Up for a booming encore: Look for novelist Betty Webb’s latest mystery “The Otter of Death” to hit bookstores in spring 2018.
For novelist Betty Webb, re-inventing her career later in life was a no-brainer. The former newspaper journalist was already pouring all of her waking hours into writing. As she sees it, the evolution was inevitable, even if it meant toiling away at two jobs for a while: mystery writer in the pre-dawn hours and newspaper reporter in the daytime.
“I saw retirement coming up and thought, OK, how can I be ready for it,” Webb recalls. “I was writing book reviews and found that I generally gravitated toward mystery novels.” So she began interviewing mystery writers for her book reviews, attended a mystery writers’ conference and soon discovered that the genre was right up her alley.
Third Time’s the Charm
So much so that she penned five mysteries before officially retiring from her newspaper gig in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I wrote two mysteries that were just kind of mediocre,” Webb confesses. “And getting a mediocre mystery novel published is not very easy!”
As they say, third time’s the charm. With her novel Desert Noir, she bagged a well-known literary agent and a deal with Lifetime TV to option her book. That’s when she paid off her mortgage and said farewell to her days in the newsroom. That was about 10 years ago.
Fast-forward to life now, and Webb is an accomplished author with two popular mystery series and 11 novels under her belt. “It’s a very different life now. I love writing at home in my sweats in the morning. I really think most books are written by people in nightgowns and pajamas,” she laughs.
Mid-Life Career Transition
The transition from the hum of a busy newsroom to working from her home office wasn’t easy at first. “At the newspaper, I was over-stimulated by activity. Now that I’m at home all day, I’m under-stimulated. So I have to plan my own excitement just to get my head out of myself and get out of the den!”
Much of that excitement comes with travel as she painstakingly researches the fact-based details of her latest work in progress. “A couple of years ago, I went to Iceland,” she says. “Pretty soon, I’ll be going to Paris to do research for another book.”
Webb also welcomes the opportunity to teach aspiring writers, and over the years has taught classes at the university and community college levels. She currently enjoys her role as an instructor to up-and-coming novelists through the Arizona State Library’s Writers in Residence program.
“I have learned more since I retired than I have learned in all my life together up to that point. I actually feel younger now than when I did when I was working. It’s a really odd thing.”
Words of Wisdom
Webb’s best advice for people over 50 who may be contemplating a mid-life career change is to keep your mind open to new possibilities and opportunities.
- Forget the Rules – The best things that happen are not necessarily the things that we plan. “Forget all the rules you’ve been taught. Open your mind. And explore any goofy thing that enters it,” she counsels. “If someone told me 10 years ago that I was going to be teaching, I would have told them they were nuts,” Webb says. “I absolutely love it.”
- Find a Mentor – Identify like-minded mentors who are doing what you want to do, can introduce you to the network of professionals with whom you want to be affiliated, and who are open to providing guidance on your new path. “Other writers helped me immensely. She specifically calls out David Morrell, writer of the Rambo book series. He is one of the kindest, nicest people you will ever meet. He has given me great advice.”
- Serve Others – Put your mindset in a state of service to others. “You’re going to love helping people. This surprised me. I was such a crank, such an isolationist before. Now, there’s something about talking to other people that really fires up your own imagination. “Every day that I get to meet with people, it’s like an electric shock to the head,” she adds. “It keeps you alive. And it keeps your mind open. Because if you keep doing the same old thing, your life will, never change.”
- Try New Experiences – I got my first tattoo when I was 60. When I went to Iceland last year, I got my second tattoo. I’ve walked up the slopes of a volcano and ridden Icelandic horses.
- Be Curious – Stop worrying about what other people think and be curious about life’s great adventures. “I am more curious than I used to be. And because I’m more curious, I’m liable to do something very, very unexpected. When I was younger, I always worried about what people thought.”
Wealth of Experience
Encore careers can bring relaxation of mind and spirit based on the wealth of experience acquired through life. “I’m a totally different person, and I like this new me better,” Webb exclaims. “We can to return to the wellspring of creativity and trade in the grindstone for wings.”
Betty Webb is a former journalist and author of the popular Lena Jones Series, including her most recent book, Desert Rage. She also writes the Gunn Shoe mysteries, a humorous series set in a fictional California zoo. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, and teaches creative writing. In her free time, Webb loves to explore the history of her ancestors through genealogy. For more information about Webb, visit www.bettywebb-mystery.com.