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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Sunday, 23 May 2010
Sarah Callejo on her new blog – worth a visit, by the way – asked what age were our heroines. I left a comment that I felt they were whatever fitted the story and I said I’d one heroine who fell in love in her 60s. But thinking it over afterwards I realised that I hadn’t really thought it through. That it’s more complicated than that, for nothing in writing is ever simple, is it? The first problem which struck me was that the genre matters. That heroine of mine would not be realistic in a chic lit novel, would she? The age of the readership quickly followed. The middle aged might accept her and find nothing untoward. But what about the young reading of such a woman? I can imagine the shock, horror, even disgust. Too often I’ve heard their reaction to the idea of “wrinklies” having sex! A friend of mine writes wonderful books with older women in them. Since they are very funny I’d high hopes that she’d find a home for them, but there appears to be a resistance from editors. But how sad that it was the humour I felt would help them, not that they were tales of how older women felt – doesn’t that say a lot? The editors, it seems to me, are nervous of approving them. They can come, it seems to me, in two varieties, both age related. The older editor lies about her age for she lives in fear of being thought over the hill, is she likely to welcome an older heroine, NO, it would damage her street cred. The other type of editor is so young she looks as if she’s just left school and so young that she thinks that anyone over the age of twenty-five might just as well be dead. So, do keep in mind that you might meet hurdles to your plans. So how was it that my heroine of 60, in love, got away with it, for no one objected and that included my editor. I wonder if it wasn’t because we had followed her from childhood and after various romantic ups and downs, we wanted her to be happy. Had I begun with her at that age I wonder what the reaction would have been. However, I do believe you have to be happy with the age you choose to write about. I’ve read m/s from women who have forgotten what it was like to be a teenager or in their twenties. Instead they use the language of their own youth not that of today. Also they give the women in their novel their values, their moral code. They have forgotten that the world has moved on and language and attitudes with it. They would be careful not to do it if they were writing an historical novel, but let’s face it the gulf between someone in their late 50s and a 20 year old, verges on the historical. How you live your own life too can impact on who and how you write the young. I begin to think that to be a writer one of the first essentials is to have an open and enquiring mind, one that is not set in the aspic of the past but is excited by the present and the future. These pitfalls are numerous, I think I might return to them next week. And Debbie I'm sorry you are unwell and I hope you soon get back to writing.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting post - as always... and of course timely as I am working with two women in the current wip - one now 58 (reduced her age) and the other 25...

    Thanks,
    lx

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  2. Thanks for the mention. I feel honoured.
    I think writing a character which is younger or older than you is actually quite difficult. If it's younger, it's not a matter of remembering what you were like back then, it's knowing what people that age are like now. And thinking about the way older people talk we have to remember their language also progresses with the times, they won't necessarily talk in an old-fashioned way.
    But in any case, I think we'll probably tire of the same age range so we may start reading "wrinkley-lit" at some point!

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  3. Told you I would stop by - thank you for your kind words. I won't give in...I won't give in...

    This is another interesting post.

    My novel that is currently being critiqued on the New Writers Scheme of the RNA main protaganist is middle aged (like me.)

    However one of the stories I mentioned in your last post has 2 points of view - one a young girl and one a 90 year old. This is one of the reasons it's proving more of a challenge.

    warm wishes

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  4. You hit the nail on the head - age is always tricky for us - both for our heroines and the editors!! Please do revisit this topic.

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