Karen Aldous: Veering Off-piste – A Romance For Older Women
16 November 2018
I am delighted today, to welcome Karen Aldous to the RNA Blog talking about older characters in fiction. Karen’s sixth novel, Five Ladies Go Skiing, was released last week with HQ Digital and I’m keen to explore the reasons behind why she chose to move away from guy meets girl and put older women and friendship at the core of her latest release…
Hi Everyone, I’m delighted to return here. It is five years since I graduated from the wonderful RNA New Writers Scheme with my contemporary romance, The Vineyard and it’s been a year since my fifth ebook, Under a Tuscan Sky, but the great news is, Five Ladies Go Skiing, my latest novel with HQDigital HarperCollins, will also be available in paperback! So, like any writer, I’m absolutely thrilled at the prospect of holding my first ever book.
Equally exciting is that I’ve thrown something new into the mix. When I submitted my synopsis for this novel, my new editor at HQ loved the idea of a group of older friends going off to ski. In fact, it’s a book I’ve wanted to write for a while. So, whilst it’s still a tale of contemporary romance set in a gorgeous setting, the Swiss Alps, it does mean I have veered a little off-piste. Usually my protagonist and the man of her dreams are forty or under, but this story not only centres on the relationships between sixty-year-old, Ginny and her four amazing friends – four of them Grannies, – but finding love in later life. Will I risk upsetting some of my younger readers?
I hope not. This book is about girls having fun and should I believe, have wide appeal. My five ladies’ have a youthful outlook, and friendship is a universal theme. We commonly hear, sixty is the new forty, so these ladies in my opinion, represent many of today’s sixty-year olds who after bringing up their families, as well as having good health and longevity, have the hankering to spread their wings and embrace life. Like my friends, my characters are warm, caring and considerate as well as young at heart, I found it refreshing to explore issues of a different nature and the way they dealt with their inner battles was revealing. Unlike many older characters in traditional fiction, they are not spouting words of worldly wisdom, or rocking on their porches knitting, instead they are living in this modern world, they value friendship and are fortunate not to be too restricted physically, so very much still the girl, or even the kid, inside. And like me, need to challenge themselves and step out from their comfort zones.
Thanks, Karen, Five Ladies Go Skiing, sounds like not only a wonderful adventure but a in-depth exploration of friendship too.
Five Ladies Go Skiing
When Ginny Watts’ husband passes away, she is left grief-stricken, not only over her husband’s death but the secrets he has left behind…
Luckily for Ginny, she has four wonderful friends – Lou, Cathy, Angie and Kim – poised to whisk her away on a ladies’ skiing holiday to beautiful La Tzoumaz, Switzerland.
While all of them appear to have their lives together from the outside, little do the ladies know that every single one of them is fighting a secret battle.
As the trip unfolds, they realise that fears of tumbling down the slopes after too much après-ski fun is the least of their worries and all is not what it seems…
Ooh, this does sound intriguing. I love the premise of secret battles; what was your inspiration behind so many characters all fighting individual battles?
Unsurprisingly, it was my amazing friends who inspired the idea. Their cocktail of love, warmth, support and the fun-loving fairy dust they sprinkle on me, fired my imagination, so I thought it would be a fascinating subject to capture in a novel. There would be limits of course. Rather than basing my characters on my real friends or anything personal to them, I worked with the core idea of five life-long friends having that special bond – but it begged the question, what if each had a secret they’d never shared before – a skeleton in their closet?
So, I played, had some fun with ideas but wanted to keep it real, fun and uplifting. After listing and researching some issues and themes that ladies of sixty were likely to encounter, such as coping with the empty nest, ageism in the work-place, identity and purpose in retirement or losing a long-term spouse as well as second-chance romance, I began asking the characters the question; what was the one you’ve secretly battled with that your friends don’t know about and, why? What were they afraid of if they disclosed their secret? The exploration into their responses created the tension and central conflict for Ginny’s story as well as added interesting dimensions for the other characters.
Looking at your previous novels, the covers all have a summery feel. What made you decide to opt for a winter theme with this novel and why, particularly, Switzerland?
Switzerland is a country that feeds all my senses – I love the crisp, clean air nipping at my nose, the harsh-grey rock contrasting with the glistening of sunshine on soft fresh snow, the deafening calm on a sunny peak compared to the exhilaration of whooshing down a mountain, the aroma and taste of spices and wine from a welcoming vin chaud on a warm terrace.
And, I have set another novel, The Chateau, close by, on the Chateau de Chillon on Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). It’s a beautiful country and in a heartbeat, given the opportunity I’d live there. It’s also where I’ve skied most because I stay with some of my lovely friends. It was a natural choice to set the book in La Tzoumaz, a hamlet which is part of the beautiful Verbier ski area. I thought learning to ski was a natural distraction for Ginny after losing her husband the previous winter. I wanted her character to take on a serious challenge and skiing is a sport she would never have volunteered for. As three of her other friends had never skied either, it was something they could conquer together.
What’s next for you? What are you currently writing / have coming up for release in 2019?
I’m currently working on some short-stories and a dual-timeline novel I’ve been writing in-between others. I haven’t finalised a title yet so let’s hope I can return next year and tell you all about it.
Thank you again, Karen, for your time on the blog today, it’s great to see another author reaching out to a generation who are most definitely still active, looking for love and have several years of friendship under their belts; what a rich tapestry to explore.
Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!
Purchase Five Ladies Go Skiing:
Available in ebook 5th Nov 2018 – Paperback 13th Dec 2018: