Representation in stories matters

Picture of an Edwardian woman wearing a big hat and a flowy dress.
Lily Elise (1886 – 1962) was a famous English Edwardian actress and singer.

“Write what you want to read,” they said. So I am.

In Ruby Hart Takes a Picture mystery series, I imagined an aging (nearing 40) actress who knew her time on the stage was not going to last much longer and she needed to make a mid-life career change. I put her in the Edwardian era London as that era so much was happening. Women were becoming more political, cars were becoming more predominate, movies (where Ruby would have naturally moved to if she was younger) were becoming a thing. Electricity in households was more common. We can’t forget telephones! So much is going on in the world! I made her a photographer because while photography is over 50 years old at this point, it became more economically viable for the layperson to own a camera and women photographers were a thing.

For Going Crazy, I saw an over 40 woman with a mental illness who was getting her life back on track after having a breakdown. She also may or may not be in love with her best friend from college and she may have inherited a bookstore thanks to a dead aunt. (Yes, yes the “dead relative with something to bequeath” can be an over used trope, sue me.) As I too had a breakdown when I was in my early 40s, the struggle to stabilize can be difficult and it is compounded as you navigate and regulate your moods and feelings. Does she love Seth because she loves him for who he is or does she love him because he’s the safest thing for her to love. Big questions! (And hopefully I have answers.)

(And I’ve got ideas for a whole lot more.)

Representation is important to me and essential. I need to feel seen and understood. I want to read about others like me or like those in my life. I can only project myself on stock characters for so long.

Drawing upon my own life also matters because my experiences can be my character’s experiences too. With Ruby Hart, she’s changing her career mid-life and with Alex, she’s starting life over again also mid-life. These are two experiences that I draw deeply from and I want others to see themselves in Ruby and Alex and in any other characters I create.

Now, for the paranormal series, I believe witches exist and I occasionally read tarot cards. Take from that what you will.

(I only know of one Edwardian mystery series and while a handful of fiction novels have main characters with mental illness, I do not know of one who is bipolar. If you find any books that fit either criteria, let me know!)

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