In May, the movie BOOK CLUB was released. It starred 4 of my favorite actresses of a certain age, my absolute fav being Candice Bergen. The plot dealt with 4 women all over the age of 50 ( way over!) and their attitudes towards aging, their bodies, their sex lives ( or lack of such) and society’s views, in general, about romance, romantic love, and yes, SEX, after the age of 40.
And just who exactly decided 40 was the cut off for all things romance? Just askin’.
Any hoo. The writing was fab, the jokes, although sometimes raunchy, always spot-on, and the dialogue was like listening to people I know speak to one another. In other words, the movie spoke to me.
The reason I’m writing this post isn’t as a review of the movie or a request to rent it – although you should! No. After watching the movie I began to think about the romance publishing industry overall, and how it can be a little insular for its writers.
Case in point – all the talk of the lack of diversity this year. I’m not going into depth on this point, but do some research and you’ll see why I’m applauding all the AOC ( authors of color) who are FINALLY being given a rightful seat at the table and a voice. It’s been a long time coming and still has a loooooooong way to go before true equity, equality, and financial parity, but 2018 has certainly been the beginning of the journey.
Diversity encompasses more than just color and ethnicity in my opinion, though. There is a decided mood of AGEISM in the romance publishing world. Whoever decided 40 was the age cutoff for heroes and heroines in romances in order for the book to be successful or even published should be made public so the writers – such as myself – who are over this age can confront him/her and give them a good, hard dose of reality.
I am 58 years old. I have never been shy about admitting my age because, a. I’m proud I was able to live to it(!) and b. I think I look pretty good. I know I certainly feel good. Vibrant. Healthy. And when I say healthy I mean in all aspects: medically, physically, spiritually and yes, SEXUALLY! And since I am medically sound, physically well, spiritually intact, I do, therefore HAVE SEX.
Okay. No more capital letters. You get what I’m writing about.
The traditional romance publishing industry seems to be loathe to publish any stories where the main characters, the hero and heroine, are 50 years plus. I don’t know the actual reason, but I bet it’s based on two things: money and the “eeww” factor.
Money first. Publishing, like all businesses, runs on the ability to bring money in, in essence, to make a profit. So far, the romance books that have been released into the book reading world have mostly been about main characters below the age of 40 because these sell. But…Baby Boomers and the generation that came after them are now all in their 50’s 60’s and 70’s. And they read. A lot. Why, in an industry where money is king, publishers haven’t tried to tap that market with age-appropriate romances is a mystery. I’d make a bet that if they did, the money would not only flow, it would increase exponentially.
The “eeww” factor is an easy one. No one likes to think of their parents or grandparents involved in a passionate love affair or having – God forbid and close my eyes – sex. Well, suck that up, buttercup, because how do you think you got here? You weren’t hatched. You weren’t found in a cabbage patch. You weren’t an immaculate conception because so far in history there’s only been one of those and you’re not it. You ancestors had sex. Your parents and grandparents are still having sex. Your grandparents and parents are ROMANTIC beings. Get over yourself and realize that.
The reason I am so fierce about this topic is because several years ago I was a judge in the annual RITA contest for RWA. I was assigned 9 contemporary romances to read by varying authors, all of whom I’d never heard of. Every book dealt with a heroine in her 20’s. Every. Single. Book. And they were obnoxious, self absorbed or whoa-is-me heroines. Pathetic. Right then and there I wondered if there were any books out there about women like me, my age, my temperament and with my concerns.
Here’s a hint: There weren’t.
Since then, several authors have started penning romance books for and about people over the age of 40, but these authors have done so independently – the big five traditional publishing houses nowhere to be seen. That speaks volumes about how the industry feels about my generation.
If, like me, you are a woman of a certain age who enjoys reading and writing romances, do yourself and everyone else a favor and contemplate a more mature heroine/hero, possibly along the same age lines as yourself. And if you are an editor or an agent and reading this, first #blessyou(!) second, consider well written books about people who aren’t less than 40 years of age. People 40+ have the same concerns, problems, conflicts, and romances as those below it.
If you’re a facebook girl you might want to check out the Seasoned Romance group on FB