Lifelong writers and late bloomers: how old are first-time novelists?

I wanted to be a writer from the age of 7, when I first read L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon. At 11, I learned more about the writer's burning desire to write and the travails of trying to publish from Little Women. While I was in college, historical novelist Cecilia Holland published her first novel at the age of 24 to critical acclaim. She became my role model, not as a writer but as a success. I wanted to be a published novelist at 24. It didn't happen. I did make several attempts at writing full length fiction, including three mysteries that a very good agent took on but failed to sell when I was in my early 30s. I went through a midlife career change. I published two books of poetry and a lot of professional material, including a book, before turning back to fiction five years ago. And now my first mystery will come out in 2008, beating my Medicare card by a short length. I'd like to hear from or about writers who published their first mystery or other novel after 60. Was writing fiction something you always told yourself you'd like to try? Or have you been at it all along, like me?

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Comment by NL Gassert on February 13, 2008 at 7:14am
I started writing in Middle School. My plan was to be a published fiction writer by 30. Instead, at 30, I became a mom.

Despite a few years away from writing, I managed to get that debut novel published before my 38th birthday (which is just a few weeks away and makes me think I should consider becoming a responsible grown-up).
Comment by gracebrophy on August 10, 2007 at 9:31am
Hi Elizabeth,
I always intended to write novels, just took a long time getting to it. And I admit to being over 60+. I was doing consulting work for Verizon in 2001 and talked Verizon into letting me work from Italy. When they suggested I return to the U.S. I decided to stay in Italy, retire, and begin. My first novel, "The Last Enemy," a police procedural, was published by Soho in May 2007. The next, "A Deadly Paradise," will be published in May 2008. I was interested that you decided to be a writer after reading one of L.M. Montgomery's novels. I started with Anne of Green Gables when I was nine. Too bad it took us so long to get started, but isn't it nice that we finally did start.
Comment by Marta Stephens on July 14, 2007 at 12:52pm
I feel SO at home with you guys!! I thought I was the only one too who started to write out of the blues. I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason and when the time is right. I might have been able to master the crafter at an earlier age, but there's something to be said for the wisdom of age.

I started to dedicate serious time to writing about four years ago. My debut novel was published this past April--I'm 52 and counting backwards. LOL

Congrats to us!! :)
Comment by TheFalcon on March 21, 2007 at 5:31am
What Harry says above really resonates with me. As I approach 43I wonder when I'll forget everything that I've learned that has kept me from writing. I'd like to think I'll be writing from today until I'm dust. With breaks for a Guiness, of course.
Comment by Elizabeth Zelvin on March 20, 2007 at 1:09pm
Enjoying all your responses--and relieved I'm not the only one. And amen to those who've said they couldn't have written the work they've written now when they were younger. I've channeled every day of life experience and every gray hair (what gray hair?) into my book. Geezers rock? Hmm, that might be going a little too far for me. How about: 60 is the new 30. ;)
Comment by Libby Hellmann on March 20, 2007 at 8:00am
My first novel came out after I turned 50 (Shocking, yes... I know)... But I came late to the party. I had no idea I wanted to be a writer until about 10 years ago. I was going to be a Film-maker... the Lina Wertmuller of the US. Didnt work out. Then I was going to be the female Edward R Murrow. That didnt work out either, and, anyway, Linda Ellerbee is much better than I would have been. So I was as surprised as the next person when I discovered what I really wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. Happily, I've never regretted it.
Comment by Carolyn Rogers on March 20, 2007 at 4:22am
My first was sold at 38, but I am pretty much starting over. I feel alot more confident and sure of myself now, and finally able to tackle a story I simply don't think I was mature enough yet to tackle. I think this is one area where age is a help not a hindrance. That being said, I have a 22 year old friend who writes amazingly well and with a deepness I didn't know was possible when I was that age--can't wait to see what the future brings to him with his writing. He will only get better.

I also had no inkling I wanted to write until I was 33.
Comment by Harry Hunsicker on March 20, 2007 at 2:33am
My first novel came out in 2005 when I was 42. I got earnest about writing a few years before, as the Big Four-Oh approached.

Since grade school, I'd wanted to be a fiction writer.

In college, an I'm-sure well intentioned professor told us that "unless you were writing everyday, scribbling things on bits of paper when you were away from your computer, you weren't destined to be a writer."

Unfortunately, I believed him, and it took me 20 years to get over it.
Comment by David Terrenoire on March 20, 2007 at 1:41am
I wrote the first draft of Beneath A Panamanian Moon when I was 43, but didn't publish it until I was 55. I don't think I could have written that book had I been younger.
Comment by Jack Getze on March 20, 2007 at 1:19am
My debut novel was just published this month. I'm 61. Started my first novel in 1968, wrote 10 unpublished ones between 1970 and 2006.

Geezers Rock!

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