Judy Dearlove, 71, Author of Play On!

What’s the Play On! elevator pitch?

It’s set in a retirement community. I wrote it to be a fast, fun read. I’ve read a lot of books about people of that age that were either mocking them or were very dark. I wanted the characters to work against that stereotype—they’re very inclusive, they have fierce friendships, they’re limited by restrictions of age, but they work together. Was that a good elevator, or do I need to go up another floor? 

This is your first novel. 

Ever since I was a little kid, writing a novel was the one thing I wanted to do. But I never did anything about it ‘til about 12 years ago. I signed up for a writer’s workshop up in the mountains. The first assignment was to interview one of your characters. After class, I went up to Lynn York, a wonderful teacher, and said, “I’ve got to admit, I haven’t started. I don’t have any characters.” She gave me one of those steely teacher glares and said, “You will.” 

How have you been staying creative during the pandemic? 

I’m trying to do fast writing—some people call them “morning pages”—which is kind of how the book evolved. I had outlined, in great detail, a mystery novel one time. And when I finished I was like, there’s no point in writing! For Play On! I just sat down every day and wrote whatever came to mind. And I just kept going and going, and I had so much fun. At some point, I had over 700 pages. 

What would you like to see, when it comes to age representation?

I think folks who are aging are just the same as folks at every age, and we’ve treated them as a separate category. In terms of the big things—loves and disappointments and friendship and creativity—they’re the very same folks. Sometimes, in the reporting about COVID, I feel there’s a putting-in-a-box of people in retirement communities. They become a statistic as a result of that. I want to go back to seeing them as human beings. And when I say them, that’s silly, because I’m in the same age group.

What’s it been like to publish during this time? 

It’s been very exciting. I’ve lived in Durham for over 40 years, and I got to do a reading at the Regulator. It had always been one of my desires to be one of the readers. I don’t know if you remember when they used to do the readings downstairs, and they used to have the author’s photos on the wall? I would sit there and imagine my photo on the wall. But the wall got pretty full, and it was like, oh my gosh, are they going to have room when I finally get around to writing?

Is your picture on the Regulator wall now? 

Well, they don’t do the readings downstairs anymore. But I could sneak down and put it there.

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