Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Late Bloomers

 This week my guest is Patricia Driscoll, author of Shedding Light on Murder
I’m a debut author. My first novel, “Shedding Light on Murder,” will be released by Five Star /Gale in January 2012. But, I’m no debutante. In fact, I’ve reached a certain age, no specifics of course, where I think I might be best described as a late bloomer.
I started writing after my retirement as a probation officer. When I retired, I looked forward to re-kindling my passion for painting and drawing. Instead, I wrote “Shedding Light on Murder,” a mystery set in Cape Cod.
P.D. James published her first novel, “Cover Her face” at age forty-two, Henry Miller, “Tropic of Cancer” at forty-four and Ian Fleming, “Casino Royale,” at forty-five. Impressive? Yes, of course. But, to me they’re youngsters. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite authors, who are what I consider to be late bloomers. Their stories are truly inspirational.
I read the novel, “Stones From Ibarra,” for the first time, some thirty years ago. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this wonderful book, but I do remember my delight when I learned more about the author, Harriet Doerr. She graduated from Stanford University at age sixty-seven, and went on to win a Stegner Fellowship. “Stones From Ibarra” went on to win the National Book award. She was seventy-four when it was published. She went on to write another novel and a short story collection.
I do remember when I first heard of Frank McCourt. I read an excerpt from “Angela’s Ashes” in The New Yorker Magazine. I have to say, I was blown away by his incredible story and the manner in which he told it. I couldn’t wait to get the book and it became one of my favorites. McCourt was born in Brooklyn, but spent his formative years in Ireland. He returned to the U.S. at age nineteen, pursued an education and taught in New York schools for many years. He published “Angela’s Ashes,” his first novel, in 1966 when he was sixty-six years old. He won the National Book Critics Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography among other notable awards.
English writer Mary Wesley published three children’s novels, two when she was fifty-seven and one when she was seventy-one. Her first adult novel, “Jumping The Queue,” was published in 1983, also at the age of seventy-one. She went on to write nine more novels, including “The Camomile Lawn,” which became a successful British television series. Wesley was known for her freethinking, progressive heroines, who used profanity and led sexually liberated lives. She was appointed a Commander of the British Empire. A quote attributed to her is, “Sixty should be the time to start something new, not put your feet up.”
After leaving a career as an oil company executive, Raymond Chandler decided to write fiction. His first novel, “The Big Sleep,” which introduced detective Phillip Marlowe, was published when he was fifty-one. Between 1939 and 1959, he wrote seven novels. He also wrote screenplays for The Blue Dahlia and Double Indemnity among others. In 1958 he was elected president of Mystery Writers of America.
So, late bloomers, take heart, get going and write that novel you’ve been tossing around in your head for years.
And, if you are a late bloomer, please feel free to add a comment and tell us your story.
“Shedding Light on Murder,” will be released on January 18, 2012. To learn more about the author and her novel, please visit her website at www.patriciadriscoll.com.


E. B. Davis said...

I always thought that I was a great multi-tasker. Still do, but I can't apply that to writing. When I was in my thirties, I tried to write, but the writing became a personal journal of sorts. It was an age in which I had no objectivity, it was still all about me.

When my son graduated from high school and left the nest, he was my more needy child, I started writing again, but this time, with the purpose of entertaining. It wasn't all about me.

Perhaps those of us who start writing at an older age have learned some lessons that enable us to write. Late blooming? Perhaps, but writing requires time alone. It's a valuable possession few can afford when young.

Polly said...

I loved this post, Patricia. Whenever I think I'm too old for this, I'll pull it up on the computer to encourage me.

I also started writing late in life, but I did everything late. Had my sons late too. I had never written anything until about twelve years ago. Since then, I've written quite a few novels, and I love the places writing takes me, even if they really are in my head. I'm sure the books I would have written when I was younger wouldn't have had the same weight as the books I ended up writing. For me, the timing was just right, or write.

jenny milchman said...

As I was struggling to get published, and despairing, my husband kept saying, "At least you're not an actor or a dancer, where every day is a tick against you. As a writer, getting older only helps your work." It really did hearten me. I love stories of someone writing her first book at 80. She'll probably live to 140 with all the energy and drive she's stored up to finally get out there! Congrats to you and here's to a long and flourishing career.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

I have begun to realize (to my great joy) that many of my favorite authors are late bloomers. Probably one thing that contributes to this (as it did in my case) is the focus on career and family in earlier years.

Other authors on my "favorites" list may have begun as "young 'uns" but have continued writing and publishing into their eighth or ninth decades or even--at least in one case I learned about--after they were a hundred years old! Yes, it's possible the writing can deteriorate a bit, but, most of the time, "who knew?"

