Lovely Allie Cresswell and I are the same age and so I’m delighted that Allie has agreed to write a guest post on mature characters for Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate her new book, The Widow’s Weeds. As The Widow’s Weeds has been getting rave reviews from my fellow bloggers, I’m equally delighted that it’s waiting for me on my TBR pile!
The Widow’s Weeds is available for purchase on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
The Widow’s Weeds
One evening, Viola goes missing.
The explanation—a visit to her son—seems doubtful and her women friends’ messages go unanswered. A spiky, caustic woman, Viola’s heavy drinking makes her tiresome company, but they know nothing of her troubled past.
Yet, Maisie misses Viola. Recently, their shared love of gardening has almost blunted Viola’s barbs, and Maisie is much in need of a close friend. Her house is a building site, her daughter’s wedding is looming. Most worrying is her friendship with handsome, formidable Oliver Harrington. She cannot work out what he wants from it, nor, really, what she wants, either. She barely has time to wonder where Viola has gone.
As Maisie grapples with her present-day preoccupations, Viola’s tale unfolds: a dark landscape of tragedy and suffering. Their two stories collide in an explosive finale. Can the two women rescue each other?
This third book in the Widows series stands alone. A story of weeds and wildflowers, tenacity and tenderness, and containing potentially upsetting details of domestic abuse, alcoholism, and bereavement, this is ultimately an affirmation of the strength and power of women’s friendships.
A Guest Post by Allie Cresswell
Why writers who ignore more mature characters are a making a big mistake.
Liking or identifying with a book’s main character seems to be readers’ number one requirement. The reason most often cited for non-enjoyment of a book is indifference for the protagonist. When you establish that Britain’s keenest readers tend to be older, with 34% of people over 55 claiming to read at least once a day, compared to just 7% of 18 –24-year-olds, it goes without saying that authors need to populate their books with some characters who are in that older age group. Older readers were young once, but that doesn’t mean they want to revisit their youth in every novel they read. Not every older person is in mourning for their adolescence and not every reader uses books as escapism. Some of us use fiction to help us understand the real world.
Of the genders, over a quarter (27%) of women read daily, compared to only 13% of men.Books featuring female characters, including older ones, provide the most familiar and readily identifiable environment for the majority of readers.
Why is it, then, that so many writers serve up young and impossibly beautiful protagonists, when the majority of their readers are demonstrably not young? So often, I find that older people, and especially older women in contemporary books are mere caricatures. These shampoo-and-set, hapless-and-helpless, prim-and-sexless, small-sherry-drinking, Monday-is-washday-fixated, Marks-and-Spencer’s-girdle-wearing, Barbara Pym-inspired matriarchs might have been relevant fifty years ago but these days they are obsolete.
It is a mistake to marginalise older people just because they are old, either as readers or as characters. They are wise, informed, experienced, canny and interesting. They have back-story, secrets and traumas; rich lodes for a writer to mine. What’s more, they’re at a time and place in their lives where they are increasingly ceasing to give a damn about what people think. That makes them attractive and exciting as character-material. And here’s a thing that might surprise you: they have romances, they kiss and have sex. They have happy endings. These things are not the preserve of young people anymore.
My Widows series, The Hoarder’s Widow, The Widow’s Mite and The Widow’s Weeds features a group of older single women, bereaved, but finding in each other’s company some compensation for their lost spouses or in some instances something a great deal better. Some of them are still working, some are retired professionals. Some of them, yes, I admit it, are escapees from a Barbara Pym novel emerging, blinking, from the obscurity of their gloomy kitchens into the light and opportunity of the twenty-first century. That’s the point: they have escaped and are now living fulfilled, exciting, independent lives, although not ones by any means without baggage. I’m rather smugly pleased that my books will tick the statistical box (above), but that isn’t the reason I’ve written them. I’m an older women myself, not bereaved, but keen to write about real women of all ages in these modern days; women I know or feel I would like to know, women with whom I can identify.
 According to a poll by YouGov, 2020.
Hurrah for older women Allie, be they readers like me, writers like you or characters in books!
About Allie Cresswell
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport in the northwest of England and has been writing fiction since she could hold a pencil.
She studied English Literature at Birmingham University and did an MA at Queen Mary College, University of London.
She was a pub landlady, a print buyer, ran a B & B and a group of holiday cottages before training to teach literature to lifelong learners.
Now she writes full time. Her historical and contemporary fiction has been flatteringly compared to Alice Munroe, Daphne du Maurier and Jane Austen. She has been the recipient of several Readers’ Favourite awards.
She lives in Cumbria. The Widow’s Weeds is her fourteenth novel.
For further information, visit Allie’s website, or follow Allie on Twitter @Alliescribbler, Facebook and Instagram.