No Stopping at 70 for Author Janet Evanovich

Last year author Janet Evanovich ranked No. 79 on Forbes’ list of The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities, with earnings estimated at $33 million.

Hollywood adapted one of her novels to the big screen.

To date she’s written more than 45 books and sold more than 75 million.

So I’m embarrassed to admit I was only vaguely familiar with her novels.

“The mystery-novel equivalent of comfort food.”

Janet’s wealth comes from a series of numbered, comedic mysteries starring gutsy bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. They’re titled One For The Money, Two For The Dough, Three To Get Deadly, etc. She’s currently on Notorious Nineteen.

The New York Times calls the series “the mystery-novel equivalent of comfort food.” It’s not a compliment. Reviews like that made me avoid her books until I learned she was a late bloomer.

Janet published her first novel at age 44 after ten years of rejection. She began the Stephanie Plum series at age 51.

So I felt duty-bound to read One For The Money (recently made into a movie with Katherine Heigl) before writing this post. I’ll tell you what I thought of it later.

Janet Evanovich didn’t start out as a writer. Her first calling was art, but the idea of being a ’60s free spirit appealed more than the work:

After high school, I spent four years in the Douglass College art department, honing my ability to wear torn Levis…Painting beat the heck out of digging holes in lawns, but it never felt exactly right.

After graduating, she married her high school sweetheart, Pete Evanovich, who was completing his doctorate in Mathematics from Rutgers University. They soon had a son and daughter, Peter and Alexandra. Janet settled into the life of a stay-at-home mom.

But while the kids were in grade school, she discovered a new artistic impulse — writing. She wrote and submitted for ten years, hitting rejection at every turn.

And like any parents trying to give their children the best life possible, Janet and Pete struggled.

We were living in this little brick house in northern Virginia. We had no money. We had two kids who had gone through two very expensive post-secondary schools. It had been a hard winter. The shingles from my roof were on the front yard, and we had no hope of getting a new roof.

In one interview, she poignantly remarks that they couldn’t afford to buy oranges. So she filled a box with rejection letters, took it to the curb, and set it on fire. The next day she signed up with a temp agency.

Four excruciating months later (I can relate to each one), a publisher called. One of her manuscripts had been accepted for $2000, a nice sum in the 1980s. She quit her temp job and started writing full-time again.

For the next five years, she spun formula romances for Bantam Loveswept. Each came with a $7,000 advance.

But after twelve novels, Janet decided to try something different.

I saw the movie Midnight Run with Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro, and I thought what a cool idea. I didn’t know anything about bail bonds or bounty hunters, but I liked the idea of it.

That’s how the Stephanie Plum was born. One for the Money hit big in 1997. Janet was paid her usual $7,000 advance and within months got a call from Hollywood, offering $1 million for the movie rights.

“I work real hard so the reader doesn’t have to.”

With that nice bit of seed money, Janet’s family helped her build an empire. Her mathematician husband became her manager. Son Peter took over for the finances. Daughter Alex built her website and handles everything related to the Internet.

No Stopping at 70 for Janet EvanovichJanet still gets up at 5 am and works eight hours a day, seven days a week. She writes and edits two to three books per year.

Yet those condescending reviews persist. Janet pays no attention.

I made a choice that I was not going to be a pretentious writer. I work real hard so the reader doesn’t have to. I don’t want them to have to look up words. And there are no flashbacks. This is a linear novel.

So what did I think after reading my first Janet Evanovich novel, One For The Money?

I loved it. Stephanie Plum is a sympathetic protagonist, the plot never falters, and the dialog hums. Stephanie lives in a middle-class, mixed-heritage Catholic neighborhood similar to the one I grew up in. I went to high school with half her relatives. She’s believable.

And Janet Evanovich plans to keep writing  for as long as she can.

I really have no intention of stopping. And I don’t have to. Why? Because I’m only 32.

Actually, I’m outing Janet. She turns 70 tomorrow, April 22. Happy birthday to a fabulous late bloomer and congrats on 25 years of success!

Sources

So, are you a Janet Evanovich fan?

42 Responses

  1. Brian Meeks
    | Reply

    That was a great Late Bloomers story. I published my first novel at 44, too. Naturally, this story was chuck full of inspiration. I especially liked her comment about reviews.

    The other day there was a discussion about nom de plumes. If one writes in different genres, should they choose a pen name for the books outside their norm? I said that I had written in several genres and used my name each time, but that I would use a pen name under two circumstances…If I every wrote literature or porn.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Brian! Interestingly, Janet used a nom de plume for those early romances. After she became successful, she bought the rights back and published them under her own name. Quite savvy.

