Here's what she had to say...
"Older" Heroines in Novels
I picked this topic because I had to deal with it in my latest novel, The Heart of War.
When I first sat down to write this book, 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?
That idea worked for about two minutes when I realized that my lead male, Ares God of War, had absolutely nothing in common with a 23 year-old woman. I found myself stuck in the song Hey Nineteen (Steely Dan). 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-fledge woman. Since I wasn't writing this story for publication—who was going to buy Ares as the Hero anyway?—I started to go with it.
Ares is a God 5000+ years old and Alena MacLeod is half-human and half-fey, coming in at 245 years old. I wanted her to look the part to some degree so that the Reader would have a constantly visual reference to her age. I gave her silver/gray hair and matching 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 (4 years ago) and while I'm not exactly hot and gorgeous anymore, I still feel quite youthful, vibrant, alive and above all, sexy. In fact, now that my children are grown, my husband and I are having the best sex of our lives! And we're having it more often. How many 20-30somethings can say they have great sex (or any sex) 5-7 times per week? This is mostly because we now have the time and energy for it. The 2am feedings, 3am drives around the block to get the baby to sleep, diapers, art projects, science projects, mandatory school functions, field trips, sleepovers, and all of the other stuff that went with having young children are over with. Now we focus on each other instead of the kids.
Sex is spiritual now and, let me tell you, it is utterly fantastic. It's only now, at this stage of my life, I can look back and say that we had little to no idea of what we were doing before. Those of you under 40 are chuckling, those of you over 40 are nodding in agreement and pitying the naysayers. 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. 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.
I determined that those "publishers" were wrong in their assessment and they were too quick too judge and didn't have the life experience required to understand that life beyond 30 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.
A Note from the Book Boost: I absolutely love this post, Lisa. Thank you for joining us today at the Boost. I'm not far behind you in age and I can already agree that so many things get better with age. Kudos for your bravery in trying something new with your heroine. Good stuff! Please tell us more about your book.
Inside the Heart of every Warrior breathes the Soul of a Hero--even within The Heart of War.
Meet Ares God of War, the greatest Warrior the world has ever known. He's moody, grumpy, dominant, ravenously sexual, and above all, built like a Greek God.
Suspected of killing his Daughter in-Law, Psyche, and long in exile from Olympus, the solitude of Ares' secluded Greek Isle is interrupted when Magdalena MacLeod a plucky little Fey washes up on his shore after believing she's been shipwrecked. It's not mere fate that has brought the unlikely couple together yet it may be what tears them apart.
Branded with a golden chastity belt bearing the mark of Cernunnos, Celtic God of the Forest and Death, Alena has been on the run from her husband the Great Horned God for 200 years.
When the Olympians discover her presence on Ares' island, they send Apollo to the island while Ares is away with orders to bring her to Olympus. With nowhere to run and strikes a bargain with the God of War--her virginity for his protection.
Ares sees a sweeter deal; her in his bed and himself back in his rightful place on Olympus among the Gods. If it means turning Alena over to Zeus afterward, well that's of no consequence to him...is it?
After Alena proves herself to the God of War in battle and in his bed, the Ares must choose between his Divinely Dysfunctional Family, his pride, and Alena.
Get lost in this sweeping dark saga of lust, rage, revenge, and redemption. Battle Ancient Gods while falling in love with Ares God of War and Alena MacLeod. They share a love that will rock the world from the heights of Olympus to the Celtic moors, but will it be enough? Will love triumph, or will revenge and rage win the battle for the Heart of War?
Between his fingers appeared two tickets with a very familiar symbol on them. “Bought and paid for.” Ares assured as he held them in front of her watching her eyes go up and down with the logo of two crossed red socks. “Something called box seats.”
“Box…” Alena plucked them out of his hand and looked at the seating. Right in front of the first base line. They looked authentic to her. “How did you get these? Where did you get these?” According to the tickets the game, against the New York Yankees no less, was scheduled to begin at noon. “What time is it?”
