Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Scripted Interview with Betty Bolte, and her new book HOMETOWN HEROINES: TRUE STORIES OF BRAVERY, DARING & ADVENTURE
Christal Cooper – 1,625 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper
Scripted Interview: Fiction/Historical Writer
Her book HOMETOWN HEROINES
1. What is your first memory?
I remember standing beside our family dog, a large German Shepherd, who was blocking my path when I was a toddler so that the car coming up the driveway didn’t hit me. I’ve had a fondness for German Shepherds ever since.
2. When were you born and where?
My mom told me she listened to the church service on the radio before she was taken into the delivery room, so I must have been born on a Sunday. (I’d rather not publicize the specific date and place. J)
3. What interested you as a child?
I’ve always been very curious and spent a lot of time reading, climbing trees, reading in the encyclopedia about dogs and horses, and playing practical jokes on my dad. One thing I remember doing as a child was answering questions from my friends about why things were the way they were, like why is the sky blue, or the grass green. I made up some great answers, too!
4. In your opinion, what is the definition of history?
History is what happened in the past to whom and why. It’s much more than dates and places, but a record of the lives of the people who lived before us, what they accomplished or failed to accomplish and why they tried to do what they did. It’s the lessons learned through that experience so that others don’t make the same errors or so others will have the courage to attempt great things.
5. What is your favorite period of history?
I’m fascinated by daily living in Colonial America through the Early American Republic (1700-1820 roughly). For example, how did people go about their lives while wars were being fought around them?
6. In elementary school, what was your favorite subject?
Reading and spelling were my favorite parts of school.
7. What did you first want to be as a child?
Good question! I remember wanting to run a horse stable at a resort in West Virginia along with my childhood friend Teresa (I envied her because her father owned a tack store. I love the smell of good leather!). Of course, that wasn’t practical or even possible for me (given that I knew very little about horses other than how pretty they are). The first serious career possibility was probably an accountant because that’s what my mom did. She’d take me to work with her as a treat and let me sit at a big desk and write or draw while she worked nearby. I suppose that’s why I chose a career with a desk involved – my first career-like job was as a clerk for a government agency followed by being a secretary for a corporation.
8. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing all my life, or at least since I learned to spell when I was five. I wrote reports for myself on horses and dogs and other topics I’ve since forgotten. I also wrote short stories, usually involving horses. I figured out I wanted to write (and edit) professionally when my hubby’s job kept moving and I wanted a portable career.
9. What is your first memory of writing?
You’ll laugh… My first memory of “writing” is sitting at my dad’s desk in his photography studio, typing on his Underwood manual typewriter the current weather report based on the view looking out the picture window. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was writing short stories about horses and cowboys.
10. Can you give a specific experience that occurred while at Cowpens Battlefield that made such an impression on you that you now view history differently?
I remember standing out along the roadway where the troops met, listening to a man talk about what occurred during the battle, and being able to experience it in my mind as he described the battle. Being on the road made the history come to life for me in a way it never had by reading a book about it. Thereafter, when I read history I tried to put myself into the scene more, to experience it virtually.
11. Can you give me a bit of history of your life from high school to adulthood when you first read Lynn Sherr’s and Jurate Kazickas’s “Susan b. Anthony Slept Here: A guide to America’s Women’s Landmarks?
Gracious, an awful lot happened during that time! After high school I applied to work for a government agency but couldn’t be hired in until a hiring freeze was lifted. So I got a job working at Hecht Company in Columbia, Maryland, as a salesperson. Then worked for 2 years for the government before leaving to work for IBM and then BDM corporations as a secretary. After a while I grew tired of the long commute. I floated the idea of working from home and my hubby agreed, so I started a freelance word processing business from home. I also worked as a temp doing word processing to help with expenses since our first child had been born. I took classes at the local community college since attending college full time was never an option for me at that point in my life. When my hubby’s job moved from Virginia to Indiana, so did we. Our second child was born shortly after we moved there. In the early 1990s, my father moved in to live with us and he continued to do so for 17 years, until he needed to move to assisted living; he died in 2011. Back in the 90s, I enrolled at Indiana University and graduated with a BA in English in 1995. It was while attending IU that I read Susan B. Anthony Slept Here and started pondering how youths impacted history.
12. Was there a specific story or person you were fascinated with from the book mentioned above (Susan B. Anthony Slept Here)?
