Author Interview – Welcome Beth Fine

Beth Fine is here discussing her middle school mystery series, the Picaresque of Ímagine Purple. Beth has an interesting background. Besides this mystery series, she’s been writing most of her life. We’ll get to her more detailed biography at the end of the interview.DSC_0012_pp3 (1) (1)

I’m so fascinated by Beth’s whole concept of writing juvenile books about a young teacher becoming an amateur sleuth. She mixes education with mysteries. Unlike my murder mysteries, Beth lets real and attempted murders occur without capturing the storyline. I want to welcome you, Beth Fine, for the remainder of the month of May. Have a seat. I have a number of questions to ask.

Linda: Tell us about the genre.

Beth: Educational fiction…but shhh…don’t tell the kids. Pursuing after-school or summer reading can supply them with incidental, enriching knowledge useful in life and helpful at school. Each book’s front matter has a map of the story’s geography and a list of characters with one-line descriptions. The Appendices hold main character biographies, explanations of clichés/idioms/phrases italicized in the text, lookup suggestions, and definitions of PSAT level vocabulary also italicized in the text. But, I promise these extra features can be explored or ignored without losing the story’s thread because the series’ motto (Have Fun. Get Smarter. ™) encourages readers to choose a style that fits their own agenda.

Linda: I’ve looked at the list of all of your published books and noticed they were released fairly close to each other. How long did it take you to complete the first seven?FANFOLD - Imasodes-I-VIIPink ArticleADVERTISING - IMASODES-A2- Homeschool Mag

Beth: Living on the Atlantic in Newfoundland inspired me and made it easier to crank out ten manuscripts. Whenever back in America, I would keep seeking a publisher until finally landing two contracts in 2011. Gradually the publisher offered contracts up through IMASODE X. Each of the first two books stayed eight months in edit. Once I learned the editor’s point-of-view technique, she suggested I go to the “accelerated” approach which soon became the “Rush” method. That admittedly brought long queues if I missed a deadline.

Linda: Did you have a goal in mind when you began writing the series?

Beth: Yes, to keep my life on a roll!! Growing up in Texas, I loved kid-type adventures: riding horses, playing in the forbidden bayou, and looking at the world upside down from tree limbs. Eventually, I grasped how to have adventures by simply reading books. So, during the heat of the day, I sat in my treehouse and read Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Bobbsey Twins plus scores of biographies on our forefathers, early inventors, and great women. As a fourth grader, I wrote two novels and asked my teacher to let me read in class the one with 26 chapters. That took a month. Afterwards, the kids said they liked it because the story sounded like my life, confirming a writer’s primary premise: Write what you know!

After college, I began my own picaresque, moving around to have new adventures and living in every U.S. region except the Plains. I worked in advertising, theatre, and the marine industry. I taught fourth graders and young adults who read or wrote below 4th grade level. This broke my heart and made me wonder how I could combine my love of adventure with my desire to improve literacy. The dilemma birthed a new goal resulting in my mystery series.

Linda: There’s not enough time for you to go over each and every book. Would you pick one to discuss and tell us why you chose it?

Beth: That’s like choosing a favorite child, but my recent book Escapades in Estonia fits the bill.

Background: My daughter’s godparents are from Estonia and lived in displaced persons’ camps after WWII. Although quite young then, they still knew stories of family miseries and victories which they shared to enhance my story’s authenticity. I even appropriated scenes from the life of a relative, a Lutheran minister disallowed to lead worship or celebrate Christian holidays. He saw Russians seize the rectory and divide it into flats for bureaucrats and soldiers. In the 1960s, tired of tyranny, patriotic Estonians revived their “Singing Revolution,” to show resistance.

Storyline: Such a backdrop serves as a perfect setting for Ímagine Purple to solve a crime. Her childhood pal, Dr. Paul Kaminski, heads up an artificial heart project and is invited to Estonia to consult with the Tallinn Academy of Sciences. His medical equipment disappears, so he asks Ima to bring two more sets. When she arrives, Customs assumes the strange-looking apparatuses are bombs and instantly confiscates them. So that her trip will not be a total waste, Ima tries to find out when, why, how, and by whom the first sets got stolen. Her investigation lands her in a KGB jail.

