07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Baby Boomer Fiction - What the heck is it?

Guest Post by Courtney Pierce

Photo: Stuart Miles
When I tell people I write baby boomer fiction, they assume I’ll blabber on about Woodstock, acid trips, and dancing in the streets of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. I laugh and say, “That would be a pretty short book. Those stories are kind of fuzzy around the edges.”

Some boomers write about those days in colorful memoirs, but my definition goes deeper. For me, the genre is about what my characters think and do because they’re baby boomers. At its heart are characters who were born between 1946 to 1964. I’m one of them, so I write what I know. My books feature older characters performing heroic feats of everyday life in laugh-out-loud and poignant ways. There is one fuzzy thing, though―how they behave.

While every generation has its quirks, baby boomers ignore their gray and hold tight to the values instilled by the Beat Generation: question authority; laugh at the world; and become outraged at injustice—with wriggle room. What I love about boomers—and I include myself here—is the belief that rules are squishy as long as you’re breaking them for the right reasons. Benevolent scofflaw. This trait makes for colorful characters that come alive in fiction. Moral dilemmas are met with screwy wisdom and Peter Pan Syndrome.

The era we grow up in shapes our attitudes as a demographic. The big stuff. Our parents were molded by World War II, the Depression, and class attitudes. Before that, the 1929 economic crash reminded a newly electric, roaring generation that blind trust in the system evaporated the fruits of hard work. These life experiences, directly or indirectly, are reflected in the characters of fiction set in those time periods. The cloth of a baby boomer is no different. We’re stitched together with free love, feminism, rock music, television, Vietnam, and harvest gold rotary phones. Life cereal with whole milk, topped with rebellion. Who didn’t whip that long phone cord around like a jump rope? I think we’re still trying to figure out the dichotomy of family dinner banter on Leave it to Beaver with the subjects discussed at our own tables over mystery meatloaf. Could nuclear war really be possible?

Both modern and period boomer stories embed 1960s attitudes into the skin of their characters. A new generation of retirees—to the tune of 10,000 per day—are using those same values to change the definition of "senior." We boomer authors create hilarious and heart-breaking prose that incorporates wide-eyed wisdom while thumping the table with conviction. The only way to make sense of the world is to employ equally twisted logic.

One of my favorite techniques is to incorporate product references from the fifties, sixties and seventies, whether it be toys like Twister, Pick-Up Stix, and Jax, or music of the Beatles, the Herman’s Hermits, and Motown. Even the scrumptious chew of Juicy Fruit gum occasionally makes an appearance. Turns of phrase can liven prose too, like dogs sniffing out cooties or a woman’s arousal being shown as high beams. I could keep going, but it would turn into a trivia game.

As a result of being a boomer, I shy away from incorporating too much technology in my books, even though they're set in present day. I treasure the time before cell phones, computers, and laptops. Technology can be a crutch that detracts from the static electricity between characters. Plots are infinitely more interesting when the characters figure things out for themselves. I only use electronic devices to keep the pace zippy.

There are over 76 million baby boomers in the United States. That’s a big reading audience, and many now have the time to document memorable stories. Boomers treasure the senses of touch and scent, and still want to hold a book in their hands, as if the aroma of paper and the flip of a page will bring us closer to a tale. I love that boomers want to connect in person to share their journeys with me. In return, I create lively, accessible characters that draw from the past to continue molding the future for new generations.

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon with her husband of 36 years and bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. Her novels are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. Courtney has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. She is also a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and is active with Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime.

Colorful characters come alive in The Executrix, Courtney's first installment of the hilarious Dushane Sisters Trilogy. When three middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe, sibling blood will need to be thicker than baggage to find out if the story is fiction.  

Visit Courtney's website at www.courtney-pierce.com. Her books can be purchased at Windtree PressAmazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, and at several independent bookstores in the Portland area.


Linda Lovely said...

Interesting post, Courtney. I enjoy reading and writing boomer fiction for the same reason--I'm a boomer and I get the mindset. I think you're right, too, about the humor and colorful characters.

Judith Ashley said...

Having missed being a Boomer by five years or so, I still think of myself in some regards as one and both of my younger brothers fit the definition. However, I totally agree that as I'm a little older, I do see something very differently than my boomer friends. Not everything, but I find myself shaking my head at some things.

And yes, I did swing the long telephone cord like a jump rope and remember harvest gold (thankfully my mom was not a yellow/gold person. That means we had avocado green appliances in one house.

Thanks for a post that stirs up memories, memories that for me bring a smile.

Diana McCollum said...

I'm a boomer too! Your blog was a trip down memory lane. Thanks so much, and good luck with sales!

Naomi Baltuck said...

What an interesting post! I am a Baby Boomer, and your post struck quite a few chords for me. I would like to see how you incorporate this into a novel. I will find one of your books and give it a go!

Courtney Pierce said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments. Some days I feel old (when I watch the news), and other days I swear I'm the same twenty year old who grabbed life by the collar. Writing about both states of mind is at the heart of baby boomer fiction. Dive in and enjoy!