Friday, June 3, 2016

How old is too old?

by Liz Flaherty


I apologize for stealing that title directly from a PAN (Published Authors' Network) discussion on a Yahoo group. But since it's a question I've been asking myself about numerous things for more years than I care to remember, I'm going with it.

The discussion, for those writers who haven't seen it, involves the age of protagonists in romance novels. And it's interesting. There are those who consider 28 on the high side of age, others who shudder at the notion of 40-year-olds having sex, those who think it's okay to have older people but not in a steamy romance. Some older authors love writing and reading young protagonists because they are free to do what the authors couldn't when they were young. Some find the reading and writing of them tedious.

One of my best friends, Nan Reinhardt, writes strictly over-40 romance and I love the books in her Women of Willow Bay series.

Most of my own heroines have been over 30 and several of them have ventured into their 40s and 50s. If my editor at Harlequin would agree, I'd write all older protagonists because my voice doesn't translate young and because youthful protagonists don't interest me at all. I've been there, done that, bought the tee shirt, and am ready to shop three aisles over.

The Girls of Tonsil Lake is my only title that is true women's fiction. I wrote it about the year the Girls were 51. It is an unabashed favorite of my own books and reviews have been kind to it, too.

What about you? Where do you come in on this discussion?

12 comments:

  1. I believe there is still lots of romance left in us older gals. Keep writing and maybe we can convince the publishers and editors. I do believe we have an audience. Good post

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn. You're right--there IS still a lot left.

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  2. I've been watching that PAN discussion with interest because I do, as you say, write older heroines. But it's pretty funny to see that some folks thing "old" for a romance novel heroine is 28. It's been way too long since I was 28--I don't even remember 28... Thanks for the shout-out, Bestie!!

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    1. Yeah, from the vantage point of my kids being in their 40s, 28 seems way young!

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  3. I've followed that discussion with interest and some amusement.

    My grandfather lived to be 100 so I look at love, romance, and sex with a long-term view. If you're lucky--and stay healthy--life can be fulfilling in all ways. So it's not so much a question of age as it is of health--physical and emotional.

    I have 1 romantic comedy-OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER-that's a scorching hot cougar story. Heroine Stormy is on the cusp of her 50th birthday and she's fallen for a man who is 40. Of course she tries to resist but he has A PLAN to win her heart. The book sold well in ebook and audio. BUT I tried to make the blurb "cool" to appeal to readers younger than 50.

    In most of my other full-length novels, I've deliberately had a romantic sub-plot with older characters. Those consistently get emails from readers. A few said they liked the secondary characters' romances as much as the younger main characters. Perhaps those are readers in an older demographic?

    In STILL THE ONE, the secondary romance is between the hero and heroine's respective grandparents who are in their 70's and can't keep their hands off each other.

    In THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE, it's the heroine's mom and the hero's step-uncle. Their love scenes are as hot as the ones with heroine and hero! Readers love that according to my email!

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    1. I've always gotten a lot of response to secondary characters and their stories. They're usually favorites with me when I read, too, regardless of age.

      It's going to be interesting to see how it goes.

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  4. I've written mid-to-late twenties heroines most of the time.A few on the cusp of 30 because I think that's a time of change in women's thinking or life plans.

    But just last year I went for it with a 47 year old widowed heroine and a 51 year old widower. Both came from loving long term marriages and missed their spouses.

    I went with the idea that if they loved well once...why not again? Plus it was a Christmas story with a matchmaking dog! I LOVED writing it. There was humour in the sexual situations but heat too.

    Right now I've just finished their children's story and plan to release it for Christmas again. It's hotter and more "urgent" in the sex...they are, after all, in the throes of their desire to procreate and sex is more urgent in that time of life...even if birth control is used.

    But the other side of "young" is this most recent event for me: I was invited in May to submit to a new publisher b/c my HQ editor had moved there. Later on, she mentioned that they were actually looking for "fresh, young voices." Which I took to mean not my older, mature voice. You know, the one that sold me to several publishers, the one my readers say is funny, sexy and HOT. LOL



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    1. Exciting to be invited, though, isn't it? That's one of my stoppers, I think--I like my writing voice, but it was never a young one, and I think maybe it's aged disproportionately. One of my favorite couples I've written were ones who got a divorce after 30 years of marriage.

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  5. A lot of romance lovers have aged along with the genre. I hope that means there's a healthy market for older heroines.

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    1. It doesn't look too healthy to me yet, Becky, but I hope it happens.

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  6. Several years ago there was a line that focused on older heroines. I forget the publisher and the name of the line. Second Chance at Love? And "older" meany maybe 40's or 50's. The line didn't last long, though.

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    1. Harlequin had Next, too--my favorite line ever. It only lasted something like 100 titles, but they're still available digitally. And they're still good.

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