Linda: I see that that Bethany Adams of Birmingham Christian Family Magazine (CFM) described your whole series’ concept in the article below. Since it may be difficult to read on my blog, would you tell us about the two “Summer Reading” articles you wrote for the Nashville CFM and we would could get a copy of the magazine?Beth Fine

Beth: I wrote from two perspectives: #1 encourages parents to let kids choose summer reading material (April) #2 describes a kid’s viewpoint and desire for other choices. (May) NCFM distributes to Nashville area businesses (e.g.beauty shops). I saw a stack at Logos Christian Bookstore. The articles can be found online: http://www.christianfamilynashville.com/cool-stuff-summer-reading-can-change-kids/

Linda: With your educational background, I certainly understand your choosing a teacher as a protagonist, but what possessed you to include a mystery in each?

Beth: You are right to call Ima a “protagonist” because everything does not always work out in her favor. Because a detective must understand logic from premise to conclusion, solving mysteries requires constant critical thinking. Since English classes usually introduce students to inductive and deductive reasoning, I had Ima Purple invent her own approach which she calls “reductive reasoning,” reducing details to a common denominator like in “fractions.” This activity keeps the story moving. Even so, roadblocks occur to build sympathy or bewilderment, both good hooks for the reader.

Linda: That makes perfect sense. Tell us about your character, Imagine Purple. What makes her a good sleuth?

Beth: Ima as a teacher-turned-detective is great at seeing details that others miss. DSC_0130_pp (1)However, she often struggles to turn mundane details or even curious facts into ”productive leads” that develop into clues, direct her to the culprit, or box her into dead-ends. Growing up studying Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Nancy Drew, Ima devised her own silly way to eliminate useless things: find a detail, throw it against wall, let if fall, and stomp on it to see if it “squirts” out a clue. But as an adult, she needed a more concrete way. Sherlock used opium, a foolish crutch he thought gave him insights; Poirot used “every little gray cell,” a method Ima respected; Miss Marple used “disarming comments” to induce unwitting responses; and Nancy used “Drewduction” to persuade friends to join her wild schemes. Ima had long used “supposes and what ifs,” a method of analysis that gradually evolved into what she called “ponder-and-pray” over loose ends.

Linda: One last question. Are you still writing book IX and X? Will this be an endless series?

Beth: I wrote IMASODES IX and X a few years ago. However, revising and formatting manuscripts per publisher’s standards have taken more time than I suspected. Fielding assignments to revise, suggest book cover ideas, or approve layouts after proof) has put IX and X in slow-cook mode. I’ve been trying to get IMA-IX in shape since last September. And though sent in February, VIII’s book cover still needs to gel. As you well know, on top of these tasks, book marketing is mostly left to the author. Marketing gets done as my time, energy, and pocketbook allow. So since my series has sixteen books from Newfoundland to New Delhi, this plan outlines my next few years. Whew!

Linda: Thank you again for the interview and sit down and relax as you’ll be my guest here for the rest of the month.

Biography

Author Beth Fine has long been a writer of plays, music, verses, and stories. She has master’s degrees in humanities and literature, both emphasizing composition. Her undergraduate work focused on theatre, sociology, and education. She moved from Newfoundland to Tennessee in 2012. For more information, visit picaresqueofimagine series site or http://bethfine.com/

Seven books in the series are in print so far, with more in the works:
IMASODE I: Last Passenger Train Across Newfoundland *
IMADODE II: Scary Ferry to Nova Scotia
IMASODE III: Mary Jane of Canton, Maine
IMASODE IV: Mayhem in Manhattan *
IMASODE V: Anti-Belle of Antebellum Atlanta
IMASODE VI: Danger Starts in Detroit
IMASODE VII: Escapades in Estonia *
IMASODE VIII: Aunt Lottie’s London (Late Spring 2016)
IMASODE IX: Sovereign’s Sunburst, an Auction in Germany (Late 2016)IMASODE X: From Piraeus to Paris to the Pyrenees (2016-17)
Buy Link: http://picaresqueofimaginepurple.com/shop/
*Available B&N-Brentwood. All others at Amazon

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Comments

Author Interview – Welcome Beth Fine — 46 Comments

  1. Thank you, Marie. Beth has put out a number of good books. I’ve got gifts to give grandkids for years.

  2. Inspiring! Your interview certainly illuminates the story behind the story. I totally agree that an author’s best books usually come from real life experiences.

  3. Encouraging:-) Your books are like mirrors, and your interview edified the true story in your Imasode Books. I have read some of your books;Imasode, I, II, III, IV, V and VI, and am proud to state that “A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end so that you live several lives while reading. Mary Fine’s books creates an appeal in all sorts of ways-by its theme, titles, situations and characters and above all it succinctly appeals to us by the presence in it of art

    • Thank you Joseph for your inspiring words. I could never have imagined anyone seeing my books so philosophically as you have.

