Welcome to the second installment in my new blog series, The Writers Den. Each month there will be a guest post from a very special guest author with each author offering something different and informative on a particular area of writing and publishing.
This month Seasoned Romance author Eliza Bennetts is sharing why she loves to write older protagonists and why you’re never too old to fall in love.
Like most people during the COVID-19 crisis, I’m beginning to miss certain aspects of social life. I miss hugging my loved ones, I miss going out for dinner and laughing with girlfriends while downing a few bottles of wine (though we are still managing to do that via video chats). I miss date nights with my husband and family trips to the cinema.
What I don’t miss so much, are those slightly awkward social situations we adults sometimes find ourselves in. You know the ones; the events where you don’t really know anyone, and you’re not really sure why you’re there. Inevitably, at these events some other well-meaning person who is just as awkward and unsure, will ask that favoured question. The ‘king’ of all small talk queries – ‘what do you do?’
For the last year my answer has been twofold. The first part is easy and readily accepted by the enquirer:
“I’m a teacher.”
This is almost always met with a follow up question. “Primary or Secondary?”
I tell them I’m a primary school teacher and they nod and smile, and then – and this is where things start to get interesting – I tell them I also write romance novels featuring lead characters over forty years old.
I see their eyes light up as they realise a conversation that had all the makings of typical boring chit-chat takes a sudden turn.
Now, I should remind you; there is actually nothing boring at all about being a school teacher. I, like most teachers, have a range of stories that could make even the stoniest soul cry tears of laughter, other stories that would bring a tear to their eye for more heartbreaking reasons. BUT when I mention I am a romance writer; people’s ears prick up.
“Why characters over 40, specifically?” is usually what they ask next.
“Because I’m over forty, and I want to read and write stories about people like me and my friends.”
This is enough to satisfy some, others what to know more. For the most part, if they’re not familiar with the romance genre, they want to know why writing about women over forty sets me apart.
I explain that although romance novels are not formulaic, there are certain expectations held by readers and the publishing industry. One of these might be that the female lead is in her mid to late twenties or early thirties (the magical age of 29 seems to be a thing) and the male lead can be a little older, but not over 40.
I tell them how much I like reading about and writing about women over forty, who, for the most part, have lived incredibly rich lives. They’ve had experience with heartbreak and joy, with grief and longing and disappointment. That is not to say that a younger woman hasn’t, it’s just that as a writer, I find there is more to draw upon when dealing with older characters. There are wounds from the past, adult children and career experiences. I love writing about woman who think they have it all figured out – at least, until he comes along.
There has been a common and long held opinion in the industry around sex on the page in romances featuring characters outside that ‘magic’ age range. Perhaps there is the belief that people do not want to read about older characters doing the deed! I can unequivocally say, both as a reader and a writer who is in regular contact with readers, this is not true.
Women of all ages like to have sex… there I said it. Moreover, women of all ages want and deserve to have their love lives and their sex lives represented in works of fiction.
A huge portion of romance readers exist in the 40 plus age group, even more from the 60 plus age group. So then, it stands to reason that they should be able to see themselves in the books they so love to read.
My hope is that the growing trend towards romantic fiction starring women over forty continues to bloom. After all, you’re never too old to fall in love.
Eliza Bennetts believes you’re never too old to fall in love. She likes to daydream and write – usually in that order, and since she was old enough to hold a crayon in her chubby hand, she’s been creating stories.
While, she may never be able to equal the brilliance of those fables she crafted as a four-year-old, she now enjoys writing stories about characters who’ve lived a little. Eliza specialises in Woman’s Fiction and Romance stories with protagonists who are 35 or older.
When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two sons, cackling with her girlfriends or watching ‘crappy’ television.
Eliza Bennetts’s complete Season Series is now available from Amazon and various other online retailers.
Book One of the Empty Nesters series ‘You, Me, Us’ is available now, with Book 2 due out in June.