By Linda Lovely
Would you be inclined to read a book featuring a heroine who has substantial miles on her odometer but still knows how to burn rubber when she’s chased and is willing to put the pedal to the metal when the kissing starts?
If so, I’m with you. I’m a fan of boomer fiction. Probably because I choose to believe I’m still climbing life’s hill rather than being over the hill.
That belief was part of my motivation for my Marley Clark Mystery series. Marley is a kick-ass retired military intelligence officer. The feisty widow is fit, witty, and sexy. In DEAR KILLER, the first book in the series, Marley’s working security
on a resort island when she finds a corpse bobbing naked amid a potpourri of veggies in a Jacuzzi. Over night her yawner of a job is transformed into a deadly battle of wits.
Soon the 52-year-old heroine is startled to discover she’s become a 40-year-old deputy sheriff’s target as well—for romance. Yet their steamy attraction doesn’t deter the pair from sorting through a viper’s nest of suspects as the body count grows and the pun-loving killer plans a grizzly epitaph for Marley.
Marley continues her adventures in NO WAKE ZONE as she visits relatives in a Northern Iowa resort area. In the third Marley book, WITH NEIGHBORS LIKE THESE, scheduled to debut in 2016, Marley will return to her home in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Why did I decide to make Marley over fifty? Shortly after I crossed the age 50 divide myself—okay it was a few years ago—I began noodling around with the idea of an over-50 heroine. I had boomer friends engaged in all sort of interesting activities and thought it would be fun to create a “senior” heroine who was athletic, smart AND sexy.
At the time, it never occurred to me that heroines of “a certain age” might be confined primarily to two literary subgenres—a slice of women’s fiction populated with angst-filled over-50s battling declining health, parental regrets, lost loves or marital woes and the heroines of cozy mysteries.
That’s not as true today as it was in 2005 when I searched Internet and library sources for older heroines. Those searches turned up cozy titles by the boatload—heroines who tended to be retired amateur sleuths, unlikely to enjoy hot sex (or, if they did, we certainly never read about it.)
The pickings were slim for readers who wanted to hear about older women lawyers, professors, Army or police officers, journalists, or athletes in mysteries, thrillers and romance novels. And, even more seldom did books describe boomers enjoying healthy, sensual relationships.
This is steadily changing for two reasons. First, boomers devour books, and (delusional or not) we don’t think of ourselves as little old ladies. Second, there are many more options open to authors who want to reach what large traditional publishers may consider niche audiences. With the growth in ebooks and print-on-demand (POD) publishing, these options include Independent publishing, small publishing houses, and, most recently, author cooperatives. (I am lucky enough to be a new member of Windtree Press, an author cooperative that includes some very talented authors.)
Why have large traditional publishers been less likely to publish romance and mystery novels that feature older heroines who aren’t in the “cozy” mold? I’ve heard a variety of arguments. Here are a few: younger readers can’t identify with older heroines, but older readers can still remember the trials that young heroines face. Young heroines are more pliable and can experience greater growth than older “fixed in their beliefs” women.
Young acquiring editors think of old heroines as “geezer” lit.
Mind you, I read and ENJOY cozies. But I also love traditional and noir mysteries, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy. And I’d love to find more titles with older protagonists in all of these genres.
I’m happy to say that I seem to be getting my wish.
DEAR KILLER and NO WAKE ZONE are available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.