Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Betty: I’m Betty Webb, and I’m old enough to lie about my age, but I feel like a teenager.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Betty: I’ve lived all over. Los Angeles, New York City, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada… You name it, there’s a good chance I’ve lived there.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Betty: I had a 20-year career as a graphic designer in Los Angeles and New York City before switching careers and becoming a journalist (20 years working for newspapers). While in the middle of my career as a journalist, I began writing mystery novels. My 16th was just released. On the personal side, I went to art school, eventually got married, had two sons, and countless dogs, cats, horses, and other critters.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Betty: My “The Otter of Death,” published by Poisoned Pen Press, is a humorous mystery set in a California zoo, has been getting great reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and newspapers all over the country. The plot features an otter who swipes a smart phone, and inadvertently snaps a picture of a murder being committed. The murder is solved by zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley, who lives on a houseboat in Monterey Bay.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Betty: I wrote “Desert Mane,” my first novel at the age of 14. It was about a 14 year-old-girl who steals a horse, something I was thinking about doing at the time. As you can see, I’ve been criminal-minded all my life. Sadly enough, “Desert Mane” didn’t get published, but I picked up my life of crime much later on when I began to write mystery novels.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Betty: When I got my first job as a journalist.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Betty: At the newspaper I was also (besides writing big feature articles) the paper’s book reviewer. Publishers began sending me something like 100 books a month. One day, when I was reading one of them, I thought, “I can write a better book than this.” So I did. I was able to get an agent, and my agent sold the book to Poisoned Pen Press. As a nice follow-up, my agent optioned the second book in that series to Lifetime TV.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Betty: That first mystery was “Desert Noir,” which describes how I actually feel about the Arizona desert, where I now live. There’s a lot of darkness under that blazing sun. The second book’s title was “Desert Wives,” and it was about Arizona’s polygamy compounds. That’s the book Lifetime TV optioned.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Betty: Critics have describe my style as relaxed and friendly. That may be true for my “Zoo” books, but it’s not so true for the Lena Jones “Desert” books; those can be pretty cold-blooded. I don’t find writing particularly challenging – I just get up in the morning and do it, no matter how I feel – the same way I worked as a journalist.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Betty: All the “Desert” books are based on stories I covered as a reporter, but a lot of the “Zoo” books are based on my family, the zoo I volunteer at (the Phoenix Zoo), and the houseboat on which I and my husband spent a wonderful summer.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Betty: I travel a lot before I write, especially for my “Zoo” books, which took me to Iceland for the research necessary for “The Puffin of Death.” As to my “Desert” books, my travels are usually confined to the desert Southwest. I am currently going back and forth to Paris, to do research on a new series.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Betty: My publisher designs the covers, and I love them.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Betty: Absolutely. The “Desert” books are all about crimes against humanity; polygamy, eminent domain, child abuse, elder abuse, and even female genital mutilation. As for the “Zoo” books, my protagonist shows the reader how the reduction of the rainforest and other wildlife refuges has brought many species to the point of extinction.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Betty: Since I’m a book reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine, I can’t disclose my favorite writers, because then I might appear to be prejudiced towards my favorites.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Betty: My husband. He believed I’d make us all rich. It didn’t quite work out like that, but we did get to do some great research traveling.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Betty: Absolutely. For years it made my house payment!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Betty: No. When I finish a book I go straight onto the next one. I don’t have time to worry about what I would change given the chance. I’m always thinking about the future book, not the last one.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Betty: Since all my books are heavy on research, I’m always learning new things. For “The Otter of Death,” I learned that otters keep their favorite clam-opening tools (usually a rock, but for this book, it’s a cell phone) tucked into their armpits. Right now I’m delving into the period between the two world war and learning a lot about the women who worked in the European munitions factories. Many of them had their arms blown off.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Betty: If we’re talking “The Otter of Death,” my new “Zoo” mystery, I think I’d go with Amy Adams. She’s a redhead, and so is Teddy, my protagonist.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Betty: I’ll give the same advice I give my creative writing students: write every day, no matter how you feel. Writing is like a muscle – use it or lose it.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Betty: When I finally die (hopefully not for a long time), I don’t want to die in bed. I want to die writing “The End” on the last page of my last novel.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Betty: Alice Feeney’s “Sometimes I Lie.” I won it as a door prize at a California author’s luncheon where I was speaking. Talk about bringing coals to Newcastle!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Betty: The Bible. It’s what my deeply religious family used to teach me how to read, and I guess it worked, because I was reading like a maniac by the age of four. Sadly, when I started school the books were on the order of “Dick and Jane and their Dog Spot Go for a Walk,” which compared to the adultery, murder, child sacrifices, and dismemberments in the Old Testament were terribly dull.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Betty: I like really silly jokes, the kinds that make more mature people groan. As for crying, I always cry at happy endings. And when I finish one of my books.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Betty: Enid Blyton, the British children’s writer. I was a rabid fan of her books, and I credit them for my deep, deep love of reading. If Enid didn’t want to meet me, I’d settle for Shakespeare.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Betty Webb: Travel, but that’s about it. If I’m not traveling, I’m either writing or talking about writing.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Betty: Mysteries and science fiction.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Betty: Shrimp Cocktail. Hot colors like red and orange. All kinds of music, especially rock, folk, and opera.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Betty: I’d go probably back to my first career – art. I was a graphic designer for a while, and sometimes I miss it.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Betty: With family. Or if they were no longer speaking to me, finishing up my novel.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Betty: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Betty: Two websites. For the funny “Zoo” books, www.bettywebb-zoomystery.com
And for the “Desert” books, www.bettywebb-mystery.com