Meet Author Leeann Betts!
LM: You write both historical and contemporary suspense. Do you have a preference?
LB: As my real life persona, Donna Schlachter, I love both. As Leeann Betts, well, I’m very contemporary even though I’m getting up in years. I like to write about contemporary characters who need another chance from our second. . . and third. . . and fourth-chance God. Donna likes writing history because she loves researching history. Me not so much.
LM: You use a pen name for your contemporary fiction? Was that your idea or your agent's? How did you select the name?
LB: It was actually my first agent’s idea. She felt that Schlachter was too far down in the alphabet, and that I needed a name closer to the front. Lee is my husband’s middle name, Ann is his mother’s name, and Betts was my mom’s nickname in nursing school.
LM: Your book "No accounting for Murder" is about a forensic accountant. How much research was required for you to learn about that field?
LB: I--or rather Donna--is an accountant by training. She loves doing audits, and I love asking the What If? Questions. I researched types of accountants when I was coming up with my character, and a forensic accountant uncovers hidden assets such as money and offshore bank accounts, and often testifies in court cases such as divorce and estate issues.
LM: Do you have any unusual research incidents?
LB: So the opening scene for There Was a Crooked Man, the second book in the series, takes place on an airplane. Carly sees what looks like a suspicious death that an equally suspicious-looking doctor on board claims is natural causes. I had no clue how that would be handled on a real airplane, particularly post-9-11. So one day I was in an airport, between flights, and I saw a man in a flight officer’s uniform eating at the next table. I went over, introduced myself, gave him my writer’s business card, and asked, “If someone died on your plane, what is the protocol?” He said he wasn’t sure and that I should call the airline public relations office. As I turned to leave, he pulled out his cell phone. I headed for my gate, and when I turned around, there were two police officers following me. Really. When I walked, they walked. When I stopped, they stopped. I was already through security, so I guess they didn’t see any immediate risk. But they followed me all the way to the gate. That was nerve-wracking!
LB: I am fairly observant, and I have good hearing, so I listen in on people’s conversations. I notice oddities, such as if someone goes into a restroom wearing a jacket and comes out without it. That gets me to thinking about disguises. I also read the newspaper from cover to cover, and find ideas in anything from “This day in history” to obituaries. Plus I like to wander in cemeteries and take pictures of peculiar headstones.
LM: I love cemeteries too! Are any of your characters based on real people?
LB: Okay, confession time. Carly is a lot like me. Her husband Mike is a lot like my husband. As for the rest, most are bits and pieces of people I know or have met.
LM: Age-old question for writers: are you a panster or a plotter?
LB: I am a plotter. I write down 2 to 3 sentences about every chapter to keep me on track. And no, it’s not boring. I still allow my characters to say or do something I wasn’t expecting. They might even take the story in a different direction. Just like when I travel, I might miss an exit or see something else I want to do along the way. Just like when I travel, I have my hotel reservation already made, so I know where I’m going to be at the end, and I have some things selected to do along the way (my major plot points), but I’ve been known to take a 100-mile detour because I saw a sign that said, “point of interest.”
LM: Besides writing, what are your other passions?
LB: My Jesus, my husband, my family, and an international ministry we’re involved in that reaches the lost for Christ. I like to read, watch police procedural and forensics programs, and take part in forensics stuff whenever I can.
LM: Sounds very interesting! What's your next project?
LB: There is rarely a clear dividing line between my current and my next project because it seems I’m always working on several things at once. I am editing several novels on a professional basis, editing one of my own, writing a series of Christian living books that will come out about one every six to eight weeks, and writing a novella for a traditional publisher.
LM: What else should people know about you?
LB: I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe that writers write. There is a difference between being a writer and wanting to be a writer. You can go to all the conferences you want, but if you never sit down when the writing is tough and push through, you aren’t really a writer. Just saying.
Thanks for taking time to chat with me, Leeann! You are one busy lady.
Learn more about Leeann and Donna on their website: www.livebytheword.com.
NEW RELEASE: Second Chances and Second Cups – sweet stories about a second-chance God – available on Amazon.com in print and digital, and on Smashwords in digital
WRITING AS LEEANN BETTS: Counting the Days-a 31-day devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk. No Accounting for Murder – book 1 in the By the Numbers series, featuring Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant. Carly has a nose for mystery that gets her into trouble. Book 2, There was a Crooked Man, released in Novembr 2015, Book 3, Unbalanced, released January 2016, 5 and 20 Blackbirds is due out April 2016, with more to follow.
WRITING WITH LEEANN BETTS: Writing Nuggets of Gold – a compilation of short essays on writing meant to inspire and educate. Released November 2015