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With teenage grandchildren I am under no illusion that today's writers have to look to their politically correct credentials if their stories are to pass muster. My goodness how times have changed!
I was first published in the early 1980s when it was still entirely possible for the heroine to be kissed against her will or, through lack of a voice, be coerced into doing something that was anathema. Of course we all know this still happens in real life, in sad situations where women and, more often, young girls remain powerless, but there is no longer any place for this in the sort of escapist romances I write. Nowadays the heroines are all feisty (and rightly so). They have careers and independence. Their sexual back history is usually alluded to sufficiently to make it clear they are not entirely innocent. They are also prepared to walk away from any romantic liaison that doesn't satisfy them emotionally.
They are, of course, also computer savvy, carry cell phones, drive, often own property and are frequently fearless when faced with either physical or emotional dilemmas.
The only way around this is to write historical romances when life and behaviours were very different, and this became very clear to me when I wrote Remembering Rose, the last book I had published. It is a story of several romances, one of them being that of Rose who lived in the 1800s. The juxtaposition of Rose's life and that of her great-great granddaughter (researched from historical accounts by real people) is a real eye-opener. I am old enough to remember the attitudes of past times, however, and the practical reasons behind them, whereas modern teenagers and twenty and thirty somethings are not, and why should they be. Life has changed almost beyond recognition and is continuing to do so, and writers have to try to keep up with it.
Lisa, the heroine in that first book of mine, Golden Girl, now republished by Books We Love as a retro romance, is light years away from Rachel, the heroine of Remembering Rose. And so is the storyline. Nobody would ever try to push Rachel around whereas Lisa had to fight off unwelcome advances and suffer in silence when nobody would listen to her voice.
So what does that say about me? Someone who lived in London in the swinging sixties, which, unless you were part of a small coterie of celebrities, were far, far less swinging than history would have us believe! It says I started off as a Lisa but have ended up as a Rachel, something that has happened to many women of my generation but certainly not all. To keep up a writer needs to mix with people of all ages, especially younger ones, and learn from them, or become irrelevant.
I thought of this when I revisited the half written manuscript of my latest novel, the one that has been sleeping on my computer for almost two years while I concentrated on other things. After a hiatus I can feel the need to write stirring again but, because life changes are moving exponentially nowadays, I read it was some trepidation. What was I going to have to change? Fortunately it looks OK. The language and attitudes are fine and the storyline is still relevant. I am having trouble with moving it forward though because this time there will be teenagers involved as well as the main protagonists who might end up as step parents ( a first for me)...oh yes, and a ghost as well...just like in Remembering Rose. It seems that the village of Mapleby, which is the setting for both books, and for a further one in the future, is haunted...not by ghouls or goblins but by the spirits of past romances. Writing again promises to be an interesting ride.