Catching Up with Bette Bono
Q1: Tell us a bit about how you came up with the storyline for The Better Angels.
A: I taught middle school for many years, and one day I was talking with my 8th graders about superhero stories, and how they are basically “coming-of-age” stories. For a while we debated what the best superpowers were, and then the students asked me what I would choose. I replied that before I thought about that, I’d first want a superhero who was a senior, not a teen. My students weren’t having it, and challenged me: “How can you have a coming-of-age story with an old person?” It was a good question—and thinking about that question led me to begin writing my book. I decided that some seniors are faced with some of the same issues as young people: What work will I do at this point in my life? Where will I live? What community do I belong to? As to a superpower, it had to be time travel because I’ve always been fascinated by history, and I believe many older people reflect on history. That’s how my character, Aggie May was created, along with the other senior time travelers in the novel.
Q2: Your characters feel quite real and ring true, yet you do this with a unique touch. How do you find the right characters to fit your story line?
A: I enjoy writing about older characters that are multi-dimensional and not just stereotypes. I’ve been fortunate to work in a number of “people professions” that have allowed me to interact with and learn from many different sorts of folks. Every now and then, I will “borrow” a few characteristics from someone I know and put them into a character. But most of my characters just appear in my imagination.
Q3: Do you have any other talents?
A: I love gardening and needlework, though I’m only moderately skilled at these pursuits.
Q4: What is your preferred genre?
A: My preferred genre for reading is nonfiction, especially history. When I do read fiction, I like mysteries and historical fiction. Also, and this may sound surprising, I enjoy young adult fiction. From my years of teaching, I found that young adult authors often produce terrific works on topical issues. They appear much more quickly than books produced for older readers. As to my preferred writing genre, you can tell from The Better Angels that I love combining elements of mystery, history, time travel, women’s fiction, humor, romance, and adventure. Advice to writers is often “know your genre and stick to it,” but I love pulling a lot of very different elements together to tell a story.
Q5: How does your writing process work?
A: I write for a few hours almost every day because it’s one of my favorite things to do. When I get an idea for a story, I may carry it around in my head for a while until the plot and characters become clearer. Sometimes a scene or a bit of dialogue will come to me, and—if I’m not at the computer—I’ll write it down to put in the story later. I do prepare a rough outline for longer pieces.
Q6: Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
A: Hmm … most of my life is pretty normal. I’ve been to almost all of the fifty states and many of the national parks. I love observing wildlife and have encountered some interesting animals in the wild including manatees, grizzly bears, bison, deer, coyotes, and a tarantula.
Q7: Are you working on any new stories?
A: Fear Itself, the sequel to The Better Angels will be out soon. In the new book, Aggie and Abe are called upon to investigate some of the pro-fascist groups that sprang up in the United States in the 1930s. I’ve also completed a collection of adventure-mystery-romance-history short stories called Neighbors and Other Stories. Now I’m starting research for the next Aggie and Abe book and continuing to have fun penning short stories and poetry.
Q8: What would you like your stories to bring to the readers?
A: I love exploring the way history affects the lives of ordinary people. I also love building stories around older characters that fall in love, set out on adventures, face danger, and break stereotypes.
Q10: How may we follow you to keep up with your writings?
A: I have a blog, creatively titled Bette Bono’s Blog, that posts articles on history, seniors, books, and writing. It’s at https://bettebono.com/. I also have author pages on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.