When I first sat down to write my latest novel The Heart of War, the lead female character ‘Alena’ was going to be your average sexy young thing; after all, that’s what hot romance is all about, right?
Ares is a God 5000+ years old so that idea worked for about two minutes when I found myself stuck in the song Hey Nineteen— “We can’t dance together, no we can’t talk at all” (Steely Dan). I realized that in order to give them a real relationship, something based on more than just sex, Alena had to be older; she couldn’t be a woman/child, she had to be a full-fledged woman.
I created Alena MacLeod a half-human and a half-fey woman, coming in at 245 years old. I wanted her to look the part to some degree so that the Reader would have a constant visual reference to her age. I gave her silver/gray hair and matching stormy eyes. I also gave her a personality that reflected her years and the wisdom she gained just being alive on Planet Earth so long. However, because she is a magickal being, I kept her face and body youthful.
I wrote my story. I put it up, free of charge in rough draft format, on the Internet. To my surprise, people loved it. They totally bought Ares as the reluctant hero and fell in love with Alena. With such encouragement, I gave it a good edit and sent it around to publishers. I knew Ares was going to be a hard sell but I never expected responses such as:
1-This isn’t for us. Alena just isn’t sexy because she’s old; why would you write that?
2-This isn’t for us. No one wants to read about an old woman having sex.
3-This isn’t for us. The heroine needs to be young and vibrant to even be interesting.
4-This isn’t for us. Alena has gray hair for heaven’s sake! There’s nothing sexy or hot about gray hair.
I wondered a lot of things. First and foremost was: how old are these publishers?
I turned 40 (almost 5 years ago) and while I’m not exactly hot and gorgeous anymore as I might have been in my younger days I still feel quite youthful, vibrant, alive and above all, sexy. While I have graying auburn hair that cascades down to my butt I haven’t lost ‘it’ at all. In fact, now that my children are grown, my husband and I are having the best sex of our lives! Sex is spiritual now and it is utterly fantastic. Yeah, sex in your 20s is great. It’s hot, it’s heavy, you think it’s all that. But it’s not. After 25 years together, my husband and I have it down to an art form. You know what they say: Practice Makes Perfect.
Still, I had my doubts and I wondered if all of these publishers were right and my readers were wrong. Perhaps just because I felt sexy and was still a sexual sensual being—with no thoughts of stopping!—didn’t mean other women my age felt the same way about themselves. That would be sad. Let’s face it ladies, we’ve still got at least 1/3 of our lives ahead of us at this age. I don’t know about you but I’m not ready for the rocking chair just yet. I’m very proud of my age and the life I have lived. I don’t intend to ‘fight aging every step of the way’ as advertisers and cosmetics people and plastic surgeons suggest I do. I’m letting my hair go gray and I’m loving it. I think it’s very sexy indeed and so do the men around me.
I went over to Google, hit ‘images’ and typed in ‘beautiful older woman’. I suggest you try it right after you finish this. I saw the most amazing pictures of the most stunning women in different stages of their lives that I could have ever asked for. No, they’re not Claudia Schiffer; their beauty is deeper than that. It’s more vibrant, wiser, and more alive and more tangible.
I determined that those publishers were wrong in their assessment; they were too quick to judge and didn’t have the life experience required to understand that life beyond 23 is mighty fine. In the end, what’s ‘sexy’ isn’t what someone looks like but how they perceive themselves at any age. Personally, I can’t wait until they turn 40 and get their first gray hair. I think their tune will change drastically. At least, I hope it will.
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