Finding Your Theme
When sitting down to write a novel I need my theme first and foremost. Something I feel strongly about, something I need to get off my chest. For other writers it’s plot, or character arcs but for me it’s theme. It’s about what I have to day bundled up in a fictional story tied up with string. This theme must be stamped out clearly in my head before my characters can come to life.
In The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39½) my eight novel, I was compelled to delve into the life of a single woman who was approaching forty. I wanted the story to hopeful and uplifting and the story fast paced. I knew I wanted to work with short chapters to achieve this. Some chapters as short as a page! I love how it adds pace.
The story involves my lead character Lexie Byrne, a woman approaching forty who is not brimming with self-confidence but brimming with self-respect. A woman who is desperately avoiding saying, “I do” just because “He’ll do”. That’s my theme!
Why this theme? Well, being single as you approach forty can be seen as problematic . . . for women that is! It riles me something fierce that society still paints single women over forty as desperate . . . kicking open the swinging doors of The Last Chance Saloon to find their mate . . . while single men over forty remain unscathed and unharmed by age. In fact, society’s narrative goes so far as to imply that men over forty, fifty and even sixty are actually considered ‘a catch’.
Ha! The hypocrisy!
The road map of my novel is that Lexie Byrne is perfectly content with her life regardless of her single relationship status. Women don’t need a man to make them happy. They don’t need children to feel completed. Modern day women are busy building careers, taking college courses, and studies that last for years. But the race to procreation for a lot of women eventually becomes an issue.
We don’t finish school until close to eighteen and we can’t make these years go any faster to keep our fertility alive and kicking! There are the obvious biological reasons why women need to be concerned and educated about leaving their fertility too late IF that’s the route they want to take (Disclaimer: Many, many women simply don’t want to have children! Simple as!) but we have to face the facts that it’s a physical concern men don’t have – but does that mean as the clock ticks by and the cycle slows that we begin to just settle for less than ‘the one’? I dropped Lexie Byrne int this exact situation.
Now, I’m a very happily married, mother of two, in my forties. I’ve a big group of super girlfriend’s, some single, some dating, some married, some mothers. I count myself lucky I met my husband very young, seventeen and eighteen respectively, but some disagree with this. Here’s what I regularly get:
“You never got to play the field!”
“You settled too young!”
. . . and there it is . . . that word ‘settled’. But how it’s changed in meaning since my day and that’s the word I wanted to explore in the novel.
As a younger woman, it meant you snuggled up on the sofa-bed in a flat in Rathmines with your true love and a bottle of Ritz or if he had a job in Crazy Prices, a four-pack of Stag. That sounded pretty perfect to me. However, in my forties this word has a very different meaning, one I wanted to explore in this novel. Rushed relationships, sprints down the aisle, Bugaboos bought before the Honeymoon’s even booked . . . because it’s the new meaning of settling.
Lexie Byrne explores the question, do we still allow fate to play its part in our destiny over forty? Can’t we be in love with ourselves until such a time that we meet ‘the one’, he or she, who we simply can’t live without? It appears, for women of a certain age at least, that the idea of true love is deemed ridiculous. To settle for less than so society has a box tick for you to me is such a bitter life disappointment. In my research for the book I talked to men and women approaching forty who met (mainly on-line) and got on (in their words), ‘grand’ – both with an eye on kids and marriage so off they went up the aisle. . . is this wrong? God no! But all I’m asking is have they missed out on the chemistry, the butterflies, the passion . . . because time isn’t on their side?
I want readers to come away from reading the book with the attitude that society needs to lay of women in their forties. To lessen the pressure and the judgemental narrative of how we see single women over forty who are childless. Life isn’t about fitting in, feeling part of the norm, life is a beautiful adventure, this isn’t a dress rehearsal so sisters embrace being free and single and know it’s more than OK to be a Lexie! To be heading to forty, living alone, loving life, supporting yourself with a great bunch of friends and never be pressurised to commit, hold out for the one and run for the hills if anyone comes at you proffering ‘The Settling Stick!’
(c) Caroline Grace-Cassidy
About The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 ½):
An irresistible love story . . . delivered with sparkle and wit (in a too-tight red dress!)
Meet Lexie Byrne. The big 4-0 is looming, but she’s perfectly content without a man. How else could she watch movies on repeat and eat crisp sandwiches in bed? Finally free of her love-rat ex, she’s never settling again. Nothing less than ‘The One’ will do.
Then, after an electrifying encounter on a wild St Patrick’s Day, Lexie takes a leap of faith and a flight across the Irish Sea. But as sparks fly, Lexie’s dreams take a serious nosedive. Until an arrival no one anticipated . . .
Will the unexpected love story of Lexie Byrne have a happy ending after all?
‘A fun, warm-hearted romp’ Marian Keyes
‘Fiercely funny and heart-warming!’ Laura Whitmore
Order your copy online here.