Introducing Lisa Betz!
Lisa E. Betz worked as an engineer, substitute teacher, and play director before becoming an award-winning mystery writer. She draws inspiration from thirty-five years of leading Bible studies to create fast-paced mysteries set in the first-century world of the early church.
Lisa brings her analytic mind, quirky humor, and creative soul/unconventional mindset to all she writes. She is passionate about inspiring others (real and fictional) to become their best selves, living with intention, authenticity, and purpose.
In addition to historical novels, she has written humor articles, over seventy drama sketches, one full-length play, and a short non-fiction book. Her first mystery novel was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest and Death and a Crocodile was named the Gold Medal winner in the 2021 Illumination Book Awards in the Mystery/Thriller category.
She serves as Managing Editor of Almost an Author, a website by and for writers, where she also writes a monthly column called “The Intentional Writer.” She enjoys speaking to groups large and small on topics related to Roman history, writing, intentional living, and faith. When not writing, or speaking, she can be found volunteering at The Village Library of Morgantown or experimenting with ancient Roman cooking.
She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband of thirty plus years and a rambunctious cat named Scallywag who may be the inspiration for the unrepentant, sausage-snatching Nemesis.
For more information on Lisa, visit http://www.lisabetz.com
Interview with Lisa
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved reading, but my interest in writing only developed after I had children. I took a writing course from the Institute for Children’s Literature to keep my mind busy when I was a stay-at-home mom with toddlers. Then I began to write short dramas for church and other groups. After writing and directing dramas for many years, I began to dabble with writing a novel. It was not until my youngest went to college that I decided to pursue writing seriously. That was when I completed my first manuscript and began blogging about intentional living.
- What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
My writing process is very iterative. I compose new material on the computer, but then I need to print it out and edit on paper. I go through the type-print-edit-type cycle many times for every scene because it usually takes me a while to figure out exactly what I’m trying to say.
- Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I’ve been teaching Bible studies for over thirty years, so I have been a student of first-century Roman history and culture for a long time. Between novels and non-fiction works, I have absorbed a good deal about that era. Then I research details as I write. Plus I continue to read non-fiction books about the Roman empire. In all that research, I stumble upon interesting facts that inspire plot ideas. A small detail like the old coin on the front of my first novel can inspire a whole series of events.
- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I enjoy cooking, especially interesting ethnic foods. Sometimes I experiment with ancient Roman recipes. I directed high-school plays for ten years and still direct an occasional drama. I also love reading, hiking in the woods, and playing games with friends. And I plan to spend a lot of time spoiling my first grandchild when he or she is born next month.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
We tend to think of strongly patriarchal societies like ancient Rome as being unjust towards women. However, I learned that women enjoyed more rights during the Roman Empire than they’ve been allowed in most of the centuries leading up to modern times. For example, women could inherit property, run businesses, initiate lawsuits, and divorce their husbands.
That made it a good era for a female sleuth. A clever and determined woman like Livia could find ways to investigate a mystery, although she would encounter obstacles a male wouldn’t face. I have taken my inspiration for Livia from a host of other female sleuths who solve crimes despite the constraints of their particular historical eras.
- Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Take time to figure out your own unique writing method. There are plenty of how-to writing books and seminars that teach strategies for constructing novels. Try the ones that make sense, but don’t get stuck on some expert’s method. What inspires one writer gives a different writer a bad case of writer’s block, but you don’t really know what works until you try. I originally thought I was a panster, but I’ve discovered I write more freely when I start with a clear idea of what each scene is supposed to accomplish.
Find a few critique partners who “get” your writing, believe in your story, and can point out where your writing is weak. My long-time partners each notice different things about my writing that are missing or need more clarity. We make a good team for each other.
Develop a habit of noticing useful details: Analyze the structure of a TV cop show or sitcom, try to identify why a movie didn’t quite work, keep a notebook to jot down clever bits of dialogue or vivid descriptions.
- What’s your favorite part about being a writer? Research? First Draft? Editing?
I love inventing characters and then being surprised when they suddenly do or say something I wasn’t expecting. For me, that’s when they truly come to life. I still find it amazing that I can sit down to a blank screen and when I start typing ideas bubble up from my subconscious and a scene comes to life. I also find satisfaction when I’ve finally edited a scene or article to the place where it resonates, where I’m getting across what I wanted to say.
- What do you think makes a good story?
I am drawn by a strong, unique voice. An intriguing voice can quickly draw me into a story that otherwise doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Then I look for a main character I can respect. If I don’t respect the main characters, I won’t read more than a few chapters before quitting. Finally, I prefer books with action, clever plot twists, and a touch of humor.
- As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Math and science were my favorite subjects in school. For a while I wanted to be a marine biologist because I loved the idea of scuba diving for a living like Jacques Cousteau. Then reality set in: Research wasn’t my thing, and living all year long in a damp, windy, ocean location didn’t appeal to me. I eventually majored in mechanical engineering, which was more practical. Ultimately, however, writing books is more satisfying than working in a manufacturing facility.
- What project are you working on now and how do we find your books?
The second novel in my Livia Aemilia mystery series is with an editor. Once those edits are done it will be ready to pitch to my publisher. I would like to see Book Two published early next year. In the meantime, I am working on plotting the third in the series, and possibly a novella as well.
Death and a Crocodile is available wherever books are sold.
About the Book
Name of Book: Death of a Crocodile
Genre of Book: Historical Suspense
Name of Publisher: CrossLink Publishing
Release Date: February 2021
Back Cover Blurb:
In Death and a Crocodile, Betz takes readers inside Rome, 47 AD, shortly after the time of Christ. At this time in history, sensible women don’t investigate murders, but Livia might not have a choice.
When Livia’s father dies under suspicious circumstances, she sets out to find the killer before her innocent brother is convicted of murder. She may be an amateur when it comes to hunting dangerous criminals, but she’s determined, intelligent, and not afraid to break a convention or two in pursuit of the truth. Livia and her spunky maidservant, Roxana, pound the ancient Roman pavements in search of the killer, with the help of a reluctant lawyer, a lovelorn merchant, and a handful of loyal servants.
Livia’s also adopted a radical new faith that encourages her to believe a woman and a handful of servants can solve a murder. Can she uncover the culprit before
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Giveaway closes April