I was fortunate to talk to someone in the film industry yesterday about my book Women's Work. He had a lot of great ideas about how to promote my story, and complimented me on many things -- the title is great! the characters are strong! your heroine is interesting, engaging, and vulnerable!
I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Then he asked, "How old is Kate (the main character)?" Hmm, about 35-40. "Oh, that's too bad," he said. "The story would be much more marketable if she was mid to late 20's."
Really? I was under the impression that women (and men) got more interesting as they aged. That a 37-year old mother of three, widowed by a war, struggling to survive in a world that has fallen off the grid would be a VERY interesting character. This is the kind of person that I would want to know and befriend. This is a person with a complex history, a deep well of knowledge to draw from, and who is still full of energy and passion.
Now, before you get mad, the man I spoke to was very nice. He never said middle-aged women could not be beautiful, intelligent, strong or sexy. He never SAID those things. But it made me stop and wonder about what kind of movies and books really do make big money.
I like to think that Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchet, Judy Dench, and Jessica Lange are still a big draw at the box office. But as I round the corner into my 40's I have to admit I am not up-to-date on who the latest new stars even are. (I overheard someone talking about JLaw and I thought about Jude Law.) Maybe I'm falling out of the demographic that movie producers are shooting for? But why?
Well, my kind friend in the film industry asked me how many movies I have been to lately. I said, "I have 3 little kids, so we don't really go to a lot of movies." Bingo. Maybe middle-aged actresses aren't a big draw for a movie because middle-aged women have better things to do than go to movies every weekend. We tend to have jobs and kids and pets and partners and hobbies and fun and travel and READ.
So, all you strong, beautiful, mature heroines out there, don't despair. We are here for you! We want to know about you! We might just need you to stay inside your books for a while.