We gather wisdom, perspective, experience, depth of feeling, a balanced outlook on the human condition, and much more as the years pass. So . . . others can write and read chick-lit. I'm with the ones who call themselves "foxy old hens."

Dana Fredsti said...

As a semi-late bloomer (I didn't start focusing on writing until my thirties and it took me 15 years to get my first book published), I heartily applaud this post!

Kathleen Delaney said...

Great post! I, too, started late. I don't know if it was 5 kids, a need to work at a full time job, or just fear that I had nothing to say that kept me from it so long. But now I have four books in print, a fifth trying to get in print, and number of short stories, articles and blogs under my belt and can't imagine what I did before I "liberated" myself and started to write. Well, I know one thing I did. I read a lot
Kathleen Delaney
Murder Half-Baked

patricia driscoll said...

Hi EB,Polly,Jenny, Nadine, Dana and Kathleen,
I appreciate all of your comments. I think I've pretty much done everything late in life. We all learn and develop differently. Sometimes life gets in the way of being able to follow our dreams when we wnat to. But, It's nice to discover that we can plunge into something new at any life stage. I have friends pursuing painting, photography, music and sports with a lot of passion. Nadine, I love the phrase "Foxy old hens." I know there are foxy old roosters out there too!

Eloise Hill said...

Patricia, you are so right. I remember reading an article that said most baby-boomers will have seven different careers in their lifetime. I didn't launch a writing career until I was well into my fifth decade and it has been my most satisfying one yet! All the best for Shedding Light On Murder and thanks to you and Ellis for the inspiration.

Maddy said...

Thank you. That is very heart warming and gives me a shed of hope. I did know all the writers you mentioned but I hadn't appreciated their ages on publication.

Like [everybody else] I'm pretty buried in my domestic responsibilities, but writing keeps me sane and the thought that I'm still in with a chance is inspirational. Thank you.

patricia driscoll said...

Hi Eloise & Maddy,
Yay to the baby boomers and those who went before to pave the way! Just keep writing and doing what you love, when you can.
Thanks for your comments.
Best wishes,

Sally Carpenter said...

I love this post! In my 20s I tried freelance writing, which went nowhere fast and I gave it up. In my 40s the writing bug bit again and I worked at various genres until I published a mystery at 53. Society loves to celebrate youth, but we oldies but goodies have life experience, wisdom and the discipline needed to write well. Yeah to older authors!
Sally Carpenter

Peg Brantley said...

My mother took me to the pediatrician when I was a child, certain he would discover there was something horribly wrong with me. Not only did I not crawl like other children (I had this crablike move that got me around, apparently), I had not walked.

I had not walked.

Other children my age, and younger, were walking. Her friends undoubtedly looked at her with pity in their eyes. My mother feared the worst.

The pediatrician reassured her she had a healthy child.

Some time later I got up and walked. The same day I walked, I ran.

Last Friday, I turned 57. (Had to do the math to come up with that one.) I'm hoping to have my first manuscript published in early April for my mom's birthday. She's not with us any longer, but she still inspires.

Thank you for being part of the brigade, Patricia. We all get there in just the right time, I'm convinced.

Barbara B said...

Greetings. This is my first time reading your blog and I loved it! I consider myself a late bloomer, and as I continue working full force in my sixties, I do look forward to the next stage. Ms. Driscoll's humorous and eloquent thoughts make me want to expand my thinking beyond the typical retirement activities. I'm also now looking foward to reading her book. I always enjoy being introduced to new authors.

Patricia said...

Hi Sally and Peg,
Congrats to both of you on your well earned success. First novels/manuscripts in your fifties!(Still youngsters to me):-)
I was a late walker too. My mother thought I would never walk. I guess I was just waiting for the right time. My mother inspired me too. The setting of my novel is inspired by a lampshop she worked in. She'd love all of this.
Keep writing!

Patricia Driscoll said...

Hi Barbara,
Thank you for your comments. I'm sure you'll have no trouble staying busy when you retire. It's a matter of following those inner whisperings. You'll find it. But, it's so hard when you are working full time. There are only so many hours in each day. And, as I mentioned earlier, life has a way of interfering!

Malena said...

What a wonderful and inspiring post. I'm glad to hear that so many great authors did not get published until they reached maturity.
There may be hope for me yet!

Ellis Vidler said...

I think I started writing seriously after my forty-fifth birthday, never dreaming how long it would take to have my first book published. I like all the examples you gave, Patricia. This was a lovely, heart-warming blog to inspire us all. Thanks for it.

Patricia Driscoll said...

Hi Malena,
I know you've already got that book in mind. And being the youngster that you are, you'll finish way ahead of this old timer.
Thanks for posting,

Patricia Driscoll said...

Hi Ellis,
The pleasure was/is all mine. I'm touched by all of the heartfelt response to this post.
And keep writing!
PS. Hope you got my email.