    • Thank you Jacqueline and Joseph for stopping by. The whole idea of what Beth has done here is inspiring.

  4. I like that kids can read these and keep learning, especially over the summer, when they’re in danger of losing some of the progress they made the previous year. Great ideas!

  5. Summer bible school skits, theatre elective classes, summer enrichment reading and so many more venues for our future generations to have fun and get smarter! Ima is certain to be categorized among the grand reviews of The Nancy Drew series and the like!

    • Oh, Nancy, how can anyone live up to such great comments. Unused to such accolades, I feel like a kid back in junior high, carrying my autograph book to get some random celebrity’s signature. Thank-thank-thank you for your kind words

  6. Interesting interview! I always loved middle school literature! The concept of educating and entertaining is a wonderful “win/win” combination. I can see plenty of Grandparents buying these books to occupy bored children visiting during school breaks!

    • Thanks Brenda. You’re so right about grandparents buying the Imasodes. I think they realize their own successes have required a lifelong love of learning from both school and outside reading.

  7. I enjoyed the interview. Reading, I believe, is the key that unlocks all learning. I especially like that the reader may enjoy the books at whatever depth they choose. The appendices, however, are an amazing resource. I remember how excited I was with Kindle offering definitions on the spot. My vocabulary has improved, and I’m well into my senior years. Life-long learning indeed. These books provide young readers with interesting characters and so much more.

    • Donna, I agree. I talked to one of our kids’ families the other night. They said they were going to look at this site. Beth signed a copy of her first book in the series to them. My granddaughter who is only 8 years old piped in that she started reading the book I sent to her and her brother the moment it came in the mail and had read a big chunk. Her parents say that she has no problem reading. She sounded like she just loved the book. I’ll be sending them the others every year.

    • Thanks Donna for your kind words, especially noticing that the series has an appendices. I call them the “back of the book” with answers and clues for the curious reader but not for use to check homework assignments.

    • It may be a while before I find out more. I’ll ask. They are all so busy and live in a different state. Kacey is my granddaughter’s name and she’ll be 9 years old in September. She loves to read. I asked her a few years ago what she wanted to be when she grew up and she told me she wanted to be a “reader.” Not sure that’s a profession although a friend of mind said it’s called an acquisition editor. I will let you know what I find out. She was so excited about what she’d read so far in the Last Train to Newfoundland book (the first in the series). I will keep sending the series to them if they continue to show interest.

  8. I am in between older grandchildren (High School and College age), and very small great grandchildren. I have given each of their families a set of your books to read. I will report on their interest on Ima’s great adventures at the end of the summer.
    Being an avid reader I have enjoyed and learned many things from The Imasodes.
    I am a very big fan of yours Beth Fine. I can’t wait to see what you do next!!

    • Krinn, you have been in my corner from day one. In fact, you are the one that said, “Beth, isn’t there some way you could write full-time.” That encouragement became a prophecy that sent me out to continue my adventure of traveling and of pursuing publishers. Thank you so much for your constant support of my Imasodes.

  9. Interesting! I enjoyed reading that interview very much. I have also enjoyed reading a few of these books!

    • Thank you Jeni. You and Terry understand more than most others of putting out your efforts on display for the world’s critique. Mutual admiration stirs in our hearts and often keeps our motors running to each new destination.

  10. The mystery books are just too fantastic,Beth is an Author who captures the mind of the reader and educateshim or her.Having started a reader’s library with her help here in Kenya.young African readers too have come to appreciate the beauty of her literature.

    • Oh Ches, what a privilege to have you on TeamIma, almost since the first Imasode got published. You,as a budding playwright, can appreciate what encouraging comments do for a writer’s energy, not ego. Give my love to the winning cast of your play and to the students at St. Augustine.

  11. Thank you Krinn, Jeni, and Dennis for your recent comments. To me, Beth’s books would likely become “keepsakes” for the children who read them. They would be memories of good mysteries, good learning experiences, maybe reread, but also I see them being used as references. They provide resources that can be referred back to in the educational sections.

  12. Great interview Linda and Beth,

    I love your concept of mixing education with a mystery. I’m sure it draws YA’s and helps parents as well. Looking forward to reading your books and giving a set to my grandchildren.

