62-year-old Sheila Rodgers decided to explore a new passion when she retired, with incredible results.
Rachel Abbott (the pen name of Shelia Roberts) never thought this would happen to her.
The 62-year-old was born Sheila Rodgers and until five years ago, she’d never put pen to paper other than to sign the contract to sell the interactive media company she’d set up.
“Basically, I had retired,” says Abbott. “I’d given up work in my 50s thinking I was going to lead a life of leisure and I guess I’m probably working harder now than I’ve ever done.”
After leaving the business, she revamped the website for a property she owns in Italy with her husband and worked on the marketing. But it wasn’t fulfilling and she pondered learning how to make clothes, or whether she’d enjoy gardening.
“I’d had this idea in my head for years of what set of circumstances could be so bad that a woman would have no choice but to murder a man,” she says.
The result was ‘Only The Innocent’, which Abbott eventually chose to self-publish on Amazon. It has since sold over a million copies and she’s followed it up with three other successful novels, including ‘Stranger Child’ earlier this year. Writing them, however, was just the half of it.
“With my first book I did what most people do and just put it up on Amazon and cross my fingers,” she says. “[Soon after] I decided I was going to have to produce a marketing plan. It’s a huge amount of work. Once I started to implement it, I worked for 14 hours a day, seven days a week for three months. I ate nothing but chocolate biscuits, but I was determined I was going to make it work.”
It paid off. She’s the number one independent author on Kindle over the last five years and now has two part-time assistants to help with the admin.
She’s also got a positive attitude to her earnings. “I’ve got more disposable income now,” she says. “When you’re selling books it’s a continual income so you feel more able to treat yourself to things you wouldn’t have done otherwise. I’ve got this view now on the earnings that they’ve all got to be spent on things that are fun. When I sold my business it all went into bricks and mortar. I’ve spent [my book] money on holidays – that’s the big thing for me, much more extravagant holidays than I’ve ever had.”
She doesn’t think people realise (or care) she’s in her sixties when they read her books and reckons life experience is key to her writing.
“I don’t think I could have written the types of book that I write when I was younger,” she says. “Even though they’re thrillers, they’re largely based on relationships. What I tend to do is look at interesting characteristics in people and then multiply them thousands of times. I don’t think I could have done that when I was 25.”
Currently working on her next novel, Abbott has no immediate plans to retire (again).
I think I will keep going for a few years yet,” she says. “I wouldn’t anticipate giving up for the next five or six years. I can’t wait to get to work every morning. I’ve started trying to go for a walk before breakfast and I just think to myself, ‘I want to get in the office!