English crime and detective fiction novelist, Phyllis Dorothy James, better known as P.D. James died recently at age 94. She left behind a great legacy and legions of fans.
Born in Oxford, England in 1920, she began working as a civil servant, married, raised a family, and began writing mystery novels in her late 30s. Her most famous creation is perhaps the fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh. James also wrote the novels Children of Men and Death Comes to Pemberley, which have recently been adapted to films.
Here are some of James’ most poignant thoughts on two topics dear to her heart, writing and feminism.
On how to be a writer:
“Learn to write by doing it. Read widely and wisely. Increase your word power. Find your own individual voice though practicing constantly. Go through the world with your eyes and ears open and learn to express that experience in words.”
“I am a feminist in so far as I want a fairer deal for women, equal opportunity, equal pay, a more just society. And I have a great affection for members of my own sex. But it seems to me that some radical feminists today are against men and they dislike being women and I can’t go along with that. The truth is that there are no easy answers to some fundamental questions; we are biologically designed to bear children and the children have great need of us, especially in their early years. This makes it more difficult for women to pursue careers on equal terms with men.
Paradoxically women today have a much harder life than had our mothers and grandmothers, although there is more equality between the sexes. In the past, women had extended families and good reliable nannies. Today we don’t have such help and careers are open to women at the very time when it is difficult to pursue them without risk of damage to their children. As a result women are stretched physically and emotionally, working hard to hold down a job and have a family.”