Women In SFF Author Spotlight – Betsy Dornbusch (THE SILVER SCAR)
Betsy Dornbusch writes epic fantasy, and has dabbled in science fiction, thrillers, and erotica. Her short fiction has appeared in over twenty magazines and anthologies, and she’s the author of three novellas. Her first fantasy novel came out in 2012 and her latest trilogy, Books of the Seven Eyes, wrapped up with Enemy in 2017. The Silver Scar, a standalone future fantasy novel, was called “a spellbinding saga” by Publisher’s Weekly. She likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, and the Denver Broncos. Betsy and her family split their time between Boulder and Grand Lake, Colorado.
Welcome to the Hive, Betsy. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Only one? No fair! Martha Wells is one of my favorite authors and this year I’ve ripped through the Murderbot series. I’m now reading Network Effect. I also recently read Ashley Gardener’s Death at Brighton Pavilion. Her series took me off guard because I never thought I’d like Regency anything, but it’s great. She also just started a series about a gladiator that is really fun. I’ve also been reading a lot of KJ Charles. All fun summertime reads.
In nonfiction I’m reading Elizabeth George’s From Idea to Novel, and a lot of what she says resonates with my process, but the book is definitely helping me refine my planning stages.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m not a gamer so I’m not really sure. A fighter with magic, I assume.
Violently magical. That’s me.
Ha! That sounds like a great book title…
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?)
Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I get my best writing done in my jammies when I haven’t really done anything else that day. I’m the worst multi-tasker ever so having appointments or other things to do screw me up. I like music just fine but sometimes forget to put it on in lieu of outdoor noises (my office door leads to my backyard and fountain and neighborhood noises). I typety-type to draft and revise, and hand write in my story bible to shake up my thinking.
I tend to write a tagline, a query paragraph, (both of which I run by my agent) and then a synopsis (which no one sees but me). For short stories I write very detailed, structured outlines. Then I write a draft with constant, rolling revisions so that by the time it’s finished it’s pretty clean. I recently wrote complete character studies for the WIP, which is totally new to my process and is really interesting and helpful. It seems every book requires a stop-and-take-stock interlude in the middle of drafting.
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I think I already mentioned Martha Wells, but also an extremely incomplete list includes Kameron Hurley, Naomi Novik, Robin Hobb, Charlie Jane Anders, Carol Berg, Nnedi Okorafor, VE Schwab…
A lot of the usual suspects but not just because I always read everything they write but because I see them online and at conventions and they are great people.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I have a total crush on Scotland from writing my last book (and doing family research on our Scottish heritage through our Fraizer/ Fraser line) and I also devour English mysteries on TV and in books, so I watched Loch Ness, which was pretty interesting. For fun I love Maine Cabin Masters. One of my former careers and current interests is building and interior design.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
A summer day? Boating on Grand Lake, Colorado.
A winter day? Reading or snowboarding.
A rainy day? Drinking beer with my brothers.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m working on a Robin Hood-esque fantasy and so far it is the biggest pain-in-the-ass book I’ve ever written. Pandemics also do not help the writing process.
They certainly do not!
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Most helpful: Put your phone in the other room.
Least helpful: Write the first draft without stopping.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Every day is hard, I think, and distractions are plenty. It really helps me get back into the story to do a little revising on previous scenes. I also just took a class on writer’s productivity. Great timing as my youngest son just graduated from high school. It’s a time of change for me personally, so I’m in the process of reorganizing my work life too.
The best two helps for me:
Put my phone in another room
Plan on only getting three things done in a day if one of them is writing.
I make a daily list in my Filofax (yeah kickin it old school) which reminds me that if I do writing, yoga, and some laundry I’ve actually had a productive day.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Post-Pandemic; all of Europe. Hubcap and I are currently considering countries to retire to, though it’s tough to even think of leaving Colorado.
Who are your favourite female characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of female character you enjoy writing?
I’m super bad at recalling names of characters but I generally really like most characters I read and watch, otherwise I wouldn’t spend any time with them. I’m famous for turning off movies and putting down books.
I really enjoy writing bad-ass mothers, mostly because they aren’t taking anybody’s shit anymore. Early on in the second book of my trilogy, there’s a scene with a hugely pregnant mama defending herself with a sword and it was one of the scenes I think I most easily visualized. Moms are just pretty awesome in general and I consider them underrepresented as main characters in fantasy and science fiction.
Someday when I’m past the PTSD of the teenage years I’ll write a book about a bad-ass mom.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I think Carol Berg’s work should get much more attention than it does, and not just because she’s a friend of mine!
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
I have several books and stories out. Most current novel is The Silver Scar, which is set in future Boulder Colorado and features a Christian soldier and a Wiccan eco-terrorist trying to stop a religious crusade and the use of dangerous magic amid their slow burn gay romance.
My most recent short story is a weird western historical mystery in the anthology Straight Outta Deadwood.
Exile, Emissary, and Enemy are a trilogy in which Draken just wants to find out who murdered his wife and return home but ends up in a war with the gods.
Archive of Fire is an urban fantasy in which twin brothers are recruited into Sentinel, a secret organization that fights many legions of demons on behalf of humankind. One reviewer called it “Supernatural on Steroids.”
That’s brilliant! Thank you so much for joining us today, Betsy!