Too Old for Romance???

A few weeks ago, there was this little discussion going on over on my writer's list. Ok, so it wasn't exacly a LITTLE discussion. Although everyone who wrote in was in agreement with everyone else, we were all quite up in arms about a comment made by some editor somewhere (don't know who she is or who she works for) who said something to the effect of, older authors (over 40) write too old fashioned. She basically said that all you have to do is look at the picture on the back to know if the book is going to be up to par with the "new" standards. So the discussion began with, can women over 40 get it right? It went all over the place from "don't judge a book by its cover" (or it's author's ability by her picture) to "rules don't make good story, good story makes good story."

Well, in answer to the original question, duh! That's a no brainer for me. Of course we can get it right. And we do. There seems to be this terrible stereotype out there that only the young, hip and beautiful (translation: anorexic crack heads) can prosper in this world. Ok, so in the modeling business, sure, and not for very long. But romance novels are about love, not throwing up.

There has been a strong trend away from the "damsel in distress" type of stories that used to be popular. You know, the ones with the helpless female characters who couldn't do a thing without the man helping them. And that new trend is all fine and well. So we want to see strong female leads who can take care of themselves. That isn't exactly an invention of the 20 something crowd. I think it's safe to say that most women over 40 are WELL acquainted with the new, modern and independent woman. We are that woman! Come on, it was our generation, and that of our mothers and grandmothers who first started fighting for equality for women. Heck, it goes back to our great-grandmothers...Women who are quite old, or who may have already passed on. So now these young whippersnappers barely out of diapers think they know more than we do just because we might have to brush up on the most recent slang? So "sweet" doesn't mean something that tastes like candy anymore. Whatever! I've got a teen and an almost teen in the house so it wouldn't take me long to get all the proper lingo down straight. But I can a twenty something who has never been married, never had kids, maybe is sitting at home on Friday nights writing about life instead of out experiencing it...going to be able to tell me what it's like to fall in love? Ok, so now I guess I could be accused of generalizing. I'm not. Just making a point.

The "rules" of writing might have changed, but our need to experience love has stayed the same since the day God put Adam in the Garden. In other words, for a long time. And we "old" ladies are still kicking. We can brush up on some of the newer trends in the writing world. And "old" writing will be around a long time. Just look at the continued popularity of Jane Austen.

So if you've got the time, drop me a line or two and tell me who some of your favorite over 40 authors are, and why you love their books. :) You'll make my day.


writingwrongs said…
I'm +40 and write young adult stories. While I haven't sold in novel length fiction, no one has ever told me I don't sound teen enough.

It isn't about knowing slang, it's about sensibility. The problem occurs when a forty something woman sits down and writes a twenty-five-year-old heroine--and gives her the sensibility of a forty year old.

It's about characterization. Each generation has their own sensibility, how they see the world. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain the cold war and communism to my son. He still can't see why everyone had their knickers in a twist over it. ;-)

When I write, I do a timeline for characters, matching their growth with what was going on in the world at the time and how it affected them.

Studies have shown that writing isn't just a young person's game. You get better at it as you age, often times. Age often (but not always) brings perspective, wisdom. But just because you have that perspective, it doesn't mean your character does.

All best,

Marianne Arkins said…
Tee hee... favorite over 40 author? ME! LOL!

I'm over 40 and don't think I'm out of touch.

I agree with what Charity said (as I often do) about making certain your characters act their age. I'm the first person to admit that I doubt my ability to write mainstream chick-lit because I wouldn't know a Manolo Blahnik from a pair of Keds.

I look at the work I did when I was twenty and compare to what I write now. Mechanics aside, I think my characters are far richer now because I have life experience to give them.

The thought that over 40's can't write 20 or 30 y.o. heroines is ridiculous.

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