GUEST POST: WHY COMPLICATED OLDER CHARACTERS ARE NECESSARY IN FICTION

Penney, Georgina2I’d like to thank Georgina Penney for her post on ‘complicated’ older characters. Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that’s alright, she was busy doing other things until then. Her first novel, Fly in, Fly Out (reviewed here) was hilarious, romantic and full of surprises, so I’m expecting the same from her upcoming novel, Summer Harvest (due out today). You can check out Georgina’s website here

I had just turned twenty-seven when I left Perth in Western Australia and moved to Saudi Arabia. That’s almost nine years ago now. Since then, I moved from Saudi to Bahrain, to Brunei Darussalam and then to Scotland, which sounds all a bit braggy or travelogue-y, but it’s not meant to be.

Rather than being all about travel, change and adventure, what those nine years of being an expatriate represent to me more than anything is the space of time that I magically went from ‘young’ to ‘middle-aged’ without receiving the memo.

Having stepped out of the loop of the Australian media and out of my friend and family circles and living in isolated compounds in the desert and later, the Bornean jungle, the societal ‘rules’ about how I should ‘act my age’ passed me by.

Instead, I was residing in an expatriate bubble surrounded by other women anywhere from ten to thirty years older than myself. And unsurprisingly, unfettered by societal pressure, many of these women were making decisions about their lives, fashion, music, lifestyles that would be frowned on in their home countries as age inappropriate. They were women who made friends with whoever they wanted, who dressed however they wanted and who said what they wanted. What I learned from knowing these marvellous ladies, is that life only gets more interesting and more complicated the older you get. If you let it.

By ‘complicated’, I’m not talking physical ageing. Instead by ‘complicated’ I mean those feelings that are frequently falsely attributed solely to the young; career indecision, intense lust, love and infatuation, feeling lost, feeling pure joy without cynicism and being plain bloody hilarious.

Recently, I’ve had to step back into the ‘real’ world of a thirty-something-year-old Aussie woman and the baggage that comes with it and the first thing that was glaringly obvious was that I didn’t fit anymore. I wasn’t fitting society’s idea of what a woman my age should be doing. I was a little exempt because I’d moved to Scotland, instead of back to Australia, so I was still a little foreign. I’m also a writer and we’re excused a little eccentricity, but still there was a feeling of disquiet.

The feeling stayed with me for weeks after my move, until one day, I sat down and started reading.

Without even thinking about it, I was gravitating towards books with mature heroines and couples who weren’t perfect, who weren’t young, who were interesting. It all started with Sam Vimes and Sybil Ramkin from Terry Pratchett’s Guards series, then to his witches, Esmerelda Weatherwax who is one of the most kickass seventy something woman in fiction. I moved onto Harry Potter, realising I was reading the books for Minerva McGonnagall, Dumbledore (there’s some decent slash fiction out there I’m sure!) and the Weasley parents. In romance I re-fell in love with Susan Elizabeth’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine, not for the football star and the scientist, but for the secondary romance featuring Cal Bonner’s parents. When I started re-touching base with Australian romance I was delighted to catch up on reading the wonderful Liz Byrski’s novels, Sandra Antonelli’s side-splitting stories and a wealth of others, all featuring fantastic mature, flawed, hilarious women and men. Suddenly I felt like I could breathe again. In fiction at least, these characters provided role models, living interesting fascinating lives despite, or because of their advancing years.

Now you might say that a woman in her thirties isn’t exactly over the hill and I’m not. But the next time I come up for air in this expat life of mine, I might be forty, fifty or sixty and each time, I’ll have the comfort of the wonderful books out there that embrace mature characters for all their difference and complexity. I can only hope, I’ll manage to be half as interesting!

I hope you enjoy Georgina’s latest book, Summer Harvest. Here’s the blurb and watch out for a review in the next few days.

9780143797081English dog trainer Beth Poole is having trouble getting her life back together after beating a life-threatening illness and divorcing her husband. When her Aussie-soap-obsessed grandma sends her to Australia to recover, it seems a great opportunity for some rest and relaxation while she figures out what’s next.

But when Beth arrives in Australia things get off to a rocky start. To begin with, she’s on the wrong coast and there are deadly creatures everywhere. And if that weren’t enough, her neighbours are driving her crazy. She’s staying in the beautiful Margaret River wine region, right next door to a family-owned vineyard. It should be perfect, but the boisterous Hardy clan just don’t seem able to leave her alone. The usually reserved Beth is soon reluctantly embroiled in their family disputes and romantic entanglements. And eldest son Clayton Hardy is proving surprisingly persistent.

The more Beth gets to know Clayton and the Hardys, the more she sees what she wants for her future. But as the end of summer approaches, her past comes back to haunt her and will test her newfound relationships to the limit.

From the author of Fly In Fly Out comes this entertaining and touching story about family, friendship and love among the grapevines.