Tuesday, December 27, 2005
A recent discussion over at Ray Banks' blog centered on why his list of favorite authors was so y-chromosome heavy. This prompted some great suggestions. Take a look at his post about getting in touch with his feminine side at http://thesaturdayboy.typepad.com/
As for living in a single sex ghetto, I'm as guilty as the next guy. I got ten books for Christmas and not one by a woman. Shame. But I've read the big names, you know who they are, and was disappointed. Next year I promise to try again, starting with Sara Gran.
In the discussion, I clumsily introduced something I've noticed but not seen discussed anywhere else, and that's Joe Konrath's non-specific gender marketing of his Jack Daniels series. Ray gave me the following holiday smack-down:
"Sorry, don't do marketing. Do writing. Don't care what gender the reader is, and I'm not about to start calling myself RS Banks to git the laydez."
Stung, I limped away, but I'm still curious if anyone else has talked about this and I'm just late to the party. I can't write with an audience in mind. Like Ray, I just try to write the best damn book I can write and hope it finds readers who will like what I've written. But this is a business, and craft aside, we have to sell books. It looks to me like Joe has consciously tried to attract the larger audience of female readers, partly by salting his serial killer mysteries with his heroine's relationship problems.
I'm not going to get into whether Joe is successful or not. You can make up your own mind and Joe's numbers are sure better than mine.
But I was reading The White Trilogy by Ken Bruen this weekend and in a particularly beautiful chapter he gets inside the head of one his characters, a woman cop named Falls, who knows better but can't help having a brief fling with a charming, poetry writing philanderer. Bruen is so honest and writes so beautifully about this character's hopes for this hopeless relationship, that it makes almost every other male writer (as well as most women writers, to be honest) seem ham-handed and stumbling when it comes to such universal human emotions.
It's unfair, I know, to compare anyone to Ken Bruen, an astonishing talent, but I think his novels must surely cross gender lines. He's too good not to.
As for the rest of us, struggling to write honestly and with some understanding of our fellow humans, why do women writers appeal mostly to women and men to men? What is it about our fiction that splits along these gender lines?
I know this is a large and potentially mine-filled topic, but I'd welcome your thoughts.