‘Women shouldn’t just disappear when they get to a certain age’ – BBC News
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‘Women shouldn’t just disappear when they get to a certain age’ – BBC News

Image source, Alex Pope/BBC

Image caption, Author Ruth Hogan takes inspiration from her home town of Bedford

  • Author, Alex Pope
  • Role, BBC News, in Bedford

A bestselling author says older women are “relevant”, and “shouldn’t just curl up and disappear when they get to a certain age”.

Ruth Hogan, 63, from Bedford, said the main character in her latest book, The Phoenix Ballroom, is about the same age as Cher, “who you would never describe as an elderly lady”.

She saw her first book, The Keeper of Lost Things, published in her 50s in 2016, just four years after she was diagnosed with cancer.

“There is this thing about women, once they get past a certain age, they become less visible and they have less of a voice, and I think it’s ridiculous,” she said.

“Think of people like Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, they’re still really vibrant, they’re sexy, they have a voice.”

Image source, Alex Pope/BBC

Image caption, Ruth sitting close to where the building that inspired The Phoenix Ballroom used to stand, by the Bedford Swan Hotel

Hogan said she wanted her fifth book to be “realistic” and she based it in the town where she was born and bred.

“I set out to give Bedford a bit of a cheer in this book,” she added.

“It’s a story full of hope, it’s really for anyone who thinks it’s too late because it’s never too late.

“You should not think that when you get to a certain age, you give up, you keep going, I was not published until I was over 50, so I’ve got a whole new life now and if I can do it, anyone can.”

Image source, Alex Pope/BBC

Image caption, The book features an alleyway next to The Embankment pub and hotel, which in the book is renamed The Bubble and Squeak

Her four earlier books, including The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel and Madame Burova, have sold more than two million copies, her publisher said.

The Phoenix Ballroom is based around an abandoned venue, inspired by an Art Deco building on the town’s Embankment that was demolished in the 1980s.

She said it was built as an indoor roller-skating rink, then became a cinema, a garage, and a “Café Dansant” – a café and dance hall.

She remembered queuing there as a child for the matinee of The Aristocats.

Image source, Alex Pope/BBC

Image caption, The former bowl’s club, by Russell Park, features in the book

“I think there’s something a little bit spooky and a little bit magical about an abandoned ballroom. I always think buildings hold stories,” she said.

“It’s almost a memorial to all the stories that [the building] held.”

The main goal of her books is to “champion underdogs, I often write about people who are different in some way, who are described as ‘cracked in the kiln’, who live on the edges of society”, she said.

She also hopes the book acts as a tourism boost.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if people came to Bedford to see where I set it,” she added.

Image source, Alex Pope/BBC

Image caption, A lot of the book features the town’s Embankment, where Venetia lives
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