wenty years from now, will Sex and the City faithful yearn for a new adventure featuring a much older Carrie and Mr. Big as they reach fifty- or sixty-something and juggle midlife hassles, aging parents, and retirement?
A similar question can be asked about literature. Do readers want to follow the antics of a fifty-something woman as she looks for love while finding herself? Can a literary genre about the boomer generation draw enough interest to sustain it?
The answer to those questions is tricky.
As the tail end of the estimated eighty million baby boomers reach the magical mark of fifty, it makes sense that boomer generation readers want to identify with fictional characters who share similar life experiences.
Some critics consider it chick lit for grandmothers. A few label it as Sex and the City for the menopause set. And for others, boomer literature tells a powerful story about facing challenges and persevering.
Since boomers purchase one of every seven books sold, boomer lit is smoking hot…and the label is a marketing tool worth pursuing.
“It’s time for the hen to strut her stuff.”
Once upon a time in literature, boy met girl. The two fell in love, encountered an obstacle or two, and overcame insurmountable odds to end up happily ever after.
But as readers age, the heroines in romance novels—or mainstream literature, for that matter—remain ageless youngsters, unblemished by life’s school of hard knocks.
Move over, chick. It’s time for the hen to strut her stuff.
In today’s cougar-accepting society, romance and sex turn the page. And the impetus is coming from middle-aged characters that have outgrown starry-eyed first love.
Just when you thought grandma would want to dote on the grandchildren and tend the flower bed, a younger stud or a handsome widower shows up and sweeps granny off her feet, changing the romantic formula that’s been the standard for years.
In matron lit, another term for boomer literature, woman meets man, they fall in love, and one of them deals with a health problem while the other copes with children from a previous marriage. There’s no guarantee of happily ever after. Instead, there’s a feeling of realism that appeals to aging readers.
“…Every genre has some element of romance, but overall, books tell stories about satisfying relationships…”—Debbie Macomber
Novelist Debbie Macomber believes boomers read everything with an open curiosity. “We’re looking for that reminiscing, feel good, optimistic outlook that is reminiscent of our childhood.”
Macomber broke into the romance market twenty-seven years ago during a period when the publishing world was a “big boys club” in New York.
“Romance was the open door that women writers walked through. Look at the best seller lists today. Ninety-five percent of every successful author came through romance publishing,” Macomber stresses. She lists fellow authors Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, and Sandra Brown as groundbreakers.
Macomber, who has sold more than one hundred million copies of her books, has written several novel series and feels her characters have grown up right along with her.
“As I’m entering my sixties, it’s a little more difficult to write about a twenty-year-old.”
Macomber agrees that almost every genre has some element of romance; but overall, books tell stories about satisfying relationships, and those relationships may take on different connotations in themes geared toward boomers.
“Right now, there’s a lot of sandwich generation stuff. Our parents are living to be older, and we’re taking care of our children. We think about the relationships we had when we were younger. And for some of us, we’re starting over with an empty nest. We’re finding ourselves,” says Macomber.
Some over-forty readers may be distressed by romance novels featuring mature women because they can relate with the main character. Macomber chuckles at this notion. “If they want realism, look up from the book!”
“I don’t write sex scenes in my books. I joke it’s because I’m married.”—Debbie Macomber
Macomber says when readers pick up a book, they want to involve themselves in the lives of others and forget their own problems. Sometimes that involves flirting and romance.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to involve a steamy-detailed sex scene.
As she’s matured, Macomber doesn’t think the boomer generation expects a lot of sex on the page. Some things are best left to the imagination.
“I don’t write sex scenes in my books. I joke it’s because I’m married. You don’t have to have a sex scene to sell a book.”
Hannah’s List, Macomber’s newest book targeted for boomers, debuts on April 27, 2010. A year after the death of his wife Hannah, Dr. Michael Everett receives a letter from his wife, telling him that he needs to remarry. Hannah makes a list of possible candidates and encourages Michael to get to know them.
“It’s a realistic situation with a character who is giving her husband a generous act of love,” Macomber adds.
“Don’t be afraid of aggression. It’s not a dirty word.”
© 2010 WOW! Women On Writing