Eugenia West Blooms Again

Eugenia West Blooms Again

Eugenia Lovett West is a double late bloomer. Her first two books were published 28 years apart. Now in her 80s, she writes mystery stories featuring a heroine as spunky as she is.

West graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1944, then immediately got hitched to her sweetheart, a dashing fighter pilot. They had four children, which kept her busy for a decade or three.

She worked part-time for a local newspaper, but “got tired of covering the new sewage plant.”

First Novel At 56

Other than her newspaper work, West had no previous writing experience. She published her first book at 56, a historical gothic entitled The Ancestors Cry Out (1979). It sounds fascinating:

In 1880 a young woman has mysterious reasons for visiting a sugar plantation on a lush Caribbean island, the site of a violent and bloody slave rebellion in 1831.

But life intervened again. She spent 28 more years writing but not getting published, “switching genres until I found the one that was right for me” and finally falling for the whodunit.

Second Novel at 84

Without WarningWest’s second novel, a mystery titled Without Warning, stars Emma Streat, a 47-year-old former opera star.  Her husband, a high-tech exec, dies under mysterious circumstances.  Emma realizes that he was involved in a high-stakes weapons project and goes on the hunt for his killer.

Dominick Dunne called the book “…a fast-paced page turner…strong characters…interesting backgrounds with international flair. An engaging read.”

I can add my voice to Dunne’s—I read Without Warning in two days. Yet no publisher wanted it at first, so West self-published the book for her family. They encouraged her to try again, so she “took a deep breath” and entered a St. Martin’s Press contest for first unpublished mysteries. It didn’t win.

Then one morning not long after, West opened her email and saw a message from St. Martin’s renowned mystery editor, Ruth Cavin. The book didn’t fit the contest’s criteria, Cavin wrote, but would West consider a two-book publishing deal? Without Warning hit the bookstores in in 2007, when West was 84.

“I’ve come to love Emma, and I want readers to care about her as she digs deep to survive; we are all, I think, reaching for ways to live our daily lives with strength and courage. This becomes even more of a challenge when one reaches the mid-eighties in age.”

OOverkill by Eugenia Westverkill, the follow-up to Without Warning, came out at the end of 2009. West is currently writing a third story in the series.

She observes,

It’s a great blessing to wake up in the morning with the urge to create—and it can happen just sitting at a table.

What later bloomers can learn from Eugenia West

  • Explore every facet of your creative passion—find the aha! moment.
  • If the corporate machine doesn’t get your work, bypass it.  Don’t doubt your creativity—DIY.  Publish it, post it, record it, display it—do it yourself.


4 Responses

  1. Bonnie
    | Reply

    Thank you for a great “shot in the arm” this Tuesday morning. I’m learning the screenplay form after doing poems and stories and it’s great to read about someone else’s success.

    Please keep these coming.

    thanks again,

  2. Elle B.
    | Reply

    Good for you, Bonnie! Are you doing Script Frenzy this month? I did Nanowrimo in November and it really gave me the impetus I needed to finish the first draft of a (very bad at this point) novel. You know what they say, all writing is rewriting!

    Thanks for stopping by. Glad you like the site!

  3. Hi Debra! I just found your site from a fellow writer and blogger named Lynne Spreen on Facebook. I LOVE reading about people who refuse to let age define them and continue to embrace life with zest. I too am doing my best to write about the advantages rather than anything else that come as we age. So many awesome people with so many awesome stories. Thanks! ~Kathy

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve

      Hello Kathy, I love Lynne’s work! So glad you found Later Bloomers. Biography is one of my favorite genres, so writing these stories is such a fun project. Just checked out your blog. Very timely! I’m a great fan of Caroline Myss too. Thanks for stopping by.

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