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Interview with Betsy St Amant

One could say Betsy’s writing career began with a wet towel. While cleaning her sister’s room, she discovered her very first romance novel under that wet towel and decided that someday she would write those novels herself. She shares a little about the journey that took her from finding the novel to having her own published, her writing process, and a God-orchestrated meeting in a bookstore that left her grinning.

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Did you always want to write romance?
I did. My love affair with romance novels began when I was in junior high. My sister had paid me to clean up her room (not uncommon!), and I found a Robin Jones Gunn novel under a damp towel on her floor. At the time, I was still wrapped up in Sweet Valley High and The Baby-Sitters Club books, so this was a totally different kind of read. I was immediately engrossed and proceeded to devour the entire Glenbrooke series from RJG. I loved how she tied the earthly romance into the love of our Heavenly Father. I wanted to write and give readers like me one day a healthy view of love and purity. Almost twenty books later, here we are!

Tacos for Two centers around a food truck. Have you ever worked in one?
I haven't, but I sure love visiting them! We have a lot of food trucks here in Shreveport--Hawaiian food, Mexican, dessert trucks, etc. I love the concept, and my editor at Revell pointed out when I was brainstorming the next novel in my contract that Christian fiction doesn't have a lot of food truck stories. I said, "Well, I'll fix that!" And Tacos for Two was born. I highly recommend reading it with chips and salsa within reach!

Some of your other books also feature food. Do you enjoy cooking or baking? What's your favorite thing to make?
It's always funny when someone asks me this because I really don't! I love reading about it, though, and I also just adore the concept of "spicing things up in the kitchen" for romance novel settings! Plus, bakeries are so aesthetic and fun to write about. I do enjoy consuming cupcakes and French pastries, but I leave the baking of them to my talented middle-schooler, who managed to make some amazing macarons from scratch this year. I am known for rocking a batch of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies, though. The secret is in underbaking them.

What's the funniest thing that has happened to you as a writer?
A few weeks ago, I was in a used bookstore here in Shreveport and heard two women mention Christian fiction. My ears perked up, so I immediately said, "I'm actually an author of Christian fiction, and here are some of my novels" and showed them two of my books on the shelf. They picked up All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes (Zondervan, 2014), and one of them gasped. Then she started shrieking for her friend across the store to "get over here!"

Apparently, these three ladies were on their way home from a weekend girls' trip to Arkansas, and the third woman had just finished reading (and loving, thankfully!) All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes the day before. What were the odds? Only God! We all squealed and took photos together while this sweet woman raved over the story. She got her copy of All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes from the car and I signed it for her. Then I was able to recommend other authors on the shelves. They left loaded down with Christian fiction, and I left with the biggest grin! What a blessing.

You also write for iBelieve. Could you tell more about that?
I love writing for them! iBelieve is such a great resource for women. I usually contribute articles on marriage, divorce, home-making, and various topics of faith. One of the best feelings is when I get an email from a reader who read an article and was encouraged or asks me to pray for them. It's such an honor to get to bless someone with the words God gives me. Soli Deo gloria. <3

Could you tell a little about your publication journey?
I technically started writing short stories and fan fiction (before I even knew that was a thing!) when I was about seven years old, and my dad brought home our first family computer. We're talking a DOS system, here! When I got older, I realized if I wanted to be published and fulfill my dream of writing Christian romance like RJG and other literary heroes before me, I had to do something legit about it. So I started attending writing conferences, networking, and learning the craft of writing.

I met Gayle Roper at a writing/speaking conference, and she suggested I join the ACFW. After a few years of membership, I got my agent ::waves at Tamela Hancock Murray:: and my first contract with Love Inspired! I was 24 years old and pregnant with my daughter at the time. Now she's 13 (you can do the math if you wanna know my age!), and I have almost 20 novels and novellas out there in the world. I've also been published with Zondervan, Barbour, Harper Collins, and currently, Revell, along with having dipped my toes into the indie waters with several boxsets of romance novellas.

Sometimes I look over at the shelf of my published novels hanging in my office wall and just have a "glory" moment. It's not always been easy, and there have been a lot of tears, rejections, and bad reviews along the way, but I'm blessed. I'm living my dream.

When writing a book, do you enjoy writing humor or intense scenes more?
So, humorous scenes tend to come more naturally for me. I ease back and just let the characters take over. In my recent novel, The Key To Love, I was literally cracking up while writing all the scenes featuring the eccentric elderly sisters, Mabel and Agnes, as if I had nothing to do with it. They were the stars of the show! But I think I technically enjoy writing the more intense scenes, because it's so therapeutic for me afterward. It's like a purge.

What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?
There's a quote I've heard before about "I don't love writing, I love having written." Some days, that's all too true. There can be something very healing about the writing process, but the feeling you get afterward when you see that finished scene or skim back over that completed chapter is just the best! From someone who thrives on productivity and accomplishment, there's nothing better! Also, my critique partner and I read each other's chapters as we write them and provide mild edits and feedback, so one of my favorite parts of writing would be knowing I get to send it to her immediately and know if I'm on target. It's certainly easier to stay motivated when someone whose opinion you value is eagerly awaiting your next scene!

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope readers close Tacos for Two with a smile, a craving for tacos, and a fresh appreciation for the beauty of forgiveness and second chances. There's a side character in this story who stole my heart and will likely steal yours, with her sweet words of wisdom from a very unique perspective.
Jody Stinson believes every story deserves a happy ending—even if she has to write one herself. After an international upbringing, she continues to travel whenever she can. Her goal is to take her readers somewhere new, make them smile, and give them hope through Christ. She currently writes freelance including articles, devotionals, commercials, and even a client's wedding toast.

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