Y is for Youth


Okay, I’m getting old. That or they’re starting to hire news reporters, financial advisors, and doctors straight out of grammar school. I don’t think of myself as old, but whenever I look in the mirror, there’s this old lady who reminds me of my mother who keeps looking back at me.

I wasn’t exactly young when I started writing. I’ve been slow at a lot of things. I didn’t get married until I was 28. (Took me that long to find the right guy.) I didn’t have children until I was 32 and 34. And I didn’t start writing until I was 40. So even when I started, I, and other writers around my age, used to comment about how young editors were. And they were (and still are). Some were just out of college.

To give all the facts, most editors, especially those just starting out, don’t make much money. Many drop out of the business after a few years, moving on to more lucrative jobs. The ones who stick around and advance in the company take the writers bringing in the big bucks with them, leaving the mid-list writers and new writers to the younger editors. And it’s the younger editors and agents who go to the conferences and are willing to listen to pitches, evaluate mss, judge contests, and be on panels. The older editors either don’t have the time or are burned out on conferences. (Although nowadays I am seeing more editors and agents over the age of 40.)

When I was writing romances, it was sometimes awkward talking to an editor who could be my daughter. On the other hand, since the heroines in my romances were usually between the ages of 25 and 30, listening to a group of New York editors talk about their lives gave me wonderful research material. (I also found working at a college for five years was helpful in keeping in touch with how that age group thought, acted, and suffered.)

I know there are several writers in their eighties who continue to write romances featuring young heroines, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve found it more difficult to relate to that age group. P.J. Benson, in my mysteries is in her late twenties, but the romance in those books is secondary to the mysteries. She’s more concerned with finding out why people keep dying around her than in how to entice a man.

But I’ll be honest. Writing A KILLER PAST, where Mary Harrington, the main female protagonist, is 74-years-old, was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. When she had to protect herself, she suffered the next day, had bruises and a body that protested her demand to get out of bed. Her eyesight wasn’t as good as it used to be. Her hand not as steady.

Mary is self-confident and has a sense of humor. She’s not opposed to sex, but she’s also realistic about the who-she-is versus who-she-used-to-be. She has fears, but she’s also not afraid to stand her ground for what she believes or wants.

She’s my kinda woman. I wanna be like her.

So goodbye youth. Watch out for grandma.

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