Thursday, January 20, 2011


Late Bloomers

It's my birthday today but far from celebrating I woke up cringing. You know that sinking feeling that falls over you when you realize you've let someone down? Well, I'd let myself down badly today. Last year at this time I made a solemn promise that I'd write THE NOVEL before my next birthday. Did I do that? No.

I sat up in bed, hoping to find some ray of sunshine in what promised to be a very dark day. Okay, I did manage to sell a couple of short stories during the year but that feels like very small potatoes indeed compared to THE NOVEL. Would there be any point in making the same promise for next year, given my advanced age? No. Probably best if I simply give the whole thing up as a bad job, I decided, throwing back the covers. But wait a minute, what about Mary Wesley? I drew my feet back under the covers. Mary was nothing if not a late bloomer. She published her first adult novel at 71, and then went on to write a bestseller a year for the next ten years. The Chamomile Lawn, written in her mid-seventies, was turned into a hugely popular TV mini-series.

Feeling a little better now, I spotted a book on the very top of my teetering bedside TBR pile. Ah hah! The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. Bradley won the 2007 Debut Dagger award with his first Flavia de Luce mystery when he was seventy. And far from resting on his considerable laurels, Bradley has a list of half a dozen new titles on his website.

How about PD James? I was on a roll now. Baroness James is ninety and although she often threatens to stop writing crime novels, I'll believe that when I see it.

There must be other late bloomers who could give me hope. Can you think of any?

Sue Pike has published nineteen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted will appear in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.


  1. Happy Birthday, Sue!!! I always find the most daunting part of writing a novel is standing at the starting gate, staring ahead at 300 blank pages. (lot of ings in that sentence, but that's for rewrites). Would it help to think of your novel as fifteen short stories, tied end to end?

  2. Happy Birthday - inspirational to consider the accomplishments of seniors. Is 'you're only as young as you feel' a cliche that we need to think about? Also there are a number of very successful writers who devoted themselves to short stories = Ed Hoch comes to mind, and your stories are terrific so it wouldn't be so bad if you concentrated on them. Whatever you decide I hope it's a great year.

  3. Happy birthday, you! You're still a kid at heart. I love your writing and I hope you do write the novel - you'll be the exact same age next year whether you do or not.

  4. I agree with Joan -- your short stories are terrific. However, that NOVEL has been wanting out so you may just have to give in to it. There are no deadlines here though...just settle into it as the spirit moves you. And enjoy! Happy Birthday!!!

  5. Such supportive friends you all are. Thank you!

  6. I guess I'm a late bloomer too. Sometimes I regret that I didn't produce THE NOVEL sooner. In 2007, I called myself to account, took a sabbatical year from my job -- and wrote THE NOVEL. Or the first, anyway: "Revenge of the Lobster Lover." I try not to judge myself harshly that it took so long to spit it out. I now look back on all those years as not wasted, but waiting., Waiting to find the thing I was meant to write about. It had seeped into me all those years, and it was now, finally, ready to come out.

  7. Congratulations, Hilary. You give me hope. I have several ideas for novels but not sure any are exactly the thing I was meant to write about.

  8. Sue: If you could write one book - - - what would you want to write for your grandchildren to read to remind them of/teach them about you in years to come? Start with that one! Good luck!