When readers met Emma Golden for the first time in An Unholy Alliance it was quickly known to all that she was not a youngster. In fact, she was past what any of us would consider her prime–age 55, in fact. While it would be against her code to state an exact age, she does refer to menopause, a little bit of forgetfulness, the need for the occasional nap. One quickly gets the picture.
So why, when it’s so much easier to create a young, attractive, sexy amateur sleuth to fill Emma’s shoes did I choose an old, beat up tomato?
Perhaps because women of a certain age have more experience than the younger ones. Emma is a mother, was a wife, and has been through a lot. She earned every bit of the baggage she packs around with her.
More important, I wanted a character who would be underestimated. What is easier to underestimate than an old lady? Just look at Miss Marple, sitting there quietly knitting and figuring it all out while her village, or her friends’ villages, are awash in murder.
And while Emma is no old lady–at least she doesn’t think she is–who’s going to pay attention to her? Her career is washed up. She is unremarkable in her looks. She doesn’t have enough income to even dress particularly well. When she returns to wine country in the debut novel, things have changed so much that the new players don’t know her and the old ones barely remember her.
Emma is invisible, and she’s not happy about it. As she says in The Difficult Sister, the men she wishes to meet not only aren’t interested but they run across the street to avoid making eye contact. And those women in the St. John suits? Forget it. They don’t even know she’s there. She, like Miss Marple, is in the perfect position to see and hear everything. And for the most part no one sees or hears her. Unless she makes a fuss. What perfect positioning for someone on the trail of a murderer.
But the main reason I chose an Emma is because I’m just plumb sick of the younger, cuter models.