  2. Marla Martenson
    | Reply

    Great post. What an inspiration. Makes me feel lazy that she is up at 5 writing for 8 hours at 70 years old.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Marla! I feel the same way. She’s still pumping out books at a crazy rate and she’s got her family behind her. However, I think she starting to slow down and go the James Patterson route — she been taking on co-writers recently.

  3. Patricia Yager Delagrange
    | Reply

    I am definitely buying one of her books for my Kindle. What a great Later Bloomer.
    Patti

    • Debra Eve
      |

      I think you’ll like them, Patricia! It’s light, entertaining, funny, and all the characters are sympathetic. There’s was one really creepy bad guy who kept it real.

  4. florence fois
    | Reply

    Debra … am I a fan? Yikes, yes. From day one to now. Once I was truly depressed with one of those “day jobs” and asked a friend if she had any light reading. She handed me One through Seven of the Plumb series. By the time I got to the library the next week to borrow Eight, I forgot what I was depressed about. She is so funny that when I read her I find myself doubled over, laughing out loud all by myself. After all, you gotta love a gun packing granny, and grandma Mazur is the bomb !!

    So the million dollar Janet question. Morelli or Ranger?

    • Debra Eve
      |

      I have to admit, I loved Grandma Mazur, Florence. Having only read one book, though, I can’t comment on the Morelli or Ranger dilemma. Morelli definitely the stronger character in book one and I was happy to find out he comes back 🙂 It’s cool Janet got you through one of those jobs she escaped from!

  5. Sandra Sallin
    | Reply

    How fascinating. I had no idea. Glad you enjoyed her book. I’ll buy one for my iPad.
    Love the idea that her whole family supports her career. But getting up at 5AM?

    Thanks for posting this.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      I’ll never understand that getting up at 5 am either, Sandra. I figure Janet’s just an early bird by nature and that’s her normal body clock. Heck, sometimes I go to be at 5 am (not often, but it’s not a stretch). Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Anne R. Allen
    | Reply

    I love the Stephanie Plum books. They’re one of the inspirations for my Camilla Randall romcom mysteries. I had no idea Evanovich only got $2000 for her first novel. I sold my first novel as a serial to a CA entertainment weekly and got $50 per weekly chapter, so I think I made more than she did. 🙂 She’s certainly an inspiration!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      I thought I might have detected some inspiration from Janet in your books, Anne! However, I love the way you “themed” Sherwood, Ltd.
      around the Robin Hood legend. It took the story one step further. Janet certainly got lucky with selling to Hollywood right off, though. I think it really enabled her to set up that publishing empire.

  7. Kassandra Lamb
    | Reply

    I am definitely a Janet Evanovich fan. I love her Stephanie Plum series. But I did not know that she is a later bloomer writer like myself. That is so cool. Thanks for sharing her story, Debra.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      You’re welcome, Kassandra! And you’ve got such a great foundation for your mysteries having been a psychotherapist. Now that I’ve gotten a taste for mysteries, I’m definitely putting Kate Huntington on my TBD list!

  8. Angela McCall
    | Reply

    Hi Debra,

    Wow…I’m impressed when you said this:

    “Janet Evanovich didn’t start out as a writer. Her first calling was art, but the idea of being a ’60s free spirit appealed more than the work:”

    I don’t know Janet Evanovich either coz I don’t read a lot. However, I was going to major Journalism but end up majoring Commercial Art. I do have love for writing specially what I’m passionate about. Although I am not that big fan of science fiction, but when I’m inspired I can articulate very well in my writing. Janet is sure an inspirational figure!!!

    Who says that we should stop at 65-years old? Retirement is an invention. In the bible it states, you worked for as long as you live. And so I’m very inspired by your post. Thank you. Gives me another insight. I was getting discouraged the other day because of this blogging. I just started my business online since January 2013 and that’s only like 3 months. I should give it time before I see $ coming into these affiliate products I’m promoting.

    Thank you for the post, Debra. Writing is really not my first calling, I’m in the Art business. However, I do write and blog something I’m very passionate about. So someday my business will take off.

    Angela

    • Debra Eve
      |

      “Retirement is an invention.” That’s a great quote, Angela. I might steal it :). I find that so many creative people do both art and writing. And remember, despite what you hear on the Internet, building a successful business takes a long time. Success is often just an indicator of perseverance. Thanks for your comment and good luck!

