Juliet Greenwood author of Elissa's Castle explains what inspired her to write the novel.

‘A man who wants to define himself as real lover of women admires what shows of her past on a woman’s face, before she ever saw him, and the adventures and stresses that her body has undergone, the scars of trauma, the changes of childbirth, her distinguishing characteristics, the light in her expression’.

Naomi Wolf – ‘The Beauty Myth’


What inspired me to write ‘Elissa’s Castle’? Strangely enough, it was my own – entirely unexpected – delight in growing older.

The idea to write a modern version of Jane Austen, but with a middle-aged (I prefer the word ‘mature’, myself) heroine, had been brewing away ever since I first watched the BBC’s version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (the one with Colin Firth in a wet shirt), and realised that I was nearer in age to Elizabeth Bennet’s mother, rather than to Elizabeth herself.

At the time, I didn’t feel ready to be put on the shelf and end up as the mother-in-law from hell. A decade later, and now in my mid-forties, I still feeling I’m much more interesting than I ever was in my twenties, and, with all that embarrassing learning curve of youth (more or less) behind me, finally clued up, wised up, and ready to go. As far as I’m concerned, the real adventure begins here.

I wanted to write the kind of book I would like to read now, with the kind of heroine who reflects my own stage in life. There are plenty of books about virgins and whores, chicks and mothers out there, stretching back to the advent of the novel form itself: but where are the stories with the mature heroines? There have always been women travellers, explorers, inventors, rulers, spies, warriors, healers, saviours and poisoners, and quite a few of them have not been in the first flush of youth when they took off across deserts and bedded exotic (and often much younger) men. We just don’t hear about them.

If anyone is going to put mature women on the map, and carve out an honourable place for us, it has to be older women ourselves. Who else? And there are plenty of men out there who love the more voluptuous sensuality and confidence of the sexually experienced woman, and the humanity etched in each line and crease of our faces. And the ones who don’t, who see only our middle age, or nothing at all? Well, I have a feeling those are probably the ones you seriously don’t want to know, at any age.

And so ‘Elissa’s Castle’ was born – although, until Transita, I was quite sure a publisher would never be interested in a castle-owning, opinionated, bolshy and headstrong romantic heroine of fifty-two. And the idea of a middle-aged woman positively fighting off the men in pursuit of her assets? Well, I can personally vouch for that not being so very far-fetched – and my traditional little quarryman’s cottage perched on a Welsh hillside is definitely nothing like a castle!

‘To be seen … as someone else’s projection of what they would like us to be
is deeply unsettling because it is not us.’

Nancy Friday - ‘The Power of Beauty’

 
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