An Incredible Summer, the latest book from Betta Ferrendelli, was released in September. If you are a fan of courtroom dramas (think John Grisham), then this book might be for you.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
In 1993, I watched the movie Fried Green Tomatoes on video one snowy evening. There was a line in the movie, “That fall, Ruth lost her appetite,” and I knew what was going to happen next. I watched that movie at least another dozen times after that initial viewing and it is still my favorite movie today. I was already working professionally as a journalist, but after watching that movie, I knew what I really wanted to do was be an author. Now that has happened, I am working on the “best-selling” part.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote a poem about the rain standing at my mother’s bedroom. I was in the seventh grade. I read that poem during an English class in high school and the teacher said to me that it was too good and I couldn’t have written it. I have been writing ever since.
How much of yourself, your personality, or your experiences are in your books?
I have written five books. Four are published on Amazon. There is a little bit of me and some of my experiences in life in each one of them. In An Invincible Summer, there is a scene with Tia Ranch, Jaime’s paralegal, and she is riding home on the bus after work. She is thinking about her husband, a dentist, and how she caught him cheating with one of his dental assistants. She went to his office on a hunch and found them both by a dental chair. Tia and her boys went to a hotel and stayed for the night and her husband stood outside the door, saying he was sorry and pleading with her to him let him in. Tia never does let him in. That was my mother and father many, many years ago.
What is the best and worst advice you have received regarding writing or publishing?
Write about what you know came from another writer. Bad advice—since we all truly, truly know so little about so many things. I like to say write about what you’re interested in. Anything that piques your interest, you’re going to want to learn more.
How do you conceive your plot ideas?
A lot of my ideas have come as a result of being a newspaper reporter, which has allowed me a comfortable access that most people would not have in places such as police evidence rooms, morgues, etc. Being a reporter has also allowed me to interview and write about other writers and get tips and ideas from them about writing. I have met and interviewed Mary Higgins Clark, Clive Cussler, Diane Mott Davidson, J.A. Jance, Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, to name a few. Each has offered me valuable advice, which I have tried to apply over the years.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I do both. If it is a difficult chapter, when I stop writing for the day, I will take the time to outline the chapter. When I am ready to start writing again, I find the words do come a little easier. More often than not, I just keep writing. This is when Stephen King’s advice from his book On Writing Well, becomes so important. In the book he says to “just write,” and everything else will fall into place. It is so much easier to edit when you have something already down on paper. So I write, even if I am not happy with what I writing, I just keep writing. I can always revise and edit later, which I always do.
Please tell us about your current release.
An Invincible Summer published on Amazon Sept. 29, 2015. One review from Readers’ Favorite sums the book up best: “An Invincible Summer is a wonderful mix of emotions, crucial decisions, courtroom scenes, romance and compassion.”
It is the story of Jaime Monroe, a young prosecutor who has a bright future with the Denver District Attorney’s office. Jaime, however, is tormented by demons from her past. But when she learns that Leigh Roberts, a local reporter for a Denver daily newspaper, intends to have her mentally challenged young adult daughter, Ashleigh, forcibly sterilized, something within Jaime stirs. Whether it is anger, pity, or simply the need to do what’s right, Jaime decides to turn her back on her promising career with the DA’s office to represent Ashleigh. With the odds stacked against them, Jaime and Ashleigh take their case to the courts in a battle that will ultimately resolve one woman’s past and one woman’s future.
How did you come up with the title?
That was probably the hardest thing about writing this book, ha-ha! It was a process, as I changed the title regularly because I couldn’t settle on anything I liked. The title ultimately came from the quote by Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found within me an invincible summer.” I use that quote in the last few lines of the book when my main character, Jaime Monroe, remembers having a poster with that saying on it. It is then that she realizes given everything she has been through in her life, that within her, there has always been an invincible summer.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
In addition to knowing a family intimately who had a child with special needs, I interview professionals in the field, as well as other parents who had children with special needs and attorneys who helped me research the threshold hearing that takes place between the mother Leigh Roberts and her daughter, Ashleigh in An Invincible Summer. I extensively researched state laws (Colorado specifically) on sterilization requirements. This goes back to writing about what you’re interested in. I learned a great deal while researching and writing this story because I had a genuine interest in the topic.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
I didn’t base them on anyone I knew, but a compilation of people I knew or have known over the years. The mother in my story, Leigh Roberts, is based loosely on a friend of mine, a mother who had a severally mentally handicapped daughter, who also had a severe/rare form of epilepsy. My friend wanted to have her daughter sterilized to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. She gave me the idea for the book, not primarily about the issue of sterilization, but for all the things she had done to make her daughter’s life as livable, happy and progressive as she possibly could given her limitations, for there were many. Nearly everything Leigh Roberts did for her daughter in An Invincible Summer, my friend had done for her own daughter.
Is there a specific place in the house you like to write?
Unless I am writing in a newsroom, the only other place I write is at home. I like to follow the sun. In the mornings, I am in my office. In the afternoons, I write at my kitchen table with the sunlight streaming in, which is my favorite place to write.
Do you have a favorite book?
Not a favorite book, but a favorite paragraph or two from the last part of A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean. I love the line that he is “haunted by waters.” It is, however, the few lines before that when he is talking about being an old man and fishing in the half-light of a Montana afternoon and he says, “the people I have loved most in my life are gone from me now, but I still find myself reaching out to them.” For anyone who has ever loved and lost someone, you know exactly what he means.
In this gripping legal drama, rising prosecutor Jaime Munroe resigns her post to represent Ashleigh Roberts, a mentally challenged young woman whose mother and legal guardian is seeking to have forcibly sterilized. Jaime is a promising young lawyer with the Denver District Attorney’s Office. She makes her name by successfully prosecuting the case of a teen-aged girl with a severe mental disability who had been raped and murdered. Although she comes across as strong and confident, the girl’s case opens old wounds for Jamie, who is struggling with tragic events from her past.
Leigh Roberts, a reporter for a Denver daily newspaper, covers the trial, and this case also hits close to home. She is the mother and legal guardian of Ashleigh, who has a mild mental disability. Ashleigh is a cheerful young woman about to become truly independent. After living for years in a group home, she will soon be on her own in a living arrangement with minimal adult oversight. She will also quit work at a sheltered workshop to begin a job in a food court, where she will have daily interaction with society’s mainstream. With these dramatic life changes, Leigh fears that Ashleigh will be an easy target to deceive. Only wanting to do right by her daughter, she seeks the court’s approval to have Ashleigh forcibly sterilized.
The case tugs at Jamie and affects her personal life. She even oversteps ethical boundaries by befriending Leigh. Jamie also becomes close to her client Ashleigh, and the young woman’s cause soon becomes her own. The lines continued to blur as the lawyer looks not only to help the young woman but seemingly wants to clear her own conscience over a childhood death she could have prevented. Undaunted by the overwhelming odds against Ashleigh winning, Jaime leads the charge and takes the case to court in a battle that ultimately resolves one woman’s past and another’s future. Readers will be swept up by arguments on both sides in An Invincible Summer and will keep guessing the outcome until the last page.
About the Author
Betta Ferrendelli is the award-winning author of the Samantha Church Mystery Series featuring reporter Samantha Church. Many of Church’s adventures come from Ferrendelli’s own experience since 1989 as a prize-winning journalist for newspapers in Denver, Seattle and Albuquerque.
You can purchase An Invincible Summer on Amazon.