Musings,  Stories from River's Edge,  The Walker Family,  Tule Publishing

Sunday Snippet: The I Hope I’m Not Irrelevant Edition

As I write my 30-something characters this week, I’ve been thinking about how much of the world I am not a part of any more—specifically, pop culture. Liz and I talk frequently about how we are aging out of many things. She wonders if she’s aging out of romance novels–reading and writing them. I sometimes wonder if I’m aging out of being able to keep my plate as full as I do with editing gigs and writing deadlines and book promotion because stuff falls off sometimes, and more often than I like, it’s fun stuff like time with family and friends. Every now and again, I watch younger writers who go after their lives with fervor and energy, and I wonder what happened to mine. Fervor and energy that is. But I plug along the best I can and hope that people don’t see a tired old lady when they look at me.

It’s been a good writing week–something I’m so grateful for. The last of the Walker Family series is coming along and I’m into Annabelle’s story. My hero, veterinarian, Sawyer Braxton, is an old-fashioned gentle guy who likes Big Band music and animals and smart, sexy women like Anna Walker. Sometimes I really date myself in my writing, but that said, I’m the age I am—my references are timely to me, so if Sinatra and Anne Shirley and Rocky and Bullwinkle show up, what can I say? I suppose readers can google them, just like I have to google…well, truthfully, most pop culture stuff from today.

Do you ever look at the cover of magazines in the doc’s office or at the hair salon or the checkout and think, “Holy cats, I do not know anyone on this People or Us or whatever magazine? “Who wore it best?” is never my question. Mine is, “Who the hell are these people?” And honestly, who cares who wore it best? I mean why does that matter in the greater scheme of life and the world today?

Sister PJ, who is five years older than me, is so much more tuned into pop culture than I am, but I think that has to do with the fact that I don’t watch network TV or listen to much music that was produced after 1980—some I do, but mostly, I’m stuck in the era of the Drifters, Carole King, James Taylor, the Beatles, and yes, I confess, even earlier because I’m crazy about Big Band music. Frank Sinatra makes me swoon just like he did my teenaged mom back in the forties. I That old music takes me back to summers as a kid, listening to my sister’s transistor radio or Mom’s old LPs on the hi-fi (google it if you don’t know what that is). I must be feeling particularly nostalgic… well, old this week. I’m wondering if that makes me more boring than usual? Or worse, irrelevant?

I don’t know… I hope not. I don’t want to be irrelevant. I love that people read and enjoy my books even if the references are sometimes dated. Maybe for most of my readers, who are probably closer to my age than not, that is one reason they read me. They find comfort in mentions of music and films and television from further back than last week. And for younger people who read my novels, maybe they don’t mind having to google the likes of Gilbert Blythe or Glenn Miller or June Cleaver or Harry Chapin.

It’s my question for the universe today, I think… how important is it to you for the romance novels you read to be full of timely pop culture references?

Gratitude for this week: Got some good words in. After we picked up Grandboy from theater camp, drove past the miniature (66-foot-tall) Eiffel Tower that was constructed by a Latina welding company in honor of the Olympic Swimming Trials being held in our city–it was cool! Overnight with Grandboy–he’s always such a joy. I think my flower seed are finally sprouting. Nice long chat with friend Moe–can’t wait to get back up to the lake.

Stay well, be kind always, take some time to enjoy the sun on your face, and most of all, mes amies, stay grateful!


  • Roseann McGrath Brooks

    I think the romance reader tends to be familiar with Big Band music, but I know it helps to double-check with a young person every once in a while to make sure we haven’t written a character saying “groovy” or something else out of the Brady Bunch! We are who we are!

  • Kimberly Field

    I probably watch way too much TV, but I still struggle with the who is who. I like books that have a little bit of everything, but that is probably because I grew up listening to such a variety of music. I think we all find it hard to find balance and not feel left out or guilty.

    I have been seeing a lot of pics from all the events going on in Indy. The last time swimming was such a big deal was my freshman year of college and the Pan American games were there at the Natatorium. And as a student it was very frustrating, because you couldn’t find parking. But I will say that I was proud of my city and even though I haven’t lived there in over 30 yrs now, I am still proud when I see it on TV.

