Monday, 29 October 2012

It's a Man's World...

I have gender issues.

In my book, not in real life. But you have to admit that that line got your attention, right?  No don't worry, I'm pretty secure in my own femininity in real life, it's when I'm writing that my gender issues have started to show up.

As seen from my most recent blog post I've always written  (cringeworthy) books from a very young age and my main characters were always women. I was very rigid in following that whole "write what you know" rule. So much so that my main character always had brown hair and brown eyes with a shy and sweet persona... sounds familiar! All my sub characters were women too. In fact I don't think there were any men featured in any of my early works. I think I was far too preoccupied with the idea of even speaking to my boys in my early teens to even consider getting into their minds.

Fast forward 10 years and things have changed dramatically. I no longer write what I know. My current book circles around life after death (of which I have no experience) and my main character is a man (of which I definitely have no experience!). Yet when I first thought up my plot, it was a given that my main character would be a man; there was never the slightest possibility of writing it as a woman.

First of all, I've found that men are easier to write - lets call a spade a spade and admit that they're a simpler creature than women. They don't analyse, obsess and bitch like women do (well at least not to the extent as women). And I don't mean to offend any of my sisters out there with the following generalising, sweeping statement but it essentially boils down to this: women think, men do. And my book is a thriller, therefore I need a do-er. And David is, fortunately, a do-er. Easy choice!

I really hope I'm not exiled from the female community after writing that paragraph...

Secondly, in terms of marketing and potential publishing (ha!) I really can't think of a successful thriller with a female as the lead. Seriously, I'm not joking now, I genuinely can't think of a blockbuster style book with a female lead. Sure chick lit books are filled with strong female characters but my book isn't chick lit. I hope that it will appeal to a wide audience - regardless of gender, age and heritage.

Two blockbusters from the last century - Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and both have male leads. Two other recent successes include the Hunger Games and the Dragon Tattoo series. Admittedly, both of these series have women as their main characters but both are accompanied by men in the lead roles.

Case in point, I recently asked my other half if he would still read my novel if I wrote David as a woman. There was a long pause (during which the cogs in his brain whirred) and he eventually responded saying "I don't think I've ever read a book with a female lead". May I add that this is a man who is rarely without a book in his hands.

It reminds me of JK Rowling and EL James' situations; both hugely successful writers, both writing under initials, both women. They have both admitted to using initials because they felt that writing openly as women could potentially hinder the reception and subsequent sales of their works.

Personally, I feel that there's something quite sad about the need for women to do that even though I'll be honest in that I've certainly considered writing under my initials, or even a pseudonym.

But then consider the incredible success that these women have achieved, regardless of their gender. I suppose it just goes to show that talent crosses all boundaries - gender, age, heritage, culture. If you have it, you have it. But there may be something to be said for writing under a pseudonym and keeping your gender a secret from your readers. At least until they've bought the book!

So in the meantime, I'll continue to conform with my gender stereotypes by writing my book with a man in the lead role and maybe consider coming up with a pseudonym... Now that could be a nice creative outlet for me... :)