BackGround – AJ Betts

37972_418725696573_6286166_nSuper-author, inspirational teacher, and cycling whirlwind, A.J. Betts, was kind enough to give of her time and expertise, to discuss what it takes to become a professional writer (apart from being insanely talented, of course!). So suck in the wisdom, people!


Can you recall any situations or environments or objects or animals or people which/who have inspired you to create?

Environments that inspire me to create: travel, outdoors, cafes, conversations, other books, galleries.

Do you have a set methodology for coming up with new ideas, or does your pure amazingness allow you to just happen upon them during the course of your day?

Ideas can be manufactured (I have methods…) but I never need to. Ideas appear through the day, when I’m writing or not. I have a whole backlog of ideas now – lock me in a room for 50 years and I’ll be kept busy.

For me, creativity is a blend of observing the real world with a sense of curiosity and wondering ‘what if…?’ It’s being alert to the rhythms and collisions of living things, and peeling back the layers to find the fragile bits.

What do you do (or where you go) to open your mind?

To open my mind, I need nature and/or people, so I go to the markets, shopping centre, or beach. To solve problems, I go driving or running/walking in the forest.

Do you carry a notebook, or voice recorder, or camera (actually, a phone can do all those things…) wherever you go?

I should carry a notebook but I’m always changing bags so I forget… The iPhone is very useful: I list things overheard, as well as photographing random articles I read. If I want to take better shots (of places/people) I take a camera.


Do you remember anything from your first post-uni job hunt: feelings, interviews, resume, method of contact…

Just the feeling of inadequacy, and rolling along with the momentum rather than stopping to ask ‘is this really what I want to do?’ Often feeling like a stammering idiot who needs to reproduce ‘ideology’ than respond as a human being.

What would you suggest is necessary for a successful writing job-hunt?

Not sure – haven’t ever looked for one, sorry. But I’d say real-life perspective, i.e. Don’t expect writing ‘jobs’ to be out there. Often you have to create them.

How do you execute a great job interview?

Preparation and a decent dose of nerves, plus honesty, charmingly put.

How much sleep is enough sleep?

8-9 hours, through preferably 9

Do you embrace new technologies in your work?

Somewhat. I could learn a lot more if I had time.

Have you won any awards? – Are awards ceremonies fun?

I’ve won one and been shortlisted for another. Yes, ceremonies are great fun. It’s good to be rewarded and given food and wine!

What are some of the most powerful/memorable lessons you have learned on the job?

To be humble and grateful for opportunities, though never let yourself be trampled on. To sort out contracts early on (still learning that one).


What are some of the most powerful/memorable lessons you learned while studying?

Do what you love, not what you (or others) think you should do. You’re responsible for your decisions and achievements.

Was anything missing from your course that turned out to be important in your professional career?

Finance and industry advice.

Do you learn best by doing, seeing, reading, hearing, or a mixture of some, or all of them?

Reading first, maybe seeing, but then by doing – and re-doing and re-reading. Then re-doing… etc.

If you could go back in time (forget all the other super-amazing things you could do, like meet Marie Curie, or Jules Vern, or be witness to the building of the pyramids by aliens), would you approach your degree differently?

Yes. I would research other degrees. I’d talk to people at uni who would take the time to listen, rather than pigeon-hole me. I’d have a better look through the course outlines, and I’d probably pay more attention in class and work harder!


What was the greatest animated series ever made?

The Simpsons, of course.

What are you listening to?

Traffic. Waves. Bogans shouting out from cars.

What are you reading?

My latest novel draft.

If you had the space, would you keep a unicorn as a pet/housemate?

Only a miniature unicorn. I don’t have the space for a life-size one, and my ceiling’s not that high.

And, finally – is there anything I missed out, something which you feel is important in the search for artistic excellence?

Make it happen yourself. Be a realist. Have a day job!!

Thanks a bunch!

Hope and bunnies,



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