About the author:
Betty Byrd started life as a competitive swimmer, field hockey player and cheerleader and then, after obtaining a degree in Creative Writing and doing graduate work, she became an editor for The Spectator, Ohio's largest weekly newspaper, and freelanced for a national men's magazine. Following that incarnation, she traveled to Southern California and worked as an actress in the television series Gunsmoke as well as in other films, mini-series and commercials. Her next "life" was that of a mother and, once her daughter was raised, she returned to her roots, writing. Her first novel, Trinity's Daughter, has now been followed by the award winning UTOPIA TEXAS. The author's website is http://www.bettybyrd.com/. Visit her page on Outskirts Press: www.outskirtspress.com/utopiatexas.
Today I had the opportunity to interview this remarkable woman. Here's how it went:
Tell me a bit more about the story behind this novel. From what I've read on your blog, your two novels, Trinity's Daughter and Utopia Texas are based upon your family. I'm sure this was difficult to write about. Did you find it liberating? At the age of 16 a Harvard psychiatrist advocated that I leave home. He said that the family chaos I was living in was an impossible situation. At that time I was attending a boarding school, so I listened to him and stayed away, visiting families all over the country. After seeing these families and how they related to each other I realized I was living a nightmare. Friends would say to me, "why don't you write your story it's so crazy? You need to write it down." In order for me to liberate myself from the pain I started my novel years ago, however after several years of therapy, I realized that I needed to step away from writing until I was able to let go of my anger.
After about 10 years I was able to look at my dynamic grandmother for what she was and (the hardest of all) was looking at my schizophrenic mother with sadness and pity. I realized that some people are not capable of helping themselves. They just don't know better.
I understand Utopia Texas is a sequel to another, Trinity's Daughter? Yes, Trinity's Daughter was published in 2004 and is the prequel to Utopia Texas.
Do you plan another book in this sequel? If so, when will it be available to the public? No, I do not plan to do another book in this sequel.
You're quite an accomplished woman. Does the draw of the theatre still entice you? I spent a good 25 years in the film industry as an actor. I don't think that you ever take that out of us. I cannot lie, being a voting member of Screen Actor's Guild, I'm always open to a film part. My major in college was Creative Writing and Theater, so I was always torn between the two. At this point in my life, I'm very fond of writing and enjoy being on the other side of the camera.
If you were to choose actresses to play Brya, Olivia and Maggie, who would you select and why? What about Cole and Brock? Would you use Utopia as the setting? It's been a dream of mine to see Utopia Texas in film. I believe that you would need an all star cast to play Brya, Olivia and Maggie because they are all so deep in their own way. That would be a challenge for any actress out there. If I were to cast Brya, I think that Glenn Close would be terrific. She has the strength and carriage. Olivia is more difficult because you need to have a beauty that spirals down into schizophrenia. Nicole Kidman would have what it takes. For Maggie. I like Chole Moretz who starred in the film, KickAss and has recently (been) making a Martin Scorcese film. She has depth and character and may be able to carry Maggie until she's 18, I don't know.
WOW! Cole and Brock...We're fast losing our cowboys, however, let's not underestimate Jeff Bridges as Brock. Tom Skerrit, or Sam Elliott would do Cole great justice.
*Utopia Texas would be the best setting for the film because that's where our ranch was located.
You quote Hemingway in your book and Mark Twain on your blog. Who are your favourite authors? How have they influenced your writing? Ernest Hemingway has been my mentor. He was one of the most charismatic personalities of his time, from his travels to his exploits, to his profound sense of human tragedy in his written works. He reinvented the novel with his journalistic style of writing driven by dialogue. I hope I'll have lots of lifetimes to try and write as well as this man, however, as one biographer concluded, "he wrote as naturally as a hawk flies and as clearly as a lake reflects."
What's next for you? More books, other ventures? I'm currently in the process of writing a global thriller.
Will your novels be available in retail stores other than Amazon? Utopia Texas is currently available in all retail stores. If it's not on the shelf you can order it.
Betty Byrd is an accomplished woman. Not because of her past, I think, but despite it. Ms. Byrd was awarded the Evvy Literary Award for her novel Utopia Texas.