Betty Webb is one of the most inspiring authors I know! She’s talented, creative, and definitely knows how to work hard at her craft. Thanks for taking time to talk with us, Betty!
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Betty: Professionally, I’d have to say something like 30 years, because that’s when I began as an advertising copywriter. My more “legit” career as a journalist began around 25 years ago when I was hired as a columnist.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Betty: Oh, ha. I don’t feel successful yet. Maybe I will as soon as I win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But probably not even then.
PJ: I’m surprised how many authors I’ve talked to have similar answers. Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Betty: Since I’ve always known writers (failed or otherwise), I received exactly what I expected. Oh, I take that back. I didn’t expect to work so hard. My uncle, who was a long-distance trucker, never worked the long hours I do.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Betty: Someone once told me that once you take into account all the hours spent writing, AND the hours touring and otherwise marketing your book, the average writer would made more flipping burgers at McDonald’s. I’d say that’s just about right.
PJ: That’s a scary thought, but probably pretty accurate! Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Betty: I’m a perfectionist, which makes for an uncomfortable life. Therefore, I want each new book to be better than the last and half kill myself to make it so.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Betty: The first novel I sent out got published. However, it went through 17 drafts on a Smith-Corona portable typewriter. Like I say, I’m a perfectionist.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Betty: I begin writing at 4 a.m. every morning, and finally push myself away from the computer around noon. After that, I do “normal” things, such as shopping, having lunch with friends, emailing Hubby, etc. Around 3 p.m., I start with the marketing stuff. And as you may know, I’m also a book reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine, so from 9 p.m. to midnight, I read the books I’m going to review. And no, I don’t get enough sleep. I’ll pay for that some day.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Betty: First, I’m going to answer the “funniest thing,” okay? Yesterday I received a female fan email from Australia. She had just finished “The Koala of Death,” one of my cozies, and she wrote the entire email in the same impenetrable Aussie slang that one of my characters used. It was a riot. As for the “single most exciting thing,” it was being on a cruise ship near Alaska and reading in the New York Times that polygamist “prophet” Warren Jeffs (who I wrote about in “Desert Wives”) had just been arrested: it was my birthday. Nothing can ever top that.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Betty: Receiving a starred review in Publishers Weekly for “Desert Wind”, then having some of the other biggies hate it.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Betty: Finding out first hand that David Morrell is one of my fans — and that Dean Koonz bought an autographed copy of one of my books.
PJ: Wow, that is so cool! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Betty: It’s probably the fact that I base each of my Lena Jones “Desert” books on real and ongoing human rights violations in America. And in the Author’s Note at the back of each books, I name names and share my research.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Betty: Don’t give into feelings of defeat just because you haven’t been published yet. Continue to write at least two hours every single day (ideally, you should write between four and six hours every day). Keep doing that and you’ll eventually turn out a book good enough to be published.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Betty: Touring, my fan email list (it’s up to 6,000 now), and as many social media groups as I can belong to — especially DorothyL, Murder Must Advertise, Facebook, and Twitter.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Betty: Touring. I hate it. I am NOT a good traveler!
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Betty: Absolutely. My “local independent bookseller” just happens to be Poisoned Pen, which — miracle of miracles — is within walking distance of my house. Talk about luck! All my books debut there.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
THE LENA JONES BOOKS:
1 – Desert Noir.
2 – Desert Wives.
3 – Desert Shadows.
4 – Desert Run.
5 – Desert Cut.
6 – Desert Lost.
7 – Desert Wind.
Technically, there are 8 Lena Jones books, because I also have one Lena Jones novella — “Desert Deceit” — which was included in the “Desperate Journeys” anthology published by Worldwide Library. Although technically out of print, It can be purchased online.
THE GUNN ZOO BOOKS:
1 – The Anteater of Death.
2 – The Koala of Death.
3 – currently writing The Llama of Death.
Betty: In “Desert Wind,” P.I. Lena Jones travels to northern Arizona to bail her Indian partner out of jail, but instead she finds herself in the middle of a town up in arms over the opening of a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon. When the mine’s PR flack is murdered, she discovers that the motive reaches back more than 60 years, to the local filming of “The Conqueror,” which starred John Wayne. And Wayne himself is a character in “Desert Wind,” first as a living man, then later, as a ghost. In “Desert Wind,” old sins have contemporary repercussions.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
Betty: Anywhere print books are sold. Desert Wind is also available on Kindle & Nook, and other forms of download.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Betty: That I’m not Lena Jones. It’s important to say that, because at one of my recent signings, a woman came up to me and brushed away my bangs, looking for the bullet scar. I repeat — I am NOT Lena Jones and I have never been shot. (I am, however, a lot like Teddy, my zookeeper/sleuth in the Gunn Zoo mysteries, and I once even lived on the same boat she does).
Wow again. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m thoroughly enjoying these author interviews. Speak up! Do you have any comments or questions for Betty?