“I was quiet as a child. I have always liked to listen more than I like to talk. I think that’s why I am a writer. If I pay enough attention and listen hard enough to a person I begin to see beyond the words to the feelings and the truth.
“When I was young I didn’t plan to be a writer. My mother, Betsy Byars, is a writer and I knew first hand what that meant. You sat at a desk for hours and typed and typed and typed. It didn’t seem very exciting. I wanted a job that did not take place in a bedroom, a job that required clothes like a business suit or a white lab coat.
“My mother’s writing was a part of my childhood. I have early memories of watching my mother at the typewriter, of reading her manuscripts, of sharing the excitement when a book was accepted for publication and of seeing her stories become books. She often asked me to critique a manuscript by placing an arrow in the margin pointing to the spot where I lost interest. I learned to edit at a young age.
“When it was time for me to choose a career I decided on Medical Technology. I loved science and I got to wear that white lab coat. My favorite job title was given to me when my husband, Bill, and I lived in Ankara, Turkey and I worked at a Turkish hospital. Grand Supreme Supervisor and Expert Specialist. It was the pinnacle of my career as a scientist.
“When my children were born I stayed home to raise them and read to them. I began to get ideas for books of my own and when those ideas came, I knew what to do. I sat at a desk for hours and typed and typed and typed and I discovered it was exciting after all.
“Most of my ideas come from my own children and the things that they do. When Charles invented a food fight catapult at Young Inventor’s Camp, I wrote The Gadget War. When we were housebreaking our dog, Chester, I wrote A Boy in the Doghouse. When we moved, I wrote Hey, New Kid. “When I create a character I usually start with their appearance. The physical features come from people I know. All the feelings of the character come from me. All of my characters are a little bit me. I have Cody’s imagination, Lucky’s optimism, Booker’s love of words.
“When I was growing up in West Virginia, my family ate every meal together- breakfast, lunch and dinner. What I remember most about those meals is laughter. There was no problem so big that we couldn’t solve it around that table with love and humor. Most of the laughter came from the stories that we told each other. They usually started with phrases like: You won’t believe what happened to me. or That’s nothing I… Sharing stories helps people feel better about their own problems.
“I write only in the mornings when my kids are in school. In the afternoons I spend time with them car pooling them to sports and church activities. My favorite thing to do in my spare time has not changed since I was a child – reading.”
Betsy Duffey is the author of numerous books for young readers, including Hey, New Kid!; The Gadget War; The Math Wiz; and Utterly Yours, Booker Jones (all Viking and Puffin). She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.