Interview with a beta

Today I thought I’d give you all a treat, and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes into writing my books. To that end, I’ve gathered my two primary betas to share their experiences with you.

Michaela

Thank you both for joining me today! Rowan, Aaliya, why don’t you introduce yourselves?

Aaliya

Hello, I’m Aaliya! I’ve been a beta reader on and off since high school for friends and the like, and I’ve been yours since 2014. And I write on my own time, too!

Rowan

Hi, I’m Rowan! I’m a college student based in Southern California, majoring in creative writing. I’ve been a beta reader since 2015, though I’ve critiqued my friends’ work since 2011. I also write on my own time!

Michaela

So we’re here to talk about what goes into being a beta reader. Can you both give us a quick rundown of what it means to beta for me?

Rowan

Snark.

Aaliya

Lots of crying.

Aaliya

Essentially, we get to read your work as you write it, and provide both general thoughts and copyediting as well as in-depth feedback.

Rowan

I mostly check for continuity errors, typos, awkward turns of phrase, and things that seem out of character or otherwise weird. For instance, Michaela once had a scene set at a mansion in Chicago in the middle of winter, and she wrote about there being a lush green lawn. In Chicago. In the middle of winter.

Michaela

Still embarrassed about that

Aaliya

Oh my god, did that make it to me? I don’t remember that at all.

Michaela

That was in Isaac’s book

So yes, it did, and you’re fired

Aaliya

NO, PLEASE, I’LL DO BETTER

Rowan

Well this interview took a turn

Michaela

What’s your favorite thing about reading for me?

(Trying desperately to get it back on track)

Is it developing the characters? Working out the plot? Seeing how it all unfolds?

Aaliya

I love getting to feel like I’m a part of building the story!

Rowan

Michaela writes really well! She makes her books emotional without getting into melodrama territory—there’s no angst for the sake of angst. For me, I think it’s the characters—I like reading about them, and I like getting to feel like I’m helping them stay true to themselves.

Aaliya

Yeah, I’m a firm believer that excellent characterization can save even the flimsiest plot. And luckily for you you have both strong characters and strong plots!

Michaela

If I held you hostage and demanded you pick a favorite character, who would it be, and why do you feel such a strong connection with them? Why do you think readers will relate to them?

Aaliya

Fox, for sure!

Rowan

Fox, yeah

Aaliya

He’s my darling, I have such a weakness for assholes with good hearts

Michaela

Why do you think readers will relate to Fox?

Aaliya

Because he’s a genuine jerk.

Rowan

Fox is such an ass but he tries so hard to be better by the end of the book. He has a lot of issues to work through, and he eventually does. But yeah, he is genuinely an ass at the beginning of the book. There’s something really compelling about his redemption.

Aaliya

I think most people have been cruel in ways that they regret, and it’s very hard to come to terms with the fact that you were in the wrong and that you hurt people.

Michaela

Do you think he’s such an ass that he’ll turn readers away?

Aaliya

Oh, not at all. At least, not the right readers

Rowan

No, definitely not. It does help that Sanyam is there to balance him out.

Aaliya

Some people might be put off by him, but I think that at his core he’s a very relatable character and people will see that. He’s also hilarious.

Rowan

I think Fox is relatable because he craves love and affection, which is a very human desire. He believes that’s out of reach for him, but by the end of the story he’s proven wrong.

Michaela

So Aaliya, I tend to work through character development more with you, and Rowan tends to be the one to throw spanners in the works (and make the plots better). Are you both happy in those roles, or do either of you wish you had more of a hand on either side?

Aaliya

I wish I had Rowan’s eye for plot holes! Most of the time I’m too caught up in the flow of the story to notice them.

Rowan

(It comes from watching way too much Cinema Sins, honestly)

Aaliya

But I’m happier doing character work. Like I said, I read for character over plot, so I prefer to be on that side of things.

Rowan

I like my role. I tend to be a little nervous meddling with characters I haven’t created, but pointing out plot holes is really satisfying for me. It’s a very tangible way of helping the story (and the characters).

Michaela

I have to say that the number one thing I look for in a beta reader is the tendency to fall as in love with my characters as I do. Honestly, the thing that has kept me writing for so long has been the way you both devour everything I give you and ask for more, and how you’re both willing to talk about my characters and stories for hours on end. You keep me wanting to create, and I want to thank you both for that, because I literally wouldn’t be here without you two.

Rowan

I love your characters! And I love reading about them a lot. Thank YOU for giving me this opportunity!

Aaliya

Well, I’m glad, because between work, school, and family, you’ve been my primary source of reading material for four years. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

Michaela

I think that’s all the questions I have right now. Is there anything either of y’all would like to add?

Rowan

Buy Michaela’s books, they’re awesome! And pet lots of cats.

Aaliya

Don’t invest in Bitcoin. And get psyched for Broken Rules!

Michaela

Thank you both for taking the time to talk to me today!

Broken Rules is coming in July of 2018 from Dreamspinner Press

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