Both hilarious and poignant, Bettye Griffin’s latest novel explores the lives and loves of three
best friends who discover that there’s nothing in the world they can’t handle—as long as they stick together…
Dana Covington never thought she’d be a widow at 38—but sometimes, that’s the way life works out. It’s
a good thing Dana’s friends, Norell and Cecile, are always ready to give her a shoulder to cry on…even when they’ve
got big problems of their own.
Just as Norell gives up on her dream to have a baby, she’s shocked when Cecile turns up pregnant—again. Norell’s
heartbreak throws her friendship with Cecile into a complete tailspin. And just when things can’t get much worse, Cecile’s
sexy younger sister comes to town. As usual, Micheline is looking for trouble—and this time, she finds enough for everyone.
With tension mounting between the trio, it seems like their friendship might not stand the test. But when all is said and
done, true friends know that even their closest pals aren’t perfect—and that the people who drive you crazy are
the ones you love the most…
But Trouble and The People Next Door"
PWLGB: When did you decide you wanted to write?
BG: From the time I started first
grade. At that time (early 1960s,) those Dick and Jane books weren't politically correct. Everyone was
blue-eyed. I lived my earliest years in an urban housing project, which in those days were full of practicing
Catholics of Irish or Italian or Polish (virtually no Hispanics) extraction with large families, seven or nine or eleven
kids, as well as blacks, single mothers of any ethnicity, family men, often Korean War vets, attending college on
the GI bill while working low-paying jobs to support their families. The folks in my neighborhood who weren't black
had dark or perhaps what is rather insultingly known as "dirty blond" hair. I never even saw anyone with blue
eyes. I was, like, "Where's the colored people? Why is everyone's hair so bright yellow?" When I
knew enough words I started writing my own stories.
PWLGB: How many novels in all have you written?
I have written eleven novels (ten have been published; the eleventh, the Arabesque romance ONE ON ONE, will be
released in September 2006.) Right now I am working on numbers 12 and 13.
PWLGB: How long
did it take you to write your first novel?
BG: I took my time, which you can do when you're not under contract.
I'd guess about nine months.
PWLGB: Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
Everywhere! Sometimes when hearing something perfectly mundane on the news or when talking with someone,
the bell goes off. I begin with a tiny idea, think about it while I'm washing dishes or vacuuming, and it grows into
something that can become a novel. I keep an "idea file," and frequently combine two or three elements to make a
PWLGB: Tell us about your latest release, "Nothing But Trouble"
BG: This is a
story of three longtime friends who met as co-workers while working as medical transcriptionists, seeing each other
through divorce, ill parents, etc. Over the years their lives brought them in different directions, but they
meet for lunch every few weeks. Eventually they all settle down, but then one of them tragically loses her husband.
The resulting financial problems make her consider opening her own medical transcription service, and she invites her
two friends to become her partners and help provide capital. They go into business, all of them trying to cope
with various life problems. Then the sister of one of the women comes to town (she's the "trouble" referred to
in the title.) This woman, through jealousy and general mean-spiritedness, manages to leave her mark on
all three women, threatening their decade-long friendship.
PWLGB: I also loved your previous release, "The
People Next Door", What made you decide to write a story like "The People Next Door", Are the characters based
on real people?
BG: The seed was planted by a person I know (not well, thank God) who is always
bragging and talking about "Me, me, me, me, me." In working with that general idea and trying to expand on it
to make it more interesting, the familial connections of exes living next door to each other and the whole "keeping
up with the Joneses" idea got added. In all honesty, I've known a few folks who are heavily into that latter
way of thinking as well. But I think everyone does, which is why readers have been able to relate to those characters.
After writing your first novel, did you self-publish? If so, how was that experience?
isn't for me. There's a lot of work involved, and there also tends to be a stigma associated with it (in my opinion,)
because of the lack of professional editing.
PWLGB: What feedback have you received from fans?
Positive. Few readers will contact a writer with negative feedback unless they feel very strongly about something,
like, I don't know, they think you've based one of your unpleasant characters on their mother or something.
What authors do you admire? Did one of them inspire you?
BG: Whenever I read a really good book I say to
myself, "That's what I want to do, draw the reader in right away like they drew me in." I'll find myself studying
how it's constructed, like a frog in biology class. I can't really say I have favorite authors. I might love
one book of theirs, then just not feel their next one.
writing your only passion?
BG: No, but you're getting personal (smile.)
do you see yourself in 5 years?
BG: Probably doing the same as I am now, writing two books a year on subjects
I enjoy writing about that my editors green light. I have no delusions that I'll some day hit the big time, Stephen
King territory. I'm a little too old at this point in my life to have such big dreams, and besides, the field
is getting awfully crowded. making it harder to stand out. I'm grateful for the readers I have and want to keep
PWLGB: What advice would you give aspiring authors?
BG: Learn about the craft.
Don't take the attitude that God has given you a gift and that's all you need. All gifts, whether a singing voice
or a flair for dancing or a talent at art, need to be nurtured to reach their highest potential. As Truman
Capote famously commented about another successful writer (the reportedly heavily edited Jacqueline Susann,) "She doesn't
write, she types." Study. Learn to recognize those bad habits all writers have. My own pet peeve:
Writers who don't resist the urge to explain, where every piece of dialogue is accompanied by a statement of the character's
motives or intent. A little of anything habitual in writing usually goes a long way. And don't spend time
worrying about how much you'll be paid or what agent you'll approach until you have a completed AND polished product.
What would you like readers to learn from your stories?
BG: I just want them to enjoy my work. I
try not to be preachy.
PWLGB: Are you working on another novel? If so, What is it about?
I am working on two novels for 2007 (I write both mainstream women's fiction and contemporary romance for two different
publishers.) The mainstream, THE EDGE OF A DREAM, named after a Minnie Riperton song, was an idea that came
to me in response to the "Black people don't live like that" criticism I have heard aimed at my book THE PEOPLE NEXT
DOOR, as well as books by other authors. I decided to write a book about three couples living in an area of
very costly real estate (specifically the Northeast) and how they join a trend of buying homes in Pennsylvania while
holding on to their jobs in the city. There's something improbable about commuting 100 miles to work and
leaving the city for a lifestyle you know nothing about, and let's just say it works better for some than others (spring
2007 from Dafina Books).
My other project, a contemporary romance presently without a title, is about
a woman in her 30s who has never formed any close attachments to anyone other than her mother. When friends bring
a friend of theirs along to a party at her apartment, his presence strangely unnerves her, especially when he expresses
interest in her. She doesn't know that his appearance has set in motion the unlocking of memories that have been buried
since she was a toddler (summer 2007 from Kimani Press/Arabesque).
Completed and coming out in September 2006 is
ONE ON ONE, a contemporary romance about romantic complications in the years following the infamous terrorist
attacks of 09/11/2001. It wasn't unusual, because of the immensity and suddenness of the attacks, for men and women
in New York to find themselves first consoling, then falling in love with siblings or best friends of their
spouses or significant others who lost their lives, and I felt this was worth exploring.
Where can people purchase your books? Do you have a website?
BG: Both my publishers have excellent distribution,
and my books are sold in all major bookstore chains, in black bookstores (are there any of them left?), and by some
discounters, like Wal-Mart (some stores of which have better book sections than others.) I do have a website, www.bettyegriffin.com.
I frequently run contests and send members monthly newsletters.