  • Glenda M

    I honestly don’t think a lot of current pop culture references are necessary in romances. If they are too fleeting, the references can date the book in a way that makes it seem old and ‘irrelevant’ instead of just a great story. If current events aren’t necessary to the story, why include them?

    As far as the fervor and energy some of the younger authors have, that’s great since it works for them, right? I think you’ve earned the right to slow down a bit and enjoy doing the fun things. If we don’t listen to our bodies when they tell us to slow down a bit, we can end up not being able to enjoy those fun times. That and the work you enjoy can end up not being enjoyable.

  • Latesha B.

    I like a broad range of pop culture. I have to admit that I don’t know a lot about current trends. Glad to hear you had a good week, Nan.

  • Janine

    I have trouble keeping up with pop culture. Unless it’s someone mentioned frequently, I have no idea who most celebrities are.

  • Sinclair

    Hey Nan,

    I hear you about work seemingly to envelop everything in its path. I definitely have to make more of an effort to make time for friends and fun stuff with writing, editing and Roshni. It is harder to juggle, especially when something special or unusual is going on. Our daughter was home for a couple of weeks before heading off to her next big adventure this summer, and I really wanted to make time to be with her, but that also means work slides, and I cheat more from me and my writing, and I no longer seem to have the big dig deep and plow forward to make up for that time that I had.

    As far as pop culture, I think it is important to stay current because for me it makes the characters seem authentic. For example if you have a thirty-two year old heroine getting dreamy about a hero’s blue eyes and comparing them to Paul Newman’s, I’m totally thrown out of the story unless the heroine would be a film buff of that period or her grandma had been and they’d always been tight and had watched his movies for some reason, but then I’d probably have her friend go huh? So while I try to stay current through my news/culture and experiences, I do have to ask around or do some research and think about what someone in their late twenties/early thirties would relate to as blue eyes, and since I read an article about him yesterday Joe Alwyn’s (Brit actor and T. Swift’s long time ex) eyes are considered to be a beautiful blue. But perhaps then I am making readers who are more mature like me google

    I love that you city has a mini Eifle Tower for the swim trials. S

  • Denise

    Pop Culture references aren’t always important, and they can date a book, too. The *it* couple of today may be meaningless five tears from now, so it’s always a careful balance of what you add in today’s timestamp.

  • Linda Fletcher

    In response to your question to the universe, it’s not important to me at all to have timely pop culture references in the books I read. In fact, for as long as I can remember (I’m 66 now), I’ve always felt that anything too of-the-moment in the things I read immediately dates a book, and it feels hopelessly out of date if you read it a few years later. I like my pop culture more timeless, spanning decades or even centuries, so that they’re more classic than cutting-edge. So you’re not irrelevant to me!

  • Kathleen O'Donnell

    I have lots of nieces and nephews who keep me up to date with who’s who these days. If I don’t know someone they will fill me in. I love music from all different era’s and types of music. And as far has romance in books, keep it coming, it’s like have a comfort food when times are tough. We need the simpliar things in life when the world around us is crumbling. Keep your books coming Nan. They will never go out of style.

    • Nan

      Thanks, Kathleen! I’m going to keep writing my books in the way that works for me, which means not much pop culture, but a lot of romance and feels!

  • Doris H Lankford

    I am right there with you on pop culture. I do read People magazine and wonder who the people are and why are they dressed like that. I am 63 years old and I like references made to older things and people. I also like to read about people with manners and good values. I think that is what is missing in our world today. Not enough manners and common sense.

    • Nan

      Can’t argue with you, Doris, although I will say that supper with Grandboy and 5 of his good friends was a delight. Six polite and gracious 12-year-olds. 🙂

  • Liz Flaherty

    I don’t have much to say here, because I’m part of the conversation. I will say I’ve come to hate the word “irrelevant,” which I can’t even spell part of the time. It’s right up there with “quipped.” Lol. No one is irrelevant, especially if that relevancy is visited on them because of their personal demographic. Having age lessen our relevancy is tantamount to people of our generation scoffing at young adults and kids because–gasp–their work ethics and thought processes and music styles are different from ours.

    Gettin’ slippery up here on the soapbox. Great post, Nan.

    • Nan

      I love it when you get up on your soapbox, mostly because generally, I’m right beside you. We’ve had this conversation many times, but I still perseverate over the issue now and again. I guess we just gotta be who we are and not sweat it, eh? Hugs, baby!