Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Older Novelists - Linda Hall

Did you know that the average age for a NY Times bestselling author is 50? At age 85, Agatha Christie had a best selling mystery, and recently deceased Belva Plain didn’t top the list until she was 59. It takes a bit of ‘living’ in the raw cauldron of life to sit down at the computer and compose a novel.

It could be similar to this analogy: When I was in my twenties I knew everything there was to know about God. I knew what God would do in all circumstances and in every situation. My world view - like the world perspective of many young people - was black and white. As I have grown, my world includes many more shades of gray. God has become more of a mystery. Choices are not so black and white. I continually teeter on that knife edge of faith and doubt. And, that ‘knife edge’ is where I set my novels. I’ve lived some. 'Been there, done that. I’ve been in that cauldron.

“Grey listing” has been in the news recently - job discrimination against older people.We are told it occurs in the movies, the music industry and news anchor people, unless you're a man. (Lloyd Robertson comes to mind.)

But is this same bias there in fiction where novelists are not so 'out there'?

When author Randy Ingermanson of was asked about this he responded by saying: “In the world of novel writing, there may possibly be an age bias, but it’s really the least of your worries. Your main worry with fiction writing is “craft bias.” Agents and editors are massively biased against poor craft. They are massively biased in favor of excellent craft.”

And, Ron Benrey in the excellent website/community, writes: "We think a better response is to make gray listing 'unprofitable.' This means that authors of a certain age must write better manuscripts than their younger colleagues. Simply put, late-blooming novelists need to produce novels that scream to be published — novels that make the ages of their author irrelevant."

I don't know about you, but I find that advice gratifying.

If you wish to pursue this, here are a few links you might enjoy reading, or do a Google search on the subject.


Barbara Phinney said...

Linda, this is a wonderful, thoughtful post. I think of that young woman who won the Giller and I hope that people don't think this is the norm. My own prose is by far richer now that it ever was. It takes time to learn about life and love and conflict.
That woman who won the Giller is unique and blessed and I am not turning my nose up to her achievement.
But isn't she also blessed with a father who helped to make her story come alive? With that under her belt, think of the great stories that will be written later as she seasons her prose with her own life.
When she has grey hair.

Peter Black said...

Linda, thank you for these writer-helpful perspectives and industry insights. I'm not a novel writer; however, I've come to writing quite late in life, and find both challenge and encouragement from this piece. (Thank you also for the site URLS.)

Norah Wilson said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post, Linda. And you are so right about the world growing less black & white as we mature. Maybe it takes maturity to appreciate those gradations in between. And I tend to believe that while there are some brilliant young writers, some of the best work comes from more seasoned sources. :-)

Marcia said...

Thanks for this encouragement, Linda, from one whose hair is started to be more salt than pepper. :)Marcia

Glynis said...

How true...I agree with what you say about the gray, mysterious ways of God. This is mighty encouraging. Thanks, Linda.

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