Jen: Today we welcome Amelia Betts to Romancing the Book. Amelia, will you share a short bio with us?
Amelia: Amelia Betts was born in the South, where she grew up on soap operas, sugar cereal, and Judy Blume. She learned the thrill of the secret crush when her older sisters started bringing boys home, and has been a hopeless romantic ever since. She now resides, and dreams up happily ever afters, in Los Angeles, California.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Amelia: ADDICTED is about a girl named Mischa who’s just graduating college and is frantically trying to sort out a job, a new apartment, plans for grad school, and getting a handle on her food addiction. She’s a regular at Overeaters Anonymous, but one night, when she seeks out a new meeting, she accidentally shows up at the Sex Addicts Anonymous group. There, she meets Liam, a super sexy Australian restaurateur who tries to seduce her the minute the meeting is over. What ensues is a star-crossed romance between two addicts who can’t help but tempt each other.
The idea for the book came from a lot of different things in my life. One, I’ve been involved in relationships with addicts struggling to stay sober. I also grew up with one in my family, and now have two siblings who are in twelve step programs. I’ve attended Al-Anon meetings off and on throughout my life, so I’m very familiar with and sympathetic to the struggle of addiction and how it affects relationships. The other thing that I’m sympathetic to is that time in a young person’s life – just after college graduation for those who go to college – when you’re an adult but nothing is figured out and the world is such a daunting, scary place. When I look back at my college graduation, I just remember how miserable I was – I wanted to crawl back into the womb of undergrad and never come out!
Here’s a short excerpt:
After dinner, I pretended I had someplace to be, got into my car, and headed down the block aimlessly. It was a Monday, so I had no meeting to retreat to, and I was hungry from not eating dinner, but the last thing I wanted to do was embark on another binge, especially the first day after graduation. Coasting along at ten miles per hour, I ogled the neighbors’ houses and my mind wandered to Liam. Where was he right now? Had he fallen off the wagon again with some other woman at his restaurant or a random Craigslist hookup? How was I so obsessed with him already? Didn’t I know better than to go for a guy that good-looking? Would a cheeseburger help me forget about him?
Stay strong, Mischa, I coached myself through the mach-force, industrial-strength crush threatening to take hold. If there was one thing that would help get me through this, it would not be cheeseburgers but willpower. So instead of autopiloting to Taco Bell, I resigned myself to buying groceries and ran the options over in my head. Just like the quirky, ritualistic schedules I adhered to when frequenting fast-food restaurants (McDonald’s for daytime stops; Burger King and Wendy’s for dinner; KFC during hometown visits; Taco Bell for all other needs), my grocery store preferences were highly specific, with Publix being my number one choice for nighttime/weekday shopping. It was hands-down the most popular supermarket in Oceanside, and therefore crawling with screaming babies and young children anytime before sundown. But after dark on school nights it was like a safe haven. Which is why, when I heard my name called out from the other side of a precarious mountain of bananas in the produce section, I was especially taken aback.
“Mischa! You’ve got to stop following me around like this.” Liam’s irresistible Australian brogue hit my ears like a clap of thunder, and I was as stunned as if actual lightning had struck.
“Hello,” I said, deer-in-headlights style. Remembering where I was, I furtively glanced into my basket—it would have been instant mortification had I already hit the snack aisle, or worse, frozen foods—and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a single, respectable bunch of kale.
“You disappeared the other day. I’m starting to think you don’t like me.” Liam’s devilish smile was a little more tentative than the last time I had seen him, as if he actually cared.
“Of course not, no—” I reached out for a banana and the entire display began to tumble, prompting Liam to rush over and stop the mini-avalanche with his body. I dropped my basket and collected the fallen fruit from the floor.
“I thought this only happened in movies,” Liam said as I helped him put the bananas back in place.
“My life is just that magical,” I joked. Liam turned to me and smiled. What he didn’t know was this moment was actually magical for me. I couldn’t believe I was seeing him again, as if all my obsessing had dreamed him into reality. The thought I’d had driving away from U-Haul the day before came back to me: If I see him again, all bets are off.
We stood there for a moment, a Lionel Richie song and the hiss of produce misters providing a soundtrack to our awkward silence. “Anyway, I don’t want to keep you,” he said.
Oh no. Now Liam was the one fleeing, waving at me and sauntering away before I even had time to respond. A panic alarm set off in my brain—I had to do something. “Wait!” I called out, having no idea what I planned to say.
He turned on a dime, his eyebrow raised à la Jack Nicholson, as if to challenge me. “Yes?”
“Umm …” I was trying to recall something we had talked about, a conversation starter, but nothing came to mind. I drew a blank, too transfixed by the fluorescent-lit sparkle in Liam’s eyes, visible from ten feet away. And then my food-driven brain kicked in and remembered the pivotal detail from our first conversation in the Baptist church parking lot. “Remember how you mentioned that gelato the other night? The one you make at your restaurant?”
“Yes,” Liam responded with a knowing smirk.
“I’ve been thinking about it … ,” I said.
By the look on his face, Liam understood that I had been thinking about a lot more than gelato.
“It’s still there,” he said with an easy shrug.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Amelia: I’m a ride-or-die plotter. I think writing is so spontaneous as it is, even when every scene is laid out prior to the first draft. If I had to do something without an outline or treatment, I doubt it would even happen. I’m like a toddler – I respond well to structure.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Amelia: I absolutely have a routine, and it sometimes involves an amount of procrastination I’m not willing to admit to. On weekdays, I write in the mornings. I feel good if I get an hour of writing in before I leave for work. On weekends, as much of Saturday and Sunday that I can devote to writing (7-8 hours is usually my limit), I do. That said, I start the day with a breakfast routine that lasts a good 1.5 hours – no joke – and that often leads into at least another hour of time spent reading news, blogs, catching up on social media, etc. When I have all day, it’s usually noon by the time I get serious. I take an afternoon break, to go walking or swimming, then dive back in.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Amelia: I have to write them down. I do a lot of writing down ideas I wake up with in the middle of the night. There’s always a pen and a notebook by my bed for that purpose. What I’m bad about is making notes during the day on my phone. I’m still kicking myself for not writing down an idea that came to me the other day while driving, and praying it will come back because it’s a serious story note for something I’m in the thick of!!
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Amelia: I’m working on a Young Adult book now, and would love to write more of those. Something I have no business doing, unfortunately, is Fantasy. I love books that transport you to an imaginary world, or a post-apocalyptic future, but my mind just doesn’t work that way.
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Amelia: Chris Hemsworth IS Liam. For Mischa, I would like to see an up-and-coming, unknown actress who really fits the character – someone who actually has some extra pounds, and can show that that’s sexy. A Lena Dunham type, but less New York City, more Eagle Grove, Iowa.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Amelia: I have another New Adult romance that’s in its formative stages, set in Hollywood, with a love interest I’m currently in love with, and a super funny, smart, type-A girl who’s a bit of a workaholic.