Happy that he could make her face light up so brightly, Ares chuckled all the way to Fenway Park, where he enjoyed several beers and hot dogs. Popcorn was tasty but it got stuck between his teeth and he did not like that. The crowd was exhilarating, their exuberance was highly infectious, and even though he didn’t have much of an idea as to what was actually going on in the beginning, he was quickly swept up by the game. So did Alena.
“YOU SUCK!” She yelled to team currently in front of them wearing jerseys that read ‘Yankees’. “GO HOME!”
“That was a little rude, don’t you think?” Ares asked as he finished off the last of his second dog. Hardly had he ever heard say a bad word about anyone let alone unprovoked.
“You’re supposed to do that, it’s a psych-out. You should understand that concept.” The batter hit the ball…crack! Alena stood up in mid-sentence. “BUTTERFINGERS!” She yelled as she cupped her hands to her mouth, “YOU CAN’T CATCH! MISS IT! MISS IT! YOU STINK!” The ball slipped right over the top of the fielder’s glove and he went chasing after it while the batter made it to second base. With the rest of the crowd, Alena held up her fist and gave a great cheer as she protruded her index finger in the universal We’re-Number-One gesture.
“Besides, it feels good. You try.” Touching his arm just before Ares opened his mouth she added, “Don’t be too mean.”
“I’ll just keep watching you.” And he did for the whole game. Alena loved what she called ‘the crack of the bat’ and each time one of the Red Sox players got up and hit the ball, she jumped to her feet and cheered…along with the few thousand other people in the park. When the ball went over the wall, something Alena called The Green Monster though it didn’t seem very threatening to Ares, the crowd broke out in a strange chant; Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey…good bye. It wasn’t like any chant he had ever heard before. During something called the Seventh Inning Stretch, someone started playing an organ and the whole crowd stood up, linked arms, and sang a tune Alena sang along and said it was “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
Mortal Gatherings and Rituals were so strange.
Alena and Ares waited around in Fenway Park for a while after the game; Red Sox- 9 Yankees-1 and watched the crowd thin out. “You don’t want to battle them,” she advised, “and just zapping out of here would be bad.” She sat next to him and rested her head on his brawny shoulder. “Thank you for a lovely day. I had fun.”
Ares kissed the top of her head as he watched the crowd. Other than to make brief eye contact and give a nod—which was infrequent, no one paid much attention to them. Some of those who walked by did have a quizzical look in their eye. Alena’s face was snuggled in the nape of Ares’ neck; all they could see was her beautiful silver hair. It was clear that some of the mortals did not approve of what they saw as a great age gap. They probably wondered if he was after her money or something similarly trite. Unfortunately, those were the observant ones. As they passed by the God of War and his new Bride didn’t see them at all. They were just two more blank faces in this crowd.
Here he sat, in one of the most well known cities in the most powerful country on planet Earth surrounded by sheep and knowing that in a few short weeks, Cernunnos would have obliterated them, he would have subjugated them, and then enslaved them. They were so naïve and complacent. Right now, they were off to their shiny cars, their lives, and their dinners, oblivious to the fact that the man sitting near them could turn them to ash without ever getting up. From the way most of them were smiling and chattering away, Ares thought ignorance must truly be bliss.
On their way out of the park, they passed a vendor. Alena turned to Ares and held out her hand. “What do you want?”
“Money, you said you have some.”
He should have known that, Ares often saw women hold their hands out to their men this way before legal tender was handed over to them. “After my wallet already are you, woman? That didn’t take long.” He joked and took a black leather wallet from the back pocket of his blue jeans. Alena didn’t take count; she just plucked a fat wad of bills out of it before skittering off to the vendor leaving Ares standing behind her looking at his lightened wallet. He stood there watching her make her purchase, he watched the vendor look past her and stare at him only to turn back to her and then dig something out of the case.
“Look, change.” Alena said brightly when she came back to where Ares stood looking absolutely adorable with a brand new Red Sox cap on her head and pennant in her hand. She handed back the money that was left over. “I got you this.” With a sly grin, she held up a jersey that looked just like those worn by the men on the Red Sox team. Ares snatched it out of her hand and tossed it over his shoulder.
“I’ll try it on for you later.”
“Oh, I was hoping you’d say that.” Alena sighed and wrapped an arm around his waist as they made their way out of the gates.
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