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Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Post from Boomer Lit Author Betsy Ashton

Surviving Those Pesky Voices

Ask any writer if she hears voices in her head, and she’ll look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Ask any boomer if she hears voices in her head, and she’ll shy away. Seniors often don’t want to admit they hear voices for fear a well-intentioned relative will smell Alzheimer’s or some other condition that would render said senior incapable of living on her own. Such a question might challenge one’s mental acuity. But ask a boomer writer is she hears voices, and she’ll talk your ear off about how wonderful it is to listen to the writers, to be guided by them.

We don’t need much incentive to talk about why we write. For me, I wake up. I breathe. I write. I played with stories and really bad poetry all my life. When I first started writing seriously a decade or more ago, I thought I’d whip off a couple of manuscripts, sell them for a nice amount, and kick back to spend royalty checks. Wrong. I didn’t understand there was as much craft in writing as there is art. I needed to relearn how to write, since what I’d done for decades in business wasn’t going to hack it. I studied the craft. I learned how to write. I learned that writing itself was the reward for listening to those pesky voices.

I didn’t like not finding strong women in fiction who were my age, still physically fit, mentally sharp and sexy. Yes, sexy. No, not the fifty shades kind of sexy, but they still had something in the tank that made them attractive to themselves and to the men in their lives. Where were these strong women that survived protest marches, advocacy, good and bad marriages, childbirth? I couldn’t find enough of them.

I found lots of women who survived bad experiences, but they weren’t necessarily happy in their own skin. They’d survived, but they hadn’t survived well. They were bitter. They wallowed in the past, never quite letting it go. Childhood dramas blew up into PTSD-like angst in the present. They saw ghosts and goblins around every corner.

I wanted to read about women like me. No, I’m not a super hero, or anything close to one, but I’m real with warts and stretch marks.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I chose the romance genre. Strong intelligent woman. Rather awkward near-genius, slightly younger male. Both married. And they fall in love. Hmm, probably would be better if they fell into lust, not love. Oh well, too late. The manuscript sat in cyber dust until a few weeks ago when I pulled it out. There’s merit in that story. Maybe there’s room for a romance that doesn’t fit the strict genre requirements. No bodice ripping. No six-pack abs. Just two people who fall in love and who have to live with the consequences.

Other manuscripts followed, including a trilogy tracking circles of women starting in high school in the early sixties, through college in the sixties and seventies, into the nineties. Again, strong women throughout. Loves, losses, war, losses, children, losses, careers. Lots of conflict. Rather like the lives so many of us have lived because we were born boomers. Their stories deserve to be recorded and read.

I remain fascinated by characters who are my age but who don’t consider themselves senior citizens. They’re out there in the community, doing their own thing, thinking their own thoughts, challenging assumptions, just like they did when they thought they could change the world. Some of us refuse to grow up. Old, maybe, but never up.

About the Author
Betsy Ashton, born in Washington, DC, was raised in Southern California where she ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. She protested the war in Vietnam, burned her bra for feminism, and is a steadfast Independent, before she entered the military-industrial complex after her academic career as a student and teacher. She defines herself as a writer, a thinker, the mother of three grown stepchildren, companion and friend. She finds time to mentor young women, write and publish fiction, sail, hike and read. In her spare time, she is the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club and is the author of the boomer novel Mad Max Unintended Consequences. She also loves riding behind her husband on his motorcycle. You'll have to decide for yourself if and where she has a tattoo.



  1. Hi Betsy. Great article. I wish I'd written it. I'm on the same hunt you are: looking for women who have — like me and like you — lived, done things,taken risks, been unconventional and feel perfectly wonderful now. Women who rather like having wrinkles and silver hair; women who accept themselves and want to read about other women who are strong and happy. The idea of writing romances for our group is good too; there are so many of us out there who want to read those books but, as I'm sure you realise, publishers are nervous people who are terrified of taking risks.

  2. Enjoyed your post, Betty. My novel, The Hourglass, is an romantic story with fifty & older hero-heroine. My readers love it, are giddy over the idea that this exists, in fact, and I get tons of compliments over writing a book for the women like us. However, my current manuscript -- also romantic women's fiction starring an over forty-five cast-- just got glowing commentary from a large publisher, who loved my voice and the series idea. BUT, they are now mostly acquiring new adult works (18-23). So we authors with great stories about real adults who have life experience under their belt are again taking a backseat to the youngsters. It does make me cranky (super cranky some days!) but I also see that smaller and mid-sized presses are willing to take chances on these stories more than big pubs. Thanks for the great post.

  3. Great post, Betsy. It's odd that it is so hard to find characters with the sort of life experience that really puts character in the character. As readers start to become accustomed to strong and attractive older characters like your Mad Max, I think they will begin to seek them out.

  4. Hi, Betsy. Your post was timely. I think strong female protagonists of a certain age are so inspiring. I was reading an article which highlighted the fact that women today aren't as happy as they were even 25 years ago. So, even with all the opportunities, more money, more choices, many women aren't living as well. I love to inspire women with my novels, no matter what their age, and perhaps make a difference in their lives. The written word is powerful. Thanks for the post.

  5. Terrific article, Betsy, and it made me determined to make the time to read your book! As you know, I have a solid "choose to be happy" philosophy and little patience with people (men or women) who don't take advantage of this wonderful gift of life and waste time being bitter - how silly! There are lots of us Boomer gals out there with the same upbeat spirit you have, Betsy, and I'm glad to have found you in this huge world of social media. Cheers to you from The Mutinous Boomer!