As the boomer generation, we have never let other generations define us and we’re not about to start now. That’s what Vicky Phillips of Underhill, Vermont, is all about. Vicky writes under the pen name, Daisy Pettles. She saw a vacuum in books with baby boomer protagonists, and is trying to fill it. We’re impressed with her story. Hope you will be too.
I turn 60 this year and my mother is 84. We are both lifelong mystery readers, dating back to our shared love of Nancy Drew. But although we grew up, Nancy did not.
In some mother-daughter phone chats last winter we found ourselves in need of new authors to read. We both craved older, adventurous, female protagonists. My mother suggested that since I had retired from a career as an internet marketer, I head back to the keyboard and pound out some stories.
Being of the mind that if there’s a problem, I ought to act to create a solution— a great notion from the 1960s and 70s— I took my mom up on the challenge and researched the marketplace.
I was puzzled by the dearth of older characters. Baby boomer readers are a mighty tribe. This is especially true in the mystery genre. In fact, a 2010 study of readers by Sisters in Crime, which supports mystery writers, found that 67% of mystery readers are women. Moreover, a whopping 71% of these are age 50 or older.
In contrast, the average age of a mystery leading lady is 33. I immediately decided there is a need for novels that better reflect my demographic, as well as my mother’s.
Alas, the publishing industry disagreed. I pitched the idea to American publishers. Each time, they “loved the writing,” but declined the series with a note that my characters were “simply too old.” Make them young and we’ll gladly rep you, I was told.
After several months of rejection I decided I was the right woman to take a risk on this new niche. The result, a year later, is The Shady Hoosier Detective Agency. Book 1 of the series, The Ghost Busting Mystery, features detectives-in-training whose ages, 67 and 71, fall far outside the 30-something range favored by publishers. I founded Hot Pants Press and adopted the pen-name Daisy Pettles to develop entertainment for boomer women.
Both my mother and I worked for a living, so we decided to model our protagonists on women much the same as us. Studies show that Americans age 60 and over are not retiring, some out of necessity, but many by choice. In The Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, the protagonists are lifelong friends who share a house and a 1960 Chevy. One in particular, named Veenie, has been a lifelong snoop. The other, Ruby Jane, has great computer and research skills. For them, the decision to work again is both a way to supplement their incomes and a way to exercise their innate curiosity.
I believe there is pent up demand for older, upbeat female characters. Back in the 80’s, the most successful TV drama was the “Golden Girls,” about five widowed women 55+ sharing a home and laughter.
My goal is to update the mystery novel to better serve this core reading demographic, by creating books that mirror my life and the evolving lives of boomer women. I don’t think there has ever been a more active generation of women. Our literature should reflect that.
Ghost Busting Mystery, the first book in Daisy Pettles’ new boomer mystery series, is available as a 99 cents ebook download. It may also be purchased in print form from ($10.99) from Amazon.