Tag Archives: Penelope Fitzgerald

Older Debut Authors

A new writers’ group has started to counter bias against older debut authors. As a sage if not entirely wise writer of 65, I welcome this development.

There have been some notable famous authors who started out late, including Penelope Fitzgerald, Mary Wesley, Henry Miller, George Elliot, Richard Adams, Raymond Chandler, Alex Haley, Charles Bukowski and Annie Proulx.

Prime Readers may be of interest to mature writers:



It’s long annoyed me that so much attention is given to those under 40 when it comes to prizes, bursaries and competitions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for encouraging young talent and it’s in my bones to pass on knowledge, but there comes a time in life when you start to feel like you’re invisible. A debut author of any age needs support, encouragement and recognition.

Anyone can write at any age. Mary Wesley is a shining example of someone who started out late, with her breakout novel The Camomile Lawn published when she was 72. Her last novel came when she was 85, and she was a very frisky woman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Wesley

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Ageless Authors

Two days after turning officially old, following my 65th birthday in February, I came across a writing competition that reassures me that I’m actually ‘Ageless’.

Mind you, there have been a few debut authors of mature years, such as Mary Wesley, 71, when her first adult novel was published), Tim Finch (debut at 51), Diana Athill (memoir published in her early 80s), Penelope Fitzgerald (60, when her first novel was published) and Kit de Waal was 56, when her award-winning novel My Name is Leon was published.

In my latest querying campaign, I’ve approached 88 literary agencies and several indies and digital publishers, each time contacting specific agents best suited for my crime novels, none of whom are as old as me. A couple look young enough to be my grandchildren—I own belts older than them!

Researching the success stories of their recently-signed clients, I found just one 64-year-old debut novelist. Having said that, my new source of inspiration is James Oswald, who initially found success for his crime series by self-publishing, before signing to Penguin Books for a six-figure deal at the age of 45.

He still runs a cattle and sheep farm, and I enjoy reading the newsletters from his blog, telling of how he juggles tending livestock with writing and promoting his latest title. He comes across as a nice man, hard-working and humble.

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If you’re of mature ageless years, there are a couple of writers’ groups of interest:

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