Looking up to, and gaining inspiration from, a grandparent is nothing unique.
But chasing the same career path when the elder is in her 90s? That’s not something you hear every day.
Betty Annand and Jay Lang fit the description.
Lang burst onto the suspense fiction scene with her first novel, Hush, just over a year ago. Since then she has published three more.
“The fourth one just came out; I have another due out in July, and then I am working with my editor to get the sixth one out - all that in the last 11 months,” said Lang.
Annand, who turned 94 in January, published her first novel in 2017 - the first instalment of her Gladys Tunner trilogy. She completed the trilogy in 2019, and is set to publish her fourth.
The two not only lean on each other for inspiration, but they also do double duty as respective copy editors.
“What we will do is we (email) and she will say, ‘I need this done and this done,’ and then I will send her my stuff, and she will look at it and edit it - we have been doing that back and forth with our books,” said Lang. “Or I will phone her, or she will phone me. So that’s kind of how we have been doing it lately.”
Lang said Annand tells her not to hold back, when editing her work.
“She’s adamant. She’ll say, ‘Forget we are related. I want you to go in there and beat it to heck; just find out what you can that’s wrong.’ She’s hilarious.”
Annand said that while she is always available for advice, she believes Lang has progressed beyond her grandmother’s capabilities.
“Oh, I helped her when she first started but she is beyond me now… she doesn’t need me anymore - that’s when she was just getting started,” said Annand, humbly. “She thinks I’m still helping her, but I can’t give her much advice anymore. She’s doing really well on her own.”
Lang’s latest release, Storm, is a thriller set in Black Creek, about a woman who returns home after serving a prison term, only to be faced with ghosts of her past.
Lang lives in Vancouver now, so research for the book had been done remotely, for the most part. She gave a shout-out to many locals who have helped her in that regard.
“While doing research for this book, I reached out to numerous local companies such as LKat Lobed, Black Creek Gas and Go, the RCMP and local resident Kimberly Swedberg,” said Lang. “Everyone was more than generous with their time and provided me with invaluable information I needed. I am very grateful for all of the help I received.”
The book is available on amazon.com
Annand has finished the manuscript for her fourth novel - an offshoot of the Tunner trilogy, called The Unintentional Undertaker. She has sent it out to a couple of publishers “but they said it would take some time, six months, to hear back.”
Annand self-published the final book of the Tunner series but said, “That’s a very expensive way to go and I can’t afford to publish another one on my own. So this one I’ve written, I don’t know (if it will get published).”
The Unintentional Undertaker is a story about Gladys’s two grandsons coming to Canada in the early 1900s. The story loosely follows her own family’s (her father and uncle) migration to Canada.
“That’s my thing - I love historical fiction,” said Annand.
Lang said she is in awe of her ‘nana.’
“I couldn’t have gotten to be a writer had she not helped me,” said Lang. “She taught me, saying, ‘No dear, you can’t do this. Look at your transitions here. Watch your plot…’ She was pivotal in me learning how to write. I was so scared. She helped me so much.”
Lang is hopeful that she has acquired Annand’s longevity gene.
“She really is like the Energizer Bunny - oh my god, she doesn’t stop,” said Lang. “She is just a machine. If this is where I am going with my health and stuff… I can only hope, because she is amazing. She is a really cool lady.”