values into it in a way. That’s sort of what clean fiction is: trying to stay within the bounds of good taste.
Oleson: What was your first published novel?
Botts: My first book was ‘In the Spotlight.’ It came out in June of 2011. It’s a young adult book, a coming-of-age story. It’s my only book in print. It wasn’t the first manuscript I wrote, but the first one I sent out. It was part of the National Writing Project Model in November. You write 50,000 words in a month. I got out the 50,000 words quickly.
It was rejected by the publisher that (eventually) took it. I don’t like rejections. Rejection isn’t fun. Being new to the publishing world, I wanted to hear feedback on what would make it better. I listened and made the changes. Within 24 hours (of resubmitting it), I had a contract. I was shocked. So it pays to listen to the people who reject you. They are looking for things.
Oleson: How long did the rewrite take?
Botts: Not as long as one might think. I was pregnant, so I wasn’t doing much, so I rewrote it. I got through it really quickly. When they (kids) are very little and they sleep a lot, you can get a lot done.
Oleson: How long does it normally take to write a book?
Botts: Some take a really long time. The one that came out in February, it took over a year. Some I can write within a month. That doesn’t mean they are ready for submissions. That’s rare. It just depends on the story, and how likeable the characters are. They are talking a lot in my head, telling me the story. When they’re quiet, it’s harder to gauge where the story should be going.
Oleson: Do you ever write about things that happen to you?
Botts: When I write them, I can see DeKalb High School in my books as they maneuver through their day. ...I have one book, I don’t say NIU, but you can tell.
Oleson: So where did the idea for this story come from?
Botts: I had a dream about them (the main characters) and that’s where it came from, so I started writing about them. It came pretty quickly.
Oleson: Are any of your books a series?
Botts: Most are new characters. Very few recur. There is a sequel to my first book. The first book ends with their junior year. The second book (“Curtain Call”) is five years later, at the end of their junior year in college. It was difficult to write because they were different characters. They had to grow up.
Oleson: Who is your publisher?
Botts: Astaea Press, out of Alabama. Since they are smaller, I have to do all the marketing and publicity.
Oleson: Did you contact them or did they contact you?
Botts: I found them. I had a friend who published with them, so I contacted them. They started in late 2010. The owner has grown it very well. She has a couple of authors on the New York Times bestseller list. They are well-respected in their field, I think. I like working with them. They are really professional, and very trustworthy. I have heard horror stories about publishing, but I haven’t had any bad experiences with them. I feel very lucky for that.
Oleson: Do they ever suggest the theme for a book?
Botts: My publisher often has open calls with themes, like the prom one. Anyone can submit a novel by the set deadline. My publisher does not tell me what to write about.
Oleson: Where can someone find your books?
Botts: They’re on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or any other book dealer.
Oleson: Any advice for aspiring writers?
Botts: If people want to be published, (e-publishing) is a good way to go. They are willing to take a chance on people who don’t have agents, who don’t have any other contacts, who are just starting out. I think it’s a nice way to start a writing career if that’s what you want to do. Just check your ego at the door, and get what you can from rejection letters to get the most you can out of them.
There are a lot of good books out there if they didn’t take a chance on them. E-book moves much faster (than printed books). You have a longer shelf life. It’s always going to be there.
Oleson: So when do you start your next book?
Botts: There are no breaks. The idea is always to have another book coming. I’m working on something right now. I’ve always got a preliminary edit for my next book that is probably going to come out next summer. It’ll be my 11th book. You always have to work on your next thing. That’s just how it is.
I am working on quite a few things, and I like that. It helps me if I get stuck on one thing, you can move on to something else. You have things to focus on so you don’t get frustrated. It doesn’t work for everyone. But it works for me.