As an aspiring writer of a particular age, I’m delighted to be featuring Barbara Lorna Hudson whose novel Timed Out was published by Driven Press on 16th April 2016. Barbara has written a lovely guest post for Linda’s Book Bag all about the fact that coming of age is not chronologically time bound so maybe there’s time for my own novel yet!
Timed Out is available for purchase in e-book and paperback by following the links here.
Jane Lambert thinks she may have made a mistake putting her work ahead of love and family for so long. She’s left wondering what to do with her life now that she has retired.
Taking note of the sentiment from one of her retirement cards-Retirement is NOT the end. It’s a new beginning – she decides it’s about time she looked for love again, and places a lonely hearts advertisement. Jane embarks on her new life, suffering disappointments and learning hard truths about herself, while never losing her gift for self mockery or her eye for the absurd.
Timed Out is a contemporary “coming-of-age” novel about different kinds of love and the search for a meaningful life.
Coming of Age – At Any Age
A Guest Post by Barbara Lorna Hudson
“Perhaps that sums it up – this story to date, that is. The mistakes, the missed clues, the silly pride, and all the self-pity. And finding love in unexpected places.” (Timed Out)
Timed Out, published in my seventies, is a ‘coming of age’ story in two senses. My character Jane Lambert is sixty when the novel opens and over seventy when it ends. The title refers both to Jane’s use of a computer to seek a partner, and to her fear of running out of time to sort out her life.
In English, the expression ‘coming of age’ has taken over from ‘Bildungsroman’ to describe a novel recounting the spiritual or emotional development of its protagonist. Usually the character is a child or young person at the start and a young adult at the end (e.g. Great Expectations, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and has learned and changed a lot along the way. Jane learns a great deal about herself and other people in the course of her journey through her retirement years. She discovers painful truths, but new pathways to happiness as well. Perhaps not all of us are able to do this after we reach sixty – or fifty – or forty, even – but I am sure that many can. ’Coming of age’ is not just for the young.
Not only did the fictional Jane Lambert experience a late-life coming of age. So too did her author. Like many another first novel, Timed Out had its origins in memoir or autobiography. No sooner had I unwrapped my presents and eaten and drunk my way through several retirement parties than I found myself wondering ‘Now, what is the point of me?’ I was single, lonely, and still healthy. Time to take stock and time to decide how best to use the years that remained. I wondered again about the Big Questions and about what I could do to make myself feel worthwhile again.
Jane and I both did Internet dating, with rather different results – and both got some happiness and some heartache from it.
Jane continued to be a wobbly agnostic, experiencing ‘religious moments’, re-examining the arguments against the existence of God. A number of older people have told me that these issues, ignored while they were focused on family and career, re-emerged when they ‘had time to think’ upon retiring. (This strand in Jane’s story is not something I myself lived through in my sixties, rather it reflects my experience as a much younger woman).
Timed Out recounts Jane’s struggles to find what she seeks and I will not reveal the outcome and what she learns. Suffice it to say that she is a different woman by the end of the novel.
As for me? I gradually reinvented myself as a writer of fiction. In the course of my re-education, I learned a lot more about myself both as a writer and as a person. And in the months since this novel was published, I have learned a lot more: that the best thing – the thing that makes me happiest – is finding that my Jane’s story has resonated with someone or given them pleasure. And I have learned some humility too – now, when I study the authors I most admire, I can better appreciate the effort and the genius needed for their kind of writing. I know now how hard it is. And how worthwhile.
That’s my own ‘coming of age.’ So far. Maybe there will be more.
(I’m sure there will Barbara. Thanks so much for such an inspiring piece.)
About Barbara Lorna Hudson
A farmer’s daughter from Cornwall, Barbara Lorna Hudson studied at Newnham College, Cambridge. She started out as a psychiatric social worker before becoming an Oxford tutor. She is an Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford After many publications in social work, psychiatry, and psychology, she has re-invented herself as a fiction writer over the last few years. Barbara has published over twenty short stories and been listed in several short story competitions.
The first draft of Timed Out (written during a University of East Anglia Certificate Course) won first prize in the Writers’ Village Novel Competition and it was on the short list for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Barbara belongs to a writers’ group run by Blackwell’s Bookshop and The Oxford Editors, and she is also a regular performer at a story-telling club.