A TIME TO REFLECT
The world is collectively on time-out, the merry-go-round has stopped, and the pause button has been clicked on our usual routine. We face an unprecedented sense of uncertainty. When will life get back to normal?
A few years ago I asked myself that very question in the midst of a life crisis. At fifty three, when I was supposed to be cruising towards retirement in a career built over many years, it all came crashing down. Not unlike what many of us are experiencing now, I felt powerless and trapped – unable to control my fate. That is, until I discovered my resilience and strength. And in those moments when the thread of predictability unravels, there is the space for dreams to bubble to the surface. I could have ignored that fork in the road. I could have chosen security over taking a chance on re-envisioning my life. Instead, I carefully orchestrated my second coming- of-age and set out on one grand adventure, claiming my dreams.
In writing my fictionalized memoir, Bound for Barcelona, Breaking Free – The Journey, it was my hope to inspire women of a “certain age” that it is never too late to take a step back from the chaos and listen to that inner voice. You might be surprised at what you hear. Dreams have a way of becoming buried in the hustle of keeping a roof over one’s head, raising children, managing a relationship/marriage, surviving divorce, or even navigating the often difficult waters of dating after forty. You may need to dig back to your childhood or young adulthood to find them, but trust me, they are still there just waiting until you are ready to reach for them. It may be as simple as realizing your talent for a hobby, sport, or creative project you always wished you had time to develop. Or, as in my book, you may have longed to travel and see the world, to change careers, or move to a place that inspires a new life. Whatever you’ve wished for, even if it seems impossible at this moment, crack open that box where dreams are stored and dare to ponder the possibilities.
As a final note, seek inspiration. There are many examples of average, everyday women who have found the strength to overcome obstacles and metamorphize themselves in the second chapter. Books and movies can inspire and motivate in difficult times. There are numerous examples. Bound for Barcelona or the movie Shirley Valentine are among the many contemporary works that are relevant to today’s women. Whether it comes from someone’s real life story or a Hollywood production, these can teach us how it is possible to move from fantasy to reality. It’s never too late.
Read more about Marcella Steele with our Author Interview:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book (s). What are some things that inspire you to write? Does your book (s) incorporate certain aspects of your own life (and / or that of others)? I am a new author, beginning a career in the second phase of life, and the book Bound for Barcelona is my debut novel. My previous profession was as a licensed psychotherapist, which contributes to my desire to write about transitions in life, relationships, the issues women face. This is a story about a woman’s journey – my story – created as a fictionalized novel. I decided to write about this journey when I took my own leap of faith, and moved from the United States to Barcelona. The inspiration to create this book came from my life experiences and struggles as I set out to reinvent myself at a time when I could have clung to everything familiar and secure. It’s also a daring love story between a mature woman and a younger man, oozing with eroticism. Many women will relate to the challenges, as well as the passion that comes with this kind of relationship. The book raises the questions: How does one navigate and survive the trials of dating (especially in midlife)? How do you start over after divorce and child rearing? Does one guard one’s heart, or risk it all for love and passion? Would you dare to pole vault over obstacles to realize a dream? I’ve sometimes described it as having elements of Eat Pray Love, Fifty Shades of Grey, Sex and the City, and Under the Tuscan Sun.
Tell us about the genre you like to write, and how is it similar / different from other women fiction genres? I’m not a fan of coloring inside the lines. That is, I like to create layered shades and blends that are not genre specific. My writing tends to reflect real life, with all it’s warts and imperfections. To my surprise, writing erotica came naturally, but I wanted to break free from the twenty-something stereotypical plotlines, to depict a mature woman’s passion in the context of a more complex story. Thus, Bound for Barcelona and the sequel I am now writing, are not easily classified into a one-size-fits-all genre.
What are some of the biggest challenges authors of older protagonists face today? The literary market favors stories about younger women, especially where romance is concerned. It baffles me, because there is a large proportion of women over twenty or thirty who are voracious readers. I think mature women want to read about characters and stories they can relate to, but the challenge is to find a way to make these kinds of books visible in the vast landscape of Kindle or bookstores.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer? When I knew I had a story to tell. When my rich experiences all compounded, compelling me to depart from simply journaling, to bringing a story to life. It was not a career I envisioned for myself, I was on a very different path. But in starting over, I have discovered my new passion for writing.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? Not in the conventional sense anymore, but I spend a lot of time planning my next adventure in travel.
What is your typical writing routine like? This varies a lot. I am often traveling, so I have been known to write from a balcony overlooking Paris, or the forest of Ubud, Bali, or in my favorite cafe in Barcelona. When I’m in the ‘zone’ I need complete quiet and I can put in more than twelve hour days. It does help to have a beautiful, inspirational place from which to write, even if not ergonomically ideal.
What kind of message do your book (s) convey to readers? My book was designed to inspire women to dream and ponder the possibilities. I also wanted to reinforce the idea that mature women are vibrant creatures, and encourage them to embrace their sexuality (no matter what the age). But I think the essential core theme is one of growth, and learning to value/love oneself. This is not an easy task for some of us, and I will be focusing more on this theme in the sequel to Bound for Barcelona.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why? I love authors who write from the heart and speak directly to the readers as if they were friends. Authors whose books convey a meaningful message. One of my favorite authors, for those reasons, is Elizabeth Gilbert. She moves me, entertains me, makes me laugh and cry. Her brilliant way with words, as well as her story, inspired me to write. I, like many, set out on my own journey to Bali last year and I took her well-worn book with me to read yet again.
Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers over 40? They say that everyone has at least one story that begs to be told. One of the things that helped me the most was hearing famous authors comment, “If you write, then you are a writer. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you when the title fits.” As I often say, it’s never too late to realize your dreams. In fact, having more life experience gives the writer a richer color palette from which to draw on for inspiration. On a technical note, I would recommend the book, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. He helps new authors understand how to move from a story idea, to a well crafted novel.
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