Finding Humor in Aging


Jill Orr, formerly solely a mystery-genre writer, decided to step out of her comfort zone this fall and launch a new humor non-fiction gift book, How Not to Be Old (Even if You Are). Orr’s first foray into the world of humorous books explores how those across different generations interact with each other and pokes a little lighthearted fun at some commonalities and differences that most of us know far too well. We met with her to get the scoop on her new release, as well as what she’s got up her (book) sleeve for 2021.

Inside Columbia: Tell me a little bit about your newest release.

Jill Orr: “I had talked with my publisher about doing a humor book together, but we never found the right topic. Then, I started realizing 90% of my conversations with friends were all about getting older, whether we were complaining about it or just commenting on the fact that we feel like we’re still 25 but don’t look or move like we are. And I thought maybe this is the idea we have been looking for, so I threw it out to my publishers, and they were super into it.”

IC: What was your goal with this book?

Orr: “We decided we didn’t want it to just be a book making fun of middle-aged people, but rather about the interplay between the different generations — how Millennials relate to Generation X and Boomers and Generation Z and vice versa. There’s this interesting alchemy that takes place between generations and most of the time it’s pretty darn funny. We also wanted to make sure it is relatable to younger people, including those in their 20s, so that you’re laughing with your mom or your grandma.”

IC: This is your first time writing an illustration-based book. What did that process look like?

Orr: “My publisher hired an illustrator, Kate Wong, who is based out of the Pacific northwest. Actually, my editor art directed the book, so the illustrator and I had a little bit of contact, like when we were deciding what to do for the step about rolling your eyes when people talk about the environment. It was a super interesting process, and her illustrations elevate the book in a way I couldn’t have even imagined. The other thing is because it was illustrated, I wrote it in Google Documents. When you write a novel, you write and edit, edit, edit and no one sees it until it’s as close to good and perfect as you can get it. But, because we needed to get going on illustrations, everyone could see my draft in real time, so it was awkward at times. You can spend a week crafting a single sentence, and they were catching me do that; we were doing it together in real time. Overall it took me about eight weeks from start to finish for this book, and a novel I could easily spend eight to 12 months on.”

IC: Looking ahead to 2021, do you have anything already in the works?

Orr: “I’d love to do another gift humor book, and I do have another idea: It would be a follow-up called How Not to Be an A-hole. I feel like there’s a lot of inspiration out there for that one. “Otherwise I am writing and working on another novel that’s still in the pretty early stages — most likely a romantic comedy. It will likely be a standalone book since the hallmark of any kind of romance or romantic comedy is that happily ever after that the book has to have or point toward. But, having not completed it yet, who knows? If I hit upon a character that I’m not finished with, you never know where it will go.”

How Not to Be Old (Even if You Are) was released Nov. 10 and is available at Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, as well as online at various retailers.

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