Please welcome contemporary romance author Beth Steury!
Intro: What’s your name, what do you write, where can readers find you on social media? And just for fun, if you could be any mythological being, what or who would you be?
My name is Beth Steury. I write issues-driven YA fiction and no-holds barred young adult non-fiction. I blog about the ongoing saga of my foundling beginnings, and I write about other less-fun stuff to help pay the bills. I am the absolute last person to ask about mythological creatures! I wouldn’t have the faintest idea so I will respectfully pass.
- You write contemporary romance and non-fiction. What genre were you first attracted to as a writer and why?
I’ve always liked YA, especially true-to-life, contemporary stories that don’t gloss over the tough issues. And who doesn’t like a great love story? Well not everyone, I know, but count me in. Before I Knew You blends all that I like to read into a story that is both romance and coming-of-age with absolutely no gloss.
- Before I Knew You is the first book in your Choices Matter What inspired that story and how does it stand out among your others?
The inspiration came from a radio interview I heard many years ago. Following a presentation, a well-known youth speaker met outside in the parking lot with a young man from the audience. The young guy leaned on his truck and looked up at the speaker. “What happens when true love didn’t wait?” he asked. The speaker went on to say how that young man’s question changed how he approached the subject of teenagers and sex. For days, that scenario played through my mind accompanied by the faces of the many teenagers I knew who also had stumbled into premarital sex.
This is my first book, one I hope will stand out for it’s candid, realistic, and relevant approach to teenagers and sex, from a Christian worldview.
- Do you find there are central themes or elements that are unique to your books? (For example, are you drawn to anti-heroes, antagonists, certain settings etc.) Why do those things stand out to you?
I’ve always considered myself a “cheerleader” for saving sex for marriage and “renewed waiting”—the choice to save any additional sexual experiences for marriage. This series is themed around the myriad of choices teenagers face about sex. I think it’s a pretty unique story due to the candidness of the approach and the emphasis on “renewed waiting”.
- One pro and one con about writing in each of your respective genres?
How about a pro and a con, all wrapped together? I truly believe in the transformational power of fiction, how truth and light can so permeate a story that the reader can’t help but absorb that truth and light in a way that will positively impact his/her life. Yet said truth and light must, must, must be woven through the story, not tacked on or arrived at too easily. The “moral of the story” should not trump the story itself. I abhor plot lines that tie up too quickly, mysteries that are solved in a blink of an eye, long-sought-after goals/struggles/battles wrapped up in two paragraphs. Dreaming up fabulous characters and a storyline: the pro. Weaving, meshing, intertwining it into both an entertaining read—because isn’t that what everyone wants—and leaving the reader with a powerful message that compliments yet doesn’t trump the story: the con.
The best non-fiction combines vignettes—”slices of real life” as I like to call them—with facts and insights. I think the pros and cons here are quite similar to those I noted about writing fiction.
- What are the characters in your most recent book like?
Preston, the 17-year-old hot, popular high school junior who’s determined to chart a new course as far from his ladies’ man ways as possible. And Maggie, the new girl in town, also a 17-year-old junior, who’s quiet and shy but oh so ready to be in a relationship with an amazing guy. A guy who will respect her “white-wedding-dress future.”
- What is/are one or two pieces of advice that you learned while publishing your first book that you wish you had known before you started?
The indie route isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Challenging, yes, and a lot of work, but it really wasn’t that hard. I dilly dallied around too long because I felt overwhelmed by all that I didn’t know. I studied up on indie publishing, sought advice, and learned along the way. But since I firmly believe in “a time for everything,” I’m not beating myself up too badly over my procrastination to get the ball rolling.
- Along with being an author, you are also a substitute teacher. How has working with your students influenced your writing?
I LOVE the opportunities it provides for interaction with the students both in class and in the community. Especially at McDonald’s, my unofficial “office” where a lot of teenagers hang out. I’ve observed scenarios and caught snatches of conversation that have worked their way into my writing in various ways. While teaching, I’ve asked the students what they like to read and why as well as sought their opinions on specific story line situations.
- You run a blog series entitled, “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” How has your journey to find your biological family influenced your writing career?
It’s given me an entirely different subject matter and audience to write for! I definitely see myself pursuing avenues that involve either a more in-depth telling of my personal story, becoming involved, writing wise, in adoption related issues, or both. Hopefully both. I think my empathy for people has deepened as I’ve put the pieces of my puzzle together and discovered many other peoples’ adoption related stories. Life is complicated, you know?
- Favorite quote from your own work?
“Don’t let the past make your future decisions.”
- How does your marketing strategy evolve for each of your works?
Good question! Lol I’ve heard that marketing YA is tough, and I’m finding that to be true. “Hang out where they hang out,” is advice that makes sense to me. So, that’s what I’m attempting to do. I know that lots of adults read YA too, so I’m trying to target them as well.
- What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Hmm, I’m not sure that I’ve been on any? The completion of this first novel has certainly been a journey. I’ve often said, “This is GOD’s story. I’m just writing it down.” I do want to honor HIM with this series and all that I write.
- What writing accomplishment are you most proud of?
Seeing this book from idea spark to actually holding it in my hand. And I still like the story! More so even, than when I started writing it.
I also write web content for businesses. Not my first, second, or third choice way to spend “writing time”, but I’ve stuck with it and have experienced success in this “other” writing arena.
- What do you owe to the real-life people who inspired your characters?
I’ve been asked if this is “my story”. It is not. It’s an amalgamation of so many individual’s experiences. I am grateful to have walked along side and shared this life’s journey with each person who has crossed my path.
- What’s your favorite writing-related memory?
While holed up in my “office” at the local McDonald’s, I heard four young men have a very spontaneous, candid conversation about their individual struggles. Their honesty, their transparency, and their support of one another spurred the creation of the guys’ accountability group in “before I knew you”, an aspect of the story that is near and dear to my heart.
- What’s a favorite moment you’ve had with a fan/someone who’s read your work?
I will never, ever forget the first reader question my “Waiting Matters . . . Because YOU Matter” blog received. A young man asked a very gut-level honest question, one that I know lots of dating couples struggle with. I felt humbled and honored that he poured his heart out to me. I sent him an extensive answer and then wrote a blog post featuring his question.
- How do you choose when to leave breadcrumbs to a plot-point and letting the reader come to their own conclusions about how or why things happened vs giving them the conclusion that you want them to come to?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I have to admit my first inclination is to spell things out. I’m an “explainer”. I like to help people understand. Yet I appreciate the concept of leading a reader on with breadcrumbs rather than just blurting everything out. Drawing the line between too little and too much information is further complicated because the author knows the characters and story SO WELL. That’s what happens when you eat, sleep, breathe, and dream about them for years!
A funny incident happened while I was writing “before I knew you”. I especially valued the input from the lone guy, Tim, in my group of critique partners because I so wanted to make this story a book that both guys and girls would pick up. At one point, Maggie is trying to discuss an important subject with Preston, but she’s hesitant and timid, and she’s hoping he will “get it” without her having to spell it all out. Tim reads the scene and says, “You’re giving him (Preston) far too much credit. Us guys don’t catch on that easily.” So, I worked on the scene more, to still allow Maggie to be hesitant but to make Preston’s reaction realistic.
- One thing more people should know about self-publishing?
It’s not second-class publishing. Indie published books can (and should) be the same quality as traditionally published works. I encourage indie authors to adopt high standards, to not rush through the process, and to utilize professional editors and cover designers.