Honestly, it wasn’t one person in the book, but the vast number of women who had made significant contributions to America that opened my eyes to women’s studies. I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I am very interested in how women have shaped America. I have a lot more to learn, I’m sure, about the subject of women in history but now I’m more aware of the ways in which women influenced or directly changed the course of our country.
13. What month and year did you read Susan B. Anthony Slept Here?
I believe it was in the spring of 1994.
14. When did you decide to write a book on these girls/young women?
Was it before, during or after your research? The idea came after I had compiled files on over 100 youths from around the world who had left their mark on the world. I realized I had to narrow the focus down to something manageable, and thus Hometown Heroines, the first edition, came to be.
15. How long did it take you to research and write Hometown Heroines?
The research phase started in 1994 and ended in 2000. Writing the stories and biographical snapshots overlapped somewhat and wrapped up in 2001, when I chose to self-publish the original edition. In 2012, I revised the original, smoothing out the writing and removing outdated Internet links, and re-released it through ePublishingWorks as Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, both in print and digitally.
16. What personal experience did you utilize to write these stories?
As with all of my writing, I tapped happenings in my own life and the resulting emotions to bring life to the action(s) and feelings of the girls in their stories.
17. Did you receive any surprised about any of these girls that you wrote about?
It amazed me how much impact little Grace Bedell had with her letter to Abraham Lincoln. Imagine writing to a presidential candidate suggesting he change his appearance and then receiving a letter from him saying he’d consider making the change. That little girl wrote a very powerful letter which prompted a future president to act in accordance with her suggestion. Wow.
18. Who is you favorite girl of these stories?
That’s a hard question! I think about Vinnie Ream a lot because of the diversity of her artistic accomplishments, including the life-size marble statue of Lincoln still standing in the National Capitol’s Rotunda. But Lucille Mulhall’s trick riding abilities were so impressive it’s hard to believe that she could actually use her mouth to pick up a handkerchief from the ground while riding a galloping horse. Such strength and courage is astounding. Each of the girls made an impression on me, which is why I chose to share their stories with others.
19. What made you decide to include fictional stories as one of the sections for each of these girls?
That’s easy. My target audience is middle school and high school students, so fiction seemed a more accessible format to share what the girls experienced during the event that made them famous. But I also wanted the reader to know where the line was between fact and fiction and have an idea of where they could find more information if the story made them curious.
20. What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently writing a romantic women’s fiction story set in a haunted plantation home in Tennessee, between writing a historical romance trilogy set in Charleston, South Carolina, at the end of the Revolution.
21. Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm for these tales of daring and courage. I hope these girls will inspire others as much as they inspired me.
PHOTO DESCRIPTION & COPYRIGHT INFO
Photo 0. Betty Bolte. Copyright by Betty Bolte.
Photo 1. Lady Delila “Dell”
Photo 2. Betty Bolte at age 5.
Photo 3. The photo of Betty Bolte with her white horse, placing 5th in the jumping class. 1974 or 1975. Copyright by Betty Bolte.
Photo 4. Betty Bolte and Pepper, 1976. Copyright by Betty Bolte.
Photo 5. Robert M. Solomon Sr. in the dark room. Copyright by Betty Bolte.
Photos 6a. Cowpens taken by Betty Bolte while visiting this past year with her husband. Copyright by Betty Bolte.
Photo 6b. Cowpens. Public Domain.
Photo 7. Betty Bolte and Robert M Solomon Sr at his 90th birthday party that Betty threw for him. Copyright by Betty Bolte.
Photo 8. Jacket cover of Susan B Anthony Slept Here, Three Rivers Press
Photo 9. Jacket cover of Hometown Heroines
Photo 10a. Grace Bedell in the 1870s. Public Domain
Photo 10b. The last beardless photo of Abraham Lincoln on August 13, 1860. Attributed to Preston Butler. Public Domain.
Photo 10c. Abraham Lincoln one month after receiving Grace Bedell’s leter on November 25, 1860. Attributed to Samuel G Altschuler. Library of Congress, public Domain.
Photo 10d. Abraham Lincoln, ten days before visiting Grace Bedell enroute to his inauguration, February 9, 1861. Attributed to Christopher S. German. Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Photo 11. Vinnie Ream with Abraham Lincoln bust. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress photo. Public Domain.
Photo 12. Lucille Mulhall standing on the back of the horse. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress. Public Domain.
Photo 13. Betty Bolte at the Birmingham Public Library in February 2013 at their Local Author Expo event. Copyright by Betty Bolte.