What kinds of jobs have you held and where have you worked?
BW: My background isn’t entirely fancy: in my flaming youth, I picked cotton, exercised horses and performed as a go-go dancer. On a more formal level, I worked as a graphic designer/copywriter in Los Angeles and New York City from 1964-1982. My next long-term job stint was as a journalist/book reviewer for the Tribune Newspapers in Arizona from 1989-2005. I have been a book reviewer and columnist for Mystery Scene Magazine since 2004. I have been under contract with Poisoned Pen Press in Scottsdale since 2000. I have taught creative writing at both Phoenix College and Arizona State University.
How and why did you start mystery writing?
BW: My first mystery, Desert Noir, came out in 2000. My original intent was to write books featuring the desert in the Phoenix area because no one else was doing it at the time, which I thought was nuts. But my books (seven to date) also turned out to be about human rights abuses in Arizona and other states in the U.S. They’ve covered topics as diverse as polygamy (Desert Wives), which was optioned for a TV movie by Lifetime; female genital mutilation (Desert Cut); and Southwest cancer clusters caused by A-Bomb testing in Nevada during the 1950s through the ’80s (Desert Wind).
Who are your favorite mystery writers?
BW: Because I’m a book reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine, I’m not free to give my opinion on that right now. I have to approach each book individually, regardless of who’s written it.
Have you had mystery novels published?
BW: Eleven mysteries published so far: ten by Poisoned Pen Press, one by World Wide Library/Harlequin. Their titles are (in order of publication) Desert Noir, Desert Wives, Desert Shadows, Desert Run, Desert Cut, Desert Lost, and Desert Wind. These were all Poisoned Pen Press mysteries. Desert Deceit, a one-hundred page novella, was included in the World Wide Library anthology, Desperate Journeys. My Gunn Zoo books, all published by Poisoned Pen Press, include The Anteater of Death, The Koala of Death, and The Llama of Death.
Have you had mystery short stories published?
BW: I don’t write short stories, but I’ve written many non-fiction articles in various newspapers, magazines and anthologies.
Have you received honors and awards for your mystery writing?
BW: Desert Noir and The Anteater of Death both won top Glyph Awards in differing years for Best Mystery of the Year. Desert Wives was a Silver Medalist for the Willa Cather Literary Award (a national mainstream fiction award); Desert Lost was voted one of the Year’s Top Five Mystery Novels by Library Journal; and Desert Cut was singled out as one of the “five commendable private eye novels of the year” in the anthology Between the Dark and the Light: the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg.
What is your current mystery writing project?
BW: I am currently working on Desert Regret, which continues the saga of Lena Jones, private investigator and details the murder of an entire family in Scottsdale. Next up will be The Puffin of Death, where I take my zookeeper, Theodora Bentley, to Iceland where she gets mixed up in the case of a murdered bird-watcher.
What are your upcoming public appearances?
BW: Quite a few, especially since I’ve been chosen as the presenting author to head up the Summer Reading Program of the Maricopa County Library Association. But before that starts in June, I’ll be one of the presenters at the Northern Arizona Book Festival, Flagstaff; will be speaking at the Moon Valley (Phoenix area) Book Club, May 23. My Maricopa County Summer Reading Program appearances start June 3 at the Mesa Red Mountain Library, continue through June and July at other libraries around the county and end July 10 at the Juniper (Phoenix) Library. The exact dates and details of all my talks and signings can be found here.
What writing tip do you have to share with members?
BW: Write every day. If you don’t, your imagination and writing skills will deteriorate. That old truism holds fast—use it or lose it. Writers who wait until they “feel like it” to write, generally don’t.
Anything else you’d like to add?
BW: For a couple of years I taught creative writing at Phoenix College, and this year and last year at ASU. Check my signings blog (above) for new workshops. Also, my blog, at http://www.bloggingwebb.blogspot.com continues to give writing tips. I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and I have two websites: www.bettywebb-mystery.com, for the Lena Jones Desert books, and www.bettywebb-zoomystery.com, for the Gunn Zoo books.