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Saturday, March 31, 2012

On women's fiction, women writers, and initials

I just came across this very interesting, although not particularly surprising, piece in the NY Times about differences in perception and treatment of men and women writers. Not just treatment by readers, but by the whole publishing industry--from cover fonts and art to placement at the bookstores.

Of course this isn't surprising. At the last writers' conference I attended, agents (both male and female) made a big deal about "chick lit"has evolved into "women's fiction." But, the grown up version of chick-lit is still relegated to the bottom shelves, next to the romance novels. Whereas a man and woman might write the same story, the male author will get the more interesting, gender-neutral cover with a bolder title font, and a book blurb with more focus on the action and less on the heroine.

Is it any wonder Joanne K. Rowling wrote as JK rather than Joanne?

Is it any wonder I considered only using LM for Chupacabra?

I don't write chick-lit, I don't write romance, and I don't write about knights riding to the rescue of the damsel in distress. In Marina Melee, George's eventual romantic interest had a very minor role and wasn't even present at the end of the book. The romance was secondary to the madness and mayhem George faced on Sao Jorge. The sex wasn't, but that was separate and apart from the romance. The sex was just part of who George was, right along with the drinking, gambling, and golf. It's a guy