Q&A: Betsy Woodman

Betsy Woodman (photo by Joanna Puza)
There are a lot of wonderful writers living in our state, some full-time, some part-time.  As the Director of the NH Center for the Book I get the opportunity to talk to many of them. This interview series of Q&As with New Hampshire authors here on Book Notes lets me share that experience a bit with my blog readers.   

If someone hasn't read your work yet, where should they start?
They should start with Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes (Henry Holt & Co., 2012.) It’s the first volume in the Jana Bibi trilogy; the second and third are Love Potion Number 10 and Emeralds Included.
When did you first think of yourself as a writer?
Rather late in the game—about age forty.

How did you end up living in NH?
I’m a native, born in New London. I grew up in India, but we always considered New Hampshire home. My grandparents lived in Franklin and my dad was born there. I lived in the Boston area for many years, but for the last sixteen years have lived in Andover in a house that originally was my grandfather’s summer cabin.

Where do you like to write?
 Mostly in my study. I also find buses and trains good for getting down notes and first drafts. Restaurants aren’t bad, either!

How important is place in your writing?
Hugely. I set the Jana Bibi series in a fictional cousin of the Himalayan town in India where I went to school as a teenager. The views, sounds, and smells of the place are essential to the feel of the book.
I am passionate about New Hampshire, too, and love to write about New Hampshire topics. My granddad had the first hospital in Franklin, so I wrote the story of that up for Historical New Hampshire (Vol 64, 2010.)

What do you do when you aren't writing?
My major form of recreation is playing Scottish music with the Strathspey and Reel Society of NH. I also swim and am a big movie buff.

What’s the best piece of advice (writing or otherwise) you were ever given?
It was about working, from my sister. We had been talking about how to work—and I said, “work smarter, not harder” (which isn’t very original.) She came back with, “no, work happier!”

What books do you love and what about them speaks to you?
The books I love most deeply are the children’s classics I practically memorized as a kid. Charlotte’s Web stands out for its combination of atmosphere and gentle philosophy. Plus I always loved the idea of animals being wiser than people.

What are you working on now?
A novel set in early twentieth century New Hampshire.

What do you want to share that I neglected to ask about?
 An in-joke that connects New Hampshire and India. I named my fictional town in the Jana Bibi books “Hamara Nagar,” which means “Our Town.” The echo of Thornton Wilder’s play by that name was intentional. I figured small towns all over the world shared some qualities—they make it possible for intimacy, neighborliness, and eccentricity to thrive.
You can learn more about Betsy and her work at www.betsywoodman.com

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