Jewish Author Has Older Readers Logging on to Virtual Romance Novel

From religion to romance, one Jewish author has stepped out of the Middle East and into the Midwest for a unique twist on an old pastime.

Naomi Ragen, an American-born novelist who has lived in Jerusalem for almost 30 years, is penning her first novel that does not revolve around a Jewish- oriented plot or Israel.

In “Running,” Ragen is trying her hand at good, old-fashioned romance — but there is nothing old-fashioned about the way her fans can read this novel.

“Running” is being written as an online novel for the new Web site GenerationA.com, an online community specifically designed for Americans age 50 and over.

A new chapter of “Running” appears each week and readers can log on to read a romance story that centers around characters their own ages.

“Why do all romance novels have to be about 20-somethings?” the 50-year-old Ragen asked. “Why can’t people like us have a novel about this age group,” she added. “You don’t have to be a perfect physical specimen to have love in your life.”

GenerationA.com was launched in November because “the older generation is the most underaddressed population segment of the Internet,” said Robert Slater, vice president for strategic development at GenerationA.com.

A friend of Ragen’s for over 10 years, Slater asked her to write the novel because “she’s a great writer of fiction” and “she likes to experiment with other things.”

“I am a great believer that the Internet will change the world,” said Ragen, who added that the online novel has an interactive quality not available to those who read a traditional book.

“It’s almost as if I’m reading the book along with my readers.”

Ragen said there are differences she has to be conscious of while writing an online novel.

“You can’t change anything,” she said of the plot, because a chapter is released each week. “You can’t cancel the baby.

“It’s more like real life.”

The serialized novel, whose first chapter appeared on the Web site on Valentine’s Day, centers around the love life of a divorced woman approaching 50.

The woman, who has one married daughter and a high school-aged son who lives at home, breaks her ankle during a scheduled run. She is rescued by a married, middle-aged man — and the ensuing relationship is the main focus of the novel.

“A tiny little accident can just push you into old age so quickly,” Regan said. “The story is about her coming to terms with older age.”

The secular aspect of the novel forced Regan to stretch her imagination past her usual limits.

“The characters are different than I am,” she said. “It involves imagining completely different ethos.

“There’s an American part of me that hasn’t been able to do that,” Regan added.

Regan has not completed the novel yet but is one or two chapters ahead of her readers. Slater predicts chapters of “Running” will be released for a maximum of four months.

While she has no immediate plans for another online novel, Regan says, “I have no objections to doing this again.”

She is currently working on her fifth book as well, an autobiography which she says “I became a writer to write.”

“I’ve been running away from it for a very long time,” Regan said, but it finally caught up to her. No release date has been set yet.

Regan is the author of four other novels with Jewish themes: “Jephte’s Daughter;” “Sotah,” “The Sacrifice of Tamar” and, most recently, “The Ghost of Hannah Mendes.”

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