Jenny Witterick is a big believer that our decisions, whether they are monumental or not, are ultimately what shapes us into who we are. Certainly, her decision to close a multi-billion-dollar money management firm in 2014 to embark on an unproven journey of becoming a novelist was just that — monumental.
Publishers did not want to bet on an unproven author, but Witterick was undeterred. She self-published My Mother’s Secret, which quickly became a bestseller in Canada. Penguin, the largest publisher in the world, decided to pick it up. Today, the novel is available in ten languages and is used in schools to teach tolerance and understanding.
Elixuer had the pleasure of sitting down with Witterick to learn of her successes, her outlook on wealth and happiness, and what’s next for the spirited author.
With 30 years of experience in the investment industry, what made you take the leap of faith to become a novelist?
I didn’t plan on being an author. I didn’t map out my life and say, “This is what I’m going to do after a career in investments.” Things happen in your life, and it’s only afterwards that you realize that they were turning points. I enjoyed the investment business, but I had already seen so many cycles that it was just going to be more of the same going forward. It felt like there was something else I had to do. Perhaps I was ready for a change and didn’t know it.
At the time, a friend of mine invited me to see a film about a Polish mother and daughter who hid Jewish families and a German soldier in their home during the Holocaust. Through courage and cleverness, these women saved almost all of them. It was an obscure film. Not many people were there. I thought to myself, This isn’t right. These women should be remembered.
I was running a company, but I could not shake the thought. One day, I said to myself, Why don’t you just do it? Why don’t you write the story? Almost immediately, there was a voice in my head that whispered, “Because you can’t. You don’t know how.” All of us have heard that voice before, haven’t we? The voice that keeps us from stepping outside our comfort zone. The thing is anyone who is good at what they do didn’t know how to do it at some point in their lives. Everyone has to start somewhere. My greatest strength is probably that I am not afraid of fear. I tell myself that failure is temporary and keep moving.
From your personal experience, do you believe that money and happiness go hand in hand?
I think you need a certain amount of money not to worry about money. It’s hard to be happy when you’re worried about the rent or putting food on the table. That kind of stress just crowds out happiness. Once you overcome that hurdle, however, I don’t think money and happiness are that correlated.
There were points in my life when I had nothing, and I was happy. There were also times in my life when I had more than I could have imagined, and I still felt restless. I’ve come to the conclusion that happiness comes from within. It comes from gratitude for whatever you already have. When I see someone working in a restaurant with a big smile on their face, I think to myself, That person is successful! They love what they do. To me, it is how I define success, and I thank my lucky stars because I truly love what I do. I love to write.
Can you share a key experience of your life that shaped you into who you are today?
When I was about 10 years old, money was tight in our household. Even so, my parents would let me have an ice cream cone once in a while. One time, the owner of the corner store made a mistake with his change. I returned the dime and told him, “You gave me too much.”
Now, that event is not earth-shattering by any means. But, if I had kept that dime to buy candy or whatever else, it would have chipped away at the person I want to be, the person I want to admire.
The decisions we make day-to-day that don’t seem to matter are actually shaping us into who we become. And, by the way, he gave me a double scoop whenever I went back after that!
Tell us about your new novel, It Was Always Her.
This story came to me in a dream. I woke up in the middle of the night, so taken that I started writing right there and then!
It Was Always Her is about a man who goes back in time to prevent the Third World War. He does not know that he will find the love of his life in the past and that he will have to choose between her and saving the world.
I love time travel stories and the question of what we would do with a second chance. All of us have wondered about that at some point in our lives, haven’t we? This book speaks to those possibilities and asks the question, “Would you love the same person in another life?”
Brooke Parker | Staff Writer