Fiction Fest: A flavorful Q&A with ‘Trouble’s on the Menu’ co-author, Betsy Schow

Troubles-on-the-Menu_web2x3You might know today’s Fiction Fest Q&A hot seat participant better for her self-help, weight-loss book, “Finished Being Fat,” or for her appearances in the Wall Street Journal and on NBC’s “Today” show.

What you might not know, however, is that Betsy Schow is also the co-author of “Trouble’s on the Menu: A Tippy Canoe Romp,” a fictitious outing she co-wrote with gardening/cooking author, Caleb Warnock.

We appreciate Schow taking the time to field a few questions. Take it away, Betsy!

What’s a weight-loss and self-help author doing writing fiction?

I know, it’s madness. A sure sign the end is nigh, beware the zombie apocalypse. Though, in all seriousness, it’s actually the reverse. I personally consider myself a fiction writer that just happened to have a story about my own life that needed to come out. And it’s precisely the events that I recount in the self help book that gave me the courage to go after my dream and become a writer in the first place.

How did you team up with your co-author, Caleb Warnock?

One day, in a writing group that he led, Caleb brought a part of the finished manuscript in for the rest of the group to critique. After reading the first chapter, I thought the female voicing was off. Caleb agreed, but the story was already under contract and the deadline was approaching. So he emailed the manuscript to me and said, “Fix it. Oh, and you have two weeks.” It was a crazy couple of weeks, but I went through and rewrote the female Point of View chapters and helped rewrite the ending. Even though Caleb really did most of the work, he graciously insisted I share credit on the cover. Voila, a co-authorship is born. Plus, I think we have a particular brand of crazy that works well together.

Will there be another work of fiction flying off your fingertips in the future?

Yes. I already have one manuscript finished, a young adult fractured retelling of Oz, which is currently being shopped around by my literary agent. Right now, I’m working on a great young adult “Alias”-like novel with a sci-fi twist.

Which requires more time to write, self-help books or fiction?

Depends on the fiction. If you are crazy enough to try to do epic fantasy or historical fiction, then those definitely. You have to have everything spot on and accurate. I’m not that cool. I’m lazy and prefer to make crap up or just retell the wacky stuff that happens in my own life. “Finished being Fat” took me two months to write, and “House of Emerald” took me closer to three. I think the key is how much stuff you need to research to get it right. The rest just flows out of the brain.

What types of books do you read for leisure?

Stephen King (personal authorgirl crush), young adult speculative, and manga.

What’s the most joy writing has given you?

Getting emails from fans after they read “Finished Being Fat” and hearing that they felt like I was talking just to them. Like I had read their diary. It’s a chance to let people know that they are not alone. Finished-Being-Fat_web2x3

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you?

Hiding away from my two small kids. They don’t quite understand that mommy is working at the computer, not playing video games. That and putting so much heart and soul into something and then letting the world give their opinion on it. I thought I had my neurotic tendencies under control, then I went on the “Today” show and had people commenting and critiquing everything from my clothing choice to whether or not I should get a divorce. The real reason I cut 18 inches off my hair recently, was to keep from pulling it out in anxiety. (laughs)

Who are your self-help heroes and why?

Anyone who takes control of their own life and helps themself. Aside from that, I’m going to go with Winnie the Pooh. If you don’t know what I mean, read it again. The bear is a genius.

What are the top three items on your bucket list?

1. NY Times bestseller. (a girl can dream)

2. Raise my girls without an excessive amount of therapy.  For me or them.

3. Get a Ph.D before I’m 90.

What advice would you offer to aspiring novelists and/or self-help/weight-loss authors?

Everyone has a story that only they can tell. Don’t try to preach from a point of view that you don’t have. Don’t tell people things they can find on Wikipedia or with research. Just share your experiences. There is someone out there who’s life could be changed just by hearing your story. But no one will ever hear it or be helped if it’s never written. Finish it and let it out into the world.