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
West’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 They encouraged her to try again, so she “took a deep breath” and entered a St. Martin’s Press contest for first unpublished mysteries.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.”
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.
- Eugenia Lovett West’s website and Facebook page
- Guest post at WriterAdvice.com
- Miranda Literary Magazine Interview (no longer online as of May 17, 2014)
- The Ancestors Cry Out at Augustin Funnel Books