Why write a murder mystery, make it funny and choose a menopausal businesswoman as your amateur sleuth? Why not?
When you start out as an English teacher with an urge to write humor and you buy into an ad agency where blogging becomes a must, the stars begin to align. Then when you’re cajoled into creating a blog on menopause - because you’ve become the defacto resource for desperate women who have waited too long to educate themselves properly - which is eventually republished by Vibrant Nation (a site for women 50+) and Alltop (a general information site) things start to heat up.
The feedback from Menologues, and my partnership with the Vibrant Nation community have taught me some things. Fifty-plus women are vastly ignored and overlooked by the world at large, and many of us lack the confidence to shout loud enough to insist on being heard. Are we less talented, intelligent or relevant than anyone else out there? Hell no!
Then why? Is it because we have typically been the caretakers and the ‘sacrificers?’ Or is it because, in past generations, we’ve never been thought of as amounting to much and we’re now on the downside of the equation? You tell me. The real question is: what can we do about it? In some ways perceptions have improved, but recent experience tells me it’s nowhere near enough!
Donna Leigh, the protagonist of my first novel: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was a Bitch? doesn’t think of herself as old or even past her prime. She’s just living life to the fullest and dealing with what comes her way. She’s running an ad agency when a former colleague is murdered. Since it’s a known fact that she and the victim were not on friendly terms, Donna Leigh takes the pragmatic approach and jumps right into the investigation in an attempt to stay off the suspect list. As an ad agency owner, Donna lives in a young world; and while she doesn’t try to fight the natural progression of time, she is clearly influenced by the bright young culture in which she lives.
During the arduous editing process of the first in the “Donna Leigh Mystery” series, one of my female editors noted “women that age don’t talk like that.” I thought, hmmmppphhh, she must be really young to make that stereotypical statement. When I met this editor and realized that she was my age or older, the enormous disparity of lifestyle situations among women aged 48 to 65+ really became apparent to me. We don’t know all that much about each other; how could we expect the rest of the world to know about us?
I can’t single handedly change stereotyping of women my age - some of which even originates from women my age. I have created a character who is menopausal, or even post menopausal, very real and neither old nor trying too hard to hang onto her youth. She is not an aberration, but those who are uninformed often view her as such. She’s a smart lady, but she has her share of flaws.
Although I can’t abolish stereotypes I can depict her as one realistic example of a menopausal woman today: stylish and attractive. As far as what she isn’t: mid-twenties, model gorgeous and reed thin – does that keep us from wanting to read about her crime solving adventures? Only time will tell.
But why shouldn’t women have heroes at every age? We need a reason to laugh and see ourselves through protagonists portrayed as admirable, but not flawless. We need not have to accept the premise that the protagonist must be a very young woman, so it’s too late for us!
And as far as the murder theme goes. As a lifetime Agatha Christie zealot (we already have our octogenarian role model in Miss Marple) I was delighted by two things I learned once my novel was underway; writing is incredibly fun and getting to kill off the bad guys feels damn good – even if it’s only on paper!
Visit Robin at http://www.rldonovan.com/
Robin Donovan is the author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. Menologues is republished on two commercial sites: Vibrant Nation and Alltop, and has won regional honors for social media at the AMA Pinnacles and PRSA Paper Anvil awards.