I told some friends I write Older Adult fiction and the crap hit the fan. I had no idea it would touch a nerve.
Here’s the deal: I write stories about people over 40 (and older) who are grappling with the challenges and issues of the second half of life. I think this time period is interesting, moving, powerful, and just generally all-around awesome. But what do you call it?
As an author, I want people to find my books in the literary jungle that is Amazon.com. The way we do this is to label them with a tag or genre category. Yet there’s nothing official for the kind of books I’m describing. So I’ve struggled with this.
And then, the answer!
Recently a reader of this blog, Toni Kief, published her first book, and she referred to it as OA: Older Adult. This, to me, is brilliant. We already have YA (Young Adult), so this pivots off that perfectly. People know intuitively what it’s about.
But before using the term, I asked my social media networks what they thought. OMG, what a shocker. Here’s a sampling of their comments:
“In no reality would I seek out OA…”
“IMHO, older adults don’t care particularly for being labeled “Old” anything. Maybe ‘Seasoned Adult’, ‘Tested Adult’, Experienced Adult”?
“I do NOT like ‘OA’ – Older Adult – as a category name. I am sick and tired of being labeled ‘older’ or ‘elderly’…Because elder, elderly, or older do NOT have the connotations of respect they used to have.”
“Sorry – I don’t like anything with ‘old’ in it. I don’t think it will market well. Those who are reading want to hear about possibilities, not about being old.”
“I do see your point, but ‘old’ is a dreadful word in marketing, it doesn’t work!”
“When you sell, you are asking your potential buyer to self-identify…’Old’ doesn’t do it for ME, as a consumer – and I’m post-retirement.”
Not all the comments were negative. For example:
“I think the older half of the boomer generation is getting a strong dose of reality. I know of many people who are coming to grips with changes in their work life, family relations, and bodies…”
And wouldn’t you want to read about people rising above that? Finding love in older age, for example? (OA Romance! New category!)
In contrast to the more traditional coming-of-age story, with youngish adults, the second coming-of-age is about people who are already fully formed, but face some kind of new challenge (divorce or unemployment after 50; existential problems like loneliness, grief, isolation; and physical/mental changes, for example). I love showing them rising above these difficulties.
One friend said, “Fiction is a way of trying out life, of learning vicariously.” Fiction expert Lisa Cron says our evolutionary strength as homo sapiens is to crave story as a way of learning how to stay alive (“Gork ate red berries . Gork dead. DON’T eat red berries!”) Thus, at some point, I believe older peeps will want to read about their time of life, and will appreciate a term like OA to help them find it. Or maybe it’ll work like Reader Repellent. What do you think?