There seems to be a sense in Hollywood that to become successful as a screenwriter, you need to be at least 25 and under 40. And you should probably be white. And a man.
But this picture of the budding writer doesn’t have to be the rule. As a woman, I know I’m in the minority of writers in Hollywood, but that shouldn’t have any bearing on my success. Of course, the world isn’t perfect and biases do exist in Hollywood as they do everywhere else. But at the end of the day, the thing that is going to make you successful or not isn’t your age or your gender or your ethnicity — it will be your writing.
Take, for example, Bill Spence. The British public recently discovered that their beloved Jessica Blair, writer of twenty-two romance novels is actually Bill, an 89-year-old grandfather who once served in the Royal Air Force:
“Well when I first wrote the first Jessica Blair novel, ‘The Red Shawl’, it was submitted under my own name,” he told a podcast on the U.K.’s Southside Broadcasting at the time. “The publishers said ‘We like this book but we would like to publish it under a female name. Would you mind if we published it under Jessica Blair?’ Well, you don’t say no to publishers.”
Spence said he never minded his publisher’s decision, and agreed it was good for the success of the books. “The chief character is a woman, and ladies buy more books and read more books than men do,” he told Southside. “So it was a marketing ploy, really.”
In order to come across as a convincing female author, Spence said he often double-checked his work with the women in his family.
“With all writing, I’ve got to be every character in my book, good or bad, male or female,” he said in the radio interview. “You’ve got to be something of an actor, I suppose. I’m fortunate in that my wife, my late wife, and my daughters were all interested in my writing and I would give them pieces to read and say, is that ok from a woman’s point of view, and they would say yes or no.”