The daughter of an editor, Betty Kerr Orlemann grew up in a house filled with books, but tried her hand at a variety of other things before she settled down to writing. She studied music in college with an emphasis on voice, then switched to history. Some of her other pursuits along the way include ballroom dance instructor, manager of a hospital’s EKG department, actress and antique dealer. She was the first woman president of the Greater Glenside Chamber of Commerce and founder of the Friends of the Delaware Canal, where she still serves on the Advisory Board. In addition to her fiction, she writes for several local newspapers in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. In short, she’s “done it all” and done it while raising an active, involved family. The protagonist of her mystery series, which is set in Upper Bucks County, is Hattie Farwell, a feisty 80-year-old who embodies Betty’s belief that today’s seniors are strong people with strong beliefs and something of value to say.
Mission Murder, the first book in Betty’s Hattie Farwell series, won the prestigious silver metal in the 2009 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) awards for Best Mid-Atlantic Regional Fiction
Betty’s website is http://www.bettyorlemann.com
SANDY CODY: What prompted you to become a writer?
BETTY ORLEMANN: I’ve loved books all of my life. My mother was a book editor for the Winston Publishing Co. in Philadelphia and I absorbed her enthusiasm for reading and writing. As a matter of fact, I wrote my first book when I was four and one-half years old! Its name was Twinkletoes, the Faerie. I don’t remember much about it.
CODY: What part of writing do you find most satisfying?
ORLEMANN: Thinking up something that I just have to tell someone.
CODY: What part do you find most difficult?
ORLEMANN: Staring at the blank screen of my computer and not coming up with an idea!
CODY: What comes first to you? Characters? Story? Setting?
ORLEMANN: The setting. However, the others follow closely behind.
CODY: Tell us about your Hattie Farwell series.
ORLEMANN: Hattie first appeared in Stalker in the Woods (soon to be released), the first book I wrote. It takes place in a new home in Plumstead Township, Bucks County; the protagonist is a young woman who is pursued by a vicious killer. Her two little girls disappear during a snowstorm. Their mother goes in search of them and finds them in an old farmhouse down a long dirt lane. The owner of the home has taken them in out of the storm and is trying to find their mother’s phone number. She has bundled the children up against the cold and given them hot chocolate. Her huge hybrid wolf-Irish wolfhound named “Wolf” befriends the little girls. But guess who the old woman is–that’s how I met Hattie. Of course, she becomes a major part of the story and helps (along with Wolf) catch the killer. I never planned Hattie, but she became the protagonist of Mission Murder, my first published novel, and the star of the subsequent books in the series. I am now writing the eighth book.
CODY: What other projects are in the works?
ORLEMANN: Actually, I am doing some magazine writing for Bucks County Town and Country Living. The spring edition carried my cover story about Scottish Deerhounds. They resemble Wolf a great deal. For the fall edition I have just finished a story about an Upper Bucks dog trainer. I am also freelance writing for the Bucks County Herald.
CODY: What other authors do you especially admire?
ORLEMANN: Agatha Christie (my favorite) but there are so many more I don’t have room to list them all. You are one of them, Sandy.
(Interviewer’s note: I suppose modesty and good taste would say that I should delete that last sentence, but vanity says, “leave it in”. Besides, who am I to edit another writer?)
CODY: Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in whenever you can?
ORLEMANN: When I am on a roll, I discipline myself to rise early and take a two-mile walk every day. I also exercise every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a tape for an hour in the morning. I hope for a smarter brain as a consequence. After breakfast I settle down at my computer and write–sometimes all day.
CODY: Tell us something about the work you’ve done as founder of the Friends of the Delaware Canal.
ORLEMANN: That’s not really possible. There are so many things.
CODY: What are you involved in when you are not writing?
ORLEMANN: Church (St. Luke’s United Church of Christ in Ottsville). I am a deacon on the Consistory. I sing (if you can call it that) in the choir, am on the Mission Committee, with which I go to help the homeless in Philadelphia one Saturday a month. I make candy twice a year as a fundraiser and also help with the Rummage Sale twice a year. I’m a member of the Red Hat Society and Sisters in Crime. I read a lot.
CODY: What refreshes you creatively?
ORLEMANN: Almost everything. I travel some.