Betsy Franco has written over eighty books. She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the New York Library Notable Book Award and the ALA Best Book award for Young Adults. She adapted her YA novel METAMORPHOSIS, JUNIOR YEAR into a successful play. NAKED, her debut adult novel and YA cross over, has been described as “The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Midnight in Paris.” Publisher’s Weekly called it “a seamless blend of fiction, biography, and contemporary culture.” Betsy also acts and directs short films. For more info, visit her website.
What is the most vivid or realistic dream you’ve ever had?
In New Mexico, which felt like a very spiritual place to me, I dreamed about having dinner with my late father and felt like I’d actually spent time with him. He was a gentle, very funny, creative, generous person, so the dream was very memorable.
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
I’d like to hang out with the people in Girls, but only for a day, not a month, because I have too much to write, film, and act in.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen?
This isn’t the strangest, but it’s the cutest. My cat Frida sits for hours by the holes that moles create in my backyard, waiting for a tuft of dirt to fly up.
What’s your motto in life?
I spent many decades as a pessimist. As an experiment, I shifted to optimism and I felt a lot better. From then forward, I decided to frame things positively no matter what.
What song best describes your work ethic?
I have a slightly different take on this question. When writing a novel, a song often comes to me that embodies the texture of the novel. It also helps me reenter the world of the novel if I’ve taken a break from it.
If you were to attend a costume party, who would you be?
I’d be a teenage boy because I seem to have a teenage boy living inside me. Always have. But I’m not gender confused.
If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be? And why?
I would eliminate stress and worry. It’s a waste of time.
If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?
(different take on this question) I keep changing course all the time. I started writing children’s books. When one of my editors challenged me to write novels, I took her up on it. The local theatre asked me to write a play based on my novel, METAMORPHOSIS, JUNIOR YEAR, and I’ve been writing plays for them ever since. My sons inspired me to take acting classes, which has enriched my writing and allowed me to take roles on TV and in film. When the idea of my novel NAKED came to me I wrote in the way it needed to be written and it turned out to be my debut adult novel, with a YA cross over. It’s fun to explore new avenues–I’m directing a short film right now. Learning curves can be challenging but they make me feel alive.
Has rejection ever affected your desire to continue writing?
I believe the ability to handle rejection is one of the requisite skills of any artist. I thought NAKED would be snatched up. I had a troubled, talented Stanford student meet Camille Claudel, Rodin’s muse and fellow sculptor, in the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford, after she emerges from one of the statues she inspired in order to heal her past life. I received lovely rejections but it took much longer than I anticipated. Now I see that I was waiting for Tyrus Books to publish it. The editor and publisher there understood my novel on a deep level.
What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
I worked in educational publishing, first in house and then freelance, writing fun, motivational supplementary books. It was a great way to write all the time and get paid for it. In the early mornings, I would work on my own children’s books.
What do you do to get into your writing zone?
I think about the fact that I need to make a living and this is the way I want to do it. Then I write no matter what mood I’m in. I learned long ago to ask the universe for help so I don’t have to do it alone. Then I give the universe credit when something sells. It helps me stay inspired and keeps ego in check.
What is your favorite accomplishment?
My favorite accomplishment is working with my creative sons. James shot a documentary of the making of my play, METAMORPHOSIS, JUNIOR YEAR. He also included me in his film Broken Tower and on General Hospital and asked me to produce a film with teen filmmakers based on his poetry. Davy gave me feedback on my screenplay of NAKED and has roles for me in his videos. Tom is currently doing presentations with me about NAKED. I’m having a wonderful time with my talented, eloquent, visionary artist son who did the cover and interior drawings in NAKED.
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?
I never know what I’m really writing about until several years into it. I’m always dealing with issues that I’m not aware I’m grappling with. It’s a strange process. I grow a lot from writing novels.
Do you pay attention to others’ strong reactions to your work? Does that affect what you create?
My anthologies written by teens, YOU HEAR ME? and THINGS I HAVE TO TELL YOU, have been banned. I know I’m a rebel at heart and like to push the envelope so I’m going to get strong reactions. I’m not inherently thick skinned so I’ve had to learn to deal with it. I just remember my vision and the fact that I have to write what I have to write.
If your writing were edible, what would it taste like?
It would taste like a sushi called Arctic Char (Iwana). It’s sweet and sour and makes you laugh and emit sounds when you eat it.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I would like adults and teens not to ever have to feel alone in their feelings.
What made you decide to follow a creative career choice (though possibly risky) rather than something more stable?
I had to. I feel antsy, dulled down, not as purposeful if I’m not creative. When I was younger, I actually felt as if I would go crazy if I didn’t create.
In terms of your writing, how would you like to be remembered?
I hope I’ve inspired others in some way to express themselves. I’d also like to be remembered as the mother of three creative, fearless artists.
How has personal experience influenced your writing?
I think all books are autobiographies of the author, emotionally, if not factually.