When Axton Betz-Hamilton saw her book, “The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity,” won an Edgar Award, she was in disbelief.
Betz-Hamilton, an assistant professor in South Dakota State University’s College of Education and Human Sciences, learned in January her book was a finalist in the best fact crime category. The book is about her experiences dealing with identity theft. Betz-Hamilton’s mother stole her identity as a child growing up in Indiana.
“I didn’t know what it meant when I was nominated so I contacted my publicist, who said it was like being nominated for an Oscar in the literary world,” said Betz-Hamilton, whose publisher, Grand Central Publishing, nominated “The Less People Know” for the Edgar Award. “I tried not to think much about it from then to now.”
As a finalist, she was supposed to be in New York and participate in a panel to talk about being an author and writing in that genre. However, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled those plans and the awards were announced on Twitter.
“I’m sitting there on April 30 thinking ‘let’s get this over with so I can get back to work. I’m a first-time author and Truman Capote and Stephen King have won Edgars; I’m not going to win.’ But then I saw I won. I thought ‘this can’t be right; they’ll put up the real winner in a minute.’ But then they moved to the next category. I didn’t believe it when I saw it, and I’m still in awe,” she said.
Betz-Hamilton, who appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” after the book was released, still gets unexpected media calls. She thinks those calls will return now that the book received an award.
“I’m still learning about the prestige of the award. My editor said more people will pay attention to the book now,” she said, noting she was interviewed by a magazine based in the United Kingdom in April. “I still get one-off requests for interviews, requests for presentations and a lot of requests for talks and webinars, a lot of webinars. It comes in spurts. When the book came out in October, it was wall-to-wall craziness, then slowed for the holidays, picked up in January, hit another lull but now picked up again.”
Regardless of the media exposure, the question remains whether Betz-Hamilton will write another book?
“I’d say I’ve been encouraged to write a sequel,” she said. “A few folks have come forward, and I’ve learned a little more about what Mom did. However, I’ve learned more about her mother; it makes me wonder if Mom learned her behaviors from my grandmother”
Despite growing up wanting to write children’s books, Betz-Hamilton initially thought she’d publish after earning tenure. However, the podcast “Criminal” changed all of that.
“I mentioned then that I started writing a book, which was 20,000 words in a Word document that I had been accumulating over three years, and what it was about,” she said. “Later, my now agent contacted me because she listened to the podcast. Because of my past, I researched her and the agency, and discovered they were legitimate. Little did I know I’d finish the book, get published and now receive a national award. It was not the path I intended but it’s worked out.”