Paula looks at the problems of updating a novel.
Now that I’m over half way through editing my latest WIP,
I’m thinking about my next novel. I have a few vague (very vague!) ideas, and
one possibility I considered is rewriting and updating my first novel, which
was published in the 1960s.
I soon realised this would be almost impossible. For one
thing, the hero is divorced. Why is that a problem? Because one of the major issues
in the story was the attitude of the heroine’s parents to their daughter dating
a divorced man, and so she broke up with him.
Far-fetched, you think? In the 60s, I recall my parents
(both in their 50s at that time) being shocked when the daughter of one of
their friends got engaged to a divorced man.
Would the divorce issue work in a novel today? I doubt it,
especially as the man was the innocent party. Attitudes to divorce have changed
dramatically since the 1960s. The main reason Mills and Boon could not sell
this novel to their (then) linked publisher, Harlequin, in the USA/Canada
(and I still remember the words Alan Boon wrote in his letter) was because: A large proportion of our readership in
North America does not agree with divorce or accept it as a way out of a
marriage. I wonder when Harlequin changed their minds about that?
If I tried to update this novel, I would have to think of a
different kind of conflict, unless I made the parents ultra-religious, maybe?
Apart from having to deal with changes in attitudes, I would
need to deal with other factors. Neither the hero or heroine had a car, until
half way through the story when the hero buys one. It may have been different
in America, but in early 1960s Britain, young people did not usually have cars.
And, of course, the technology revolution since the 60s has
changed communication dramatically. No longer do people have one land-line
telephone in their homes (and some not even that, my best friend didn’t have a home
phone). Now, of course, almost everyone has a mobile/cell phone. Creating a situation where characters are unable to contact
each other, either by phone or email, requires some ingenuity in a novel based
in today’s world.
And all this is before I’ve even looked at the changes in
schools, because my original hero and heroine were both teachers.
All in all, I’ve decided it’s probably easier to create a
new novel than try to update this old one!