Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Burning Question

Hazel was being tricky this week with her burning question. She crammed three into one. I’ll send it out to everyone and then I’m off to an all day end-of-school picnic with my son. Can’t wait to see what everyone has to say on the blog, but for now here are my answers to each question.

1. Doesn’t everyone?

2. Never

3. I’m a newbie, so what do I know. But I would hope that the publishing world and readers understand that if there’s any art form that improves with age it’s writing.

So here’s Wednesday’s burning question:

I know all of you are highly successful authors, so you've probably heard this one before: Do you dye your hair and if so, at what point do you plan on going natural? And do you think there’s a bias against authors who reach “a certain age?”


Betina Krahn said...

1. This is MY hair color-- I paid a bundle for it.

2. It will be my hair color until the cows come home. (The Old Writers' Retirement Home.)

3. It's not your age that dates you in this biz, it's the lack of growth and change. Sticking to the same old thing, the same POV and style, the same plotlines, even the same kind of characters or conflict can make readers feel they've "been there and read that."
Over the course of a career, you may have to re-invent yourself. And there are lots of ways to do that. Hair color and style being a fun and relatively safe place to start! After all, how many of your readers actually SEE you? These days, book jacket photos(heh,heh)can be anything you want them to be!

P.S. Some of the real movers and shakers on the NYT List are well past the "spring chicken" stage.

Kathleen Eagle said...

1. My natural hair color is pretty nondescript, but I stuck with it for a very long time. Then I decided descript might be fun. I've never tried a regular dye job, but I like the way highlighting makes me feel. Sort of higher and lighter.

2. Will I go natural again? Might be interesting to see what that is now. I don't seem to have a lot of gray, but there's some. Some hair colors gray beautifully--my husband's, for instance. My mouse color, not so much. Plus, it's fun to go to the hairdresser once in a while and get a "look." As long as it amuses me, I'll keep doing it.

3. I agree with Betina that it's REALLY important to grow in your writing--as much for yourself as for readers. Over the long haul, growth and change keeps a writer interested.

I do think that publishers encourage very successful writers to write more of the same--the same thing that worked last time. When they get tired of repeating themselves, even those very successful writers have to find creative ways to buck the system and stay fresh, which can mean using another name for a different kind of book (Nora Roberts/JD Robb; Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick) or just digging in your heels and saying "This idea is still me, but better. Trust me." Sometimes it works--sometimes not. (Like coloring your hair.)But growth and change in women's fiction has come for the better through writers' initiative, not editorial. Writers are generally pretty shy people (I've heard this about actors, too) who stick their necks out on a daily basis. It's a huge risk, publishing your writing. Publishers risk money. Writers risk their innards.

And, yes, I think there is an element of age discrimination. Not so much with series romance, mind you. But editors will tell you that a house looks at all aspects of marketability. A young attractive woman who's a good interview might get a promotional push that someone else might not get. But if you don't have that advantage, you might find something else. Or you might just stick with the only aspect of the biz that's really in the writer's control--write the best damn book you can every time. Honestly, I wish that were the only thing that mattered. It isn't. There's also that fickle finger of fate.

Oh, and yes, there's a gender bias in this business, too. But that's a topic for another day.

anne frasier said...

i love change, so my hair color is always changing -- from orange to red to purple. went brown this winter and HATED it. i thought maybe it was time to look my age. nope.

when i first signed with penguin NAL, my editor asked that i NOT send a photo. i don't really know what that was about. :O

if i were of a certain age and just breaking into publishing, i would probably be vague about my age and some of the more personal aspects of my life because i think age could be an issue with some houses.

lois greiman said...

1. I grew up in a very conservative family and thought for lots of years, kind of subconsciously, that it was wrong to mess with your haircolor. But I find now that I'm getting more unnatural every day. So far I've changed the color of my eyes, my skin, my hair, my teeth and my nails. There's not much left I guess.

2. But yeah, I could go natural again. Especially if it got silver gray. I like silver gray. Go figure huh.

3. I think there is some age discrimination in publishing, but less than in the rest of the world. We Americans are a bit obsessed with youth and beauty. Funny though, it didn't bother me when I was young and beautiful. Well....young.

Judy Baer said...

1. Old redheads never die (dye?)they just fade away. I only have three (I counted) gray hairs but oddly, as I get older my hair gets darker and less red. That's why I bump up the color, for old times sake--and to get a little red back.

2. I don't like the idea of elderly women with orange hair, but gray? I don't know. Maybe a nice, soft strawberry blonde....

3. There are good writers of every age and they each bring something special to the table. And there will always be someone younger than I am (no matter how hard I protest!) Because writers don't have to be seen in public very often (or even by their editors) the work gets to speak for itself and can be, in that sense, ageless.