    • Thank you, Linda. You have some things in common with Beth having been a teacher too. Also, besides the adult fiction and YA you’ve written, you have several published children’s books.

    • Thank you Linda Kane and Thorne, or should I say Lindas to the 2nd power. Your comments spur me on as I wrestle with the IMASODE IX: Sovereign’s Sunburst Auction in Germany. Oh boy, will Imasode readers ever catch on to what ESL readers experience. It will be fun to learn a few German, Italian, and Punjabi words as they pop out on the pages.

  13. Linda..thank you for taking the time to discover the brilliance of this lady who I have known my entire adult life. She is a most talented individual, in so many fronts and directions. She is aided by her beautiful daughter in helping to promote her books. Children everywhere are the beneficiaries of her genius. Hats of to both of you. Bob Fuller

    • Thank you Bob for visiting and commenting on Linda’s interview with me. She’s a pro from whom I’ve learned a lot. I appreciate your constant friendship and encouragement. Sometimes I feel as if we are in a relay race passing the baton back and forth to keep each other in the game and in hot pursuit of the almost elusive goal of excellence. You keep me on my toes because I see your life as a piece of artwork to admire and emulate.

  14. I loved this interview, Linda and Beth! Educational mysteries? I love the concept. When a child, it certainly would have kept me reading. These books sound just like those great teachers I remember from childhood. Their lessons were always the best because they brought them to life with stories. In my teaching, I try to do the same thing. It’s nice to meet you here, Beth and share in your world.
    I truly enjoyed this interview and learning about your marvelous children’s books. Thanks to Linda for the introduction!

    • S.J., Yes, I remember those teachers, especially the older teachers who had lots of love and wisdom for their students. I also remember the young ones who had so much drive, enthusiasm, and boldness to try new methods. Ima Purple is a combination of those but presented in an old-school story approach to fit the 1960s. I chose to write a picaresque because it affords mysteries and adventures full of noble goals and feisty rascals thwarting those goals. The hodgepodge of characters and story lines are disguised but come from my life or the lives of friends. That’s the joy of writing fiction.

    • You’re welcome S.J. You have such a strong educational background of your own, I’m not surprised you’d like this concept.

  15. “Have Fun.Grow Smarter.” An excellent way for a middle schooler to join in on many adventures this Summer or coming School year. Consider giving out many Imasodes to the young reader you know and Best of Success to you Beth with this Series.

    • Thank you Steve. I liked how you changed “Get Smarter” to “Grow Smarter.” Your encouraging words help me to stay in the moment. Finding future patrons my middle school mystery series is not assumed by the publisher but is becomes the task of authors, bloggers, and readers. Nashville mystery author Linda Thorne certainly opened the floodgates of new audiences for me by promoting my books. She knows that getting out the word about a new mystery series takes diligence, persistence, and cooperation.

  16. Having read IMASODES I, II, & III of this stimulating mystery series by Beth Fine, I find the pace of building anticipation to be an interesting and pleasurable read. A chance to learn “the rest of the story” behind the scenes through character backgrounds is provided in the Appendices. I particularly like the opportunities to increase vocabulary by checking out the italicized words and phrases in the back of the book. The fact that each book is set in a very different geographical and cultural location has great appeal.

    • Virginia, since you noticed the Appendices, I suspect you are a teacher like so many of the other respondents. I loved studying neurology, so I have mixed italicized vocabulary words into the story line as triggers…to make crinkles in the brain! Whether in a mood of contentment, curiosity, or rebellion, kids learn “incidental information” throughout childhood and adolescence. Those variables drove my intention to steer my characters to speak from their own outlook, an outlook the reader can, with critical thinking, surmise if the words hold truth or lies.

  17. These books sound wonderful . I would think that they’d be flying off the shelf!!!

    • Thank you Amy. You are a rare artist who has an eye for marketing. With 832 books coming out daily, “shelf space” is precious and coveted by new authors.

  18. I recently bought this entire set for my granddaughters. They actually love the books so much that I look forward to the next series. Thank you, Beth, for writing these interesting and also educational books!

    • Oh Mary, that your granddaughters liked the Imasodes absolutely thrills me. Tell the girls that the whole series will have 16 books so there are others already in print for occasional surprise gifts to them. They can see summaries of I-X on imaginepurple.com (click Imasodes then any available synopsis) Now, I hope I can learn some Latin from your books. Although I have enjoyed several of the narratives, the rest looms as a monstrous task for my “Bucket List” instead of my current “Must Do List.”