  9. Deb Trotter
    | Reply

    Holy Later Bloomer, Debra! What a great story.
    I’ve never read the Stephanie Plum series, but many of my friends have, so I knew the name Janet Evanovich. I admire her, not only for never giving up on writing (I mean, 10 years of rejection letters?) but because she isn’t ashamed that she writes about real people, for real people. Not everyone can write the next great American novel. There are plenty of readers out there who want to be entertained while biting their nails down to the quick. Bravo for Evanovich, and Bravo to you for yet another inspiring post!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Deb! So true about writing for real people. I completely relate to the neighborhood she sets the Stephanie Plum novels in. And Stephanie’s mother? Swear Janet’s been eavesdropping :). Apparently during those ten years, Janet was trying to write the Great American Novel before she turned to romance. As you said, it’s not for everyone and thank goodness.

  10. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    What an inspirational story. Another example of not giving up.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Darlene. Janet, of course, is an exception, but we need those for inspiration too!

  11. Lee J Tyler
    | Reply

    Thank you, Deb and Janet for giving us all hope. No, it’s not going to come overnight for me, if at all; however, through many too demanding jobs, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…and hoping it’s not a train! ) Oh, and happy birthday, Janet!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Same here, Lee — too many stressful jobs behind me, but no matter what, from now on, I’m following my heart. I’m sure that light at the end of the tunnel is the one you’re looking for!

  12. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    This is interesting Debra. Hubby and I just this last weekend watched One For the Money on Netflix. Then I saw your post. Crazy. We really enjoyed it. That said, I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read any of her books. And she’s written like a gazillion of them. Talk about not giving up. I think I’m gonna make her my role model after reading this. Want to join me? 🙂

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Absolutely, Karen! I just called her the patron saint of late bloomers to someone else. She’s our pinnacle. But she worked hard, hard, hard and didn’t give up. That’s what most impresses me.

  13. Dolly Garland
    | Reply

    This made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Really! I love Stephanie Plum novels, because they are like comfort food. But it’s another kind of comfort to know that Janet Evanovich was a late bloomer, because I’m not yet 30 and sometimes already feel like I’m never going to be a full time author.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Dolly! I found that whole “comfort food” line as something derogatory insulting. I love my bookish comfort food! And seriously, Dolly, the more I go looking for late-blooming authors, the more I’m astonished. Many early successes can be put down to luck, but those who persevere always seem to make it. Just keep working at it, you’ll get there!

  14. Lynne Strang
    | Reply

    Bravo for Janet! Her work ethic is both remarkable and inspirational!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      She is pretty amazing! Thanks for stopping by, Lynne.

  15. Daniela
    | Reply

    Love Janet Evanovich! She’s a very very funny woman. The Stephanie Plum series is priceless. Loaded with belly laughs. Thrilled to find out she’s a later bloomer! Thanks for another great post, Debra!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Daniela! Can’t believe I waited this long to discovery her.

  16. opal
    | Reply

    Wow. I’d no idea she was a later bloomer! I’ve read all the Stephanie Plum novels, love them. I get really annoyed with the condescending reviews – the stories are well plotted, the characters quirky and funny, and some of the set ups are pure genius. Really smart snappy comedy is very hard to write and she does it brilliantly. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Couldn’t agree more, Opal! I think so much of it is sour grapes. A few authors like Janet make big bucks and it engenders envy in other authors who think they can write better. Thanks for stopping by!

  17. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    Evanovich’s books are like popcorn – salty, buttery goodness. She’s one of the authors I pull out when I need to cheer myself up!

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Absolutely, Lindsay. I’m so happy to have discovered her. Thanks for stopping by!

  18. Shaquanda Dalton
    | Reply

    I find this post about her to be very inspiring to me. I’m twenty-one years old right now and just thinking about being seventy years old and still writing is mind-blowing. I have two books out now, but how many books will I have out by then?

    I think she is a great writer and very productive with her time. Something I always aim to be.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • @DebraEve
      |

      Good for you, Shaquanda! Just like it’s never too late to start, it’s never too early. I’m sure you’ll have accomplished great things by 70 (actually, I predict it’ll be much sooner) 🙂

  19. Roberta Kennedy
    | Reply

    I’m also a late bloomer. Some would call us young spirits. Of course we know one is only as old as we let ourselves be. I pray that the child in me will always be.

    • @DebraEve
      |

      Such wise words, Roberta, and even with the work I do, I sometimes forget. Thanks for the reminder!

  20. Lynn
    | Reply

    I find Stephanie, her family (esp the grandmother) great fun & think the dialogue can be an out loud giggle. Thx for tweeting this so I could become aware.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      You’re welcome, Lynn. I’ve come to love Stephanie too, and so happy I found her through researching Janet!

Leave a Reply