What is your ultimate writing goal?
Ultimate. That sounds so final. In the end, I want to make people laugh and leave my mark on the world. I’d prefer all that happen with a few books. Okay, a lot of books. After I’m gone, my ghost would be happy if people downloaded my writing into their brain, and it made them snort caffeine-free coffee substitute all over their virtual monitor.
Why do you write?
Because I must! If I were ever in a 12-step Writers Anon program, I would be the jittery one with noun patches all over my arms, scribbling ideas on my jeans with the tip of my finger. I started writing stories in chalk on the underside of my father’s desk when I was four, and I’ve never stopped. Soon I’ll need a new desk.
Have you worked to achieve your voice or is it just a natural style for you?
It’s a natural style that evolves with time, depending on my interests and influences at the moment. I’ve always had a strong and slightly bizarre voice. When I was younger, I stifled that and went through the typical phase of imitating great writers. I think ever y writer has to go through that to find his or her own style; it’s like trying on everything in the second-hand store before you go home and cut your own patterns. Once you learn from the masters, you know how to bring your own honesty out and slap it on the page.
Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
The names carved into my heart are Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. They have the ability to take
words and turn them into the craziest, most delightful balloon animals. I’m also hooked on Gini
Koch’s “Alien” series and Kevin Hearne’s mythologically lush “Iron Druid” series. Koch’s books are fast- paced, funny and sexy. I have to own each one as soon as they’re released. Hearne’s books pile in magic, history, religion and the paranormal. Each one makes me slap my head and say “Of course! That’s how the universe really works.” Even though he’s only written one novel so far, Craig Ferguson’s “Between the Bridge and the River” inspired me for an entire summer. He broke the rules in ways I’d never seen before, such as turning throwaway moments into tiny side stories.
What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
The solitude. I’m a hermit at heart. I also enjoy sweatpants. In my day work as a freelancer, I’ll
occasionally stop and giggle, because I’m making a living by pulling words out of my head and building an article someone wants to pay me for. For my own interests, it’s the urge to create, to take the demons and angels in my mind and wrap them around the wire forms of language. If all goes well, those works stand on their own and provoke a reaction in the reader.
If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what
would you choose?
I can imagine a lot of crazy things, but I can’t imagine my life without writing. What’s success without being stressed over deadlines, worried about contracts, scared of writer’s block and frustrated by blog stats? That’s writerly happiness, right there. If I had to pick something, it would be 1970s pop culture television historian, and I would write about it in secret so the universe would never know.
If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
Never give up. Never. Give. Up. NEVER GIVE UP! If you give up, the terrorists win. If you give up, every person who said you couldn’t be a writer will be right. I’ve heard that from so many writers, and it’s true. If you give up, Muppets sob in dark corners with stripper glitter matted in their fur and half-empty tequila bottles between their knees. If you give up, you have to go back to being normal, and none of us are really equipped to do that.
Beth Bartlett is a freelance writer and humorist. Her work has appeared in such publications as
Writer’s Digest, mental_floss, Country Extra, Meetings South and American Profile. She writes a
weekly humor horoscope column for the Lovely County Citizen newspaper and for her own site,
WisecrackZodiac.com. In her spare moments of sanity, she also contributes to the Bombeck-style humor site AnArmyofErmas.com and indulges her nerdy side at PureGeek.me. You can also catch her discussing Wonder Woman and writing on Twitter as @plaidearthworm.