Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by novelist, university professor and traveller JL Greger.
Pet Peeves Lead to Novels
You don’t agree. Think about it. The women who populate mysteries and thrillers are often young action heroines, like Lara Croft or Superwoman, or old women, like Miss Jane Marple. Of course, many of the supporting characters, as victims or mothers, wives, and servants of the hero, are middle-aged women.
But where are the articulate, fit women in theirs forties, fifties, and sixties in fiction? You know, the type of women that Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Sigourney Weaver, or Alfre Woodard might play.
The paucity of middle-aged women in lead roles in fiction is even more alarming, I think, when you consider the demography of populations in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. According to the census in the U.S. in 2000 and the census in the U.K. in 2011, about one-half of the females in these countries are between thirty and sixty-five years of age. We’re a sizable chunk of the population and deserve more attention. Authors should populate their novels with more smart, fit women in their forties and older.
How I acted on my pet peeve?
The heroine in my medical thriller series is Linda Almquist, an epidemiologist who retired early to get away from the male-dominated academia. She’s energetic and attractive, but doesn’t attempt to be twenty again. Here’s how Rachel Jones, twenty-nine-year-old blonde beauty describes Sara in Malignancy: “What do Chuy and the other men see in her? She does have guts, but look at her. She has no style. Her pixie haircut accentuates the small sags in her jaw line, her slightly droopy eyelids, and her ten pounds of extra weight.”
I can tell Rachel what the men see in Sara: a resourceful woman who helped to find a cure for a deadly flu epidemic in Coming Flu, consulted on public health problems in Bolivia in Ignore the Pain, and helped set up exchanges between scientists in the U.S. and Cuba in Malignancy. And that’s the only the work-related side of her life. She also had the guts to not flinch when she confronts a drug czar in the Albuquerque area with strong ties in Bolivia and other powerful, and sometimes ruthless, men.
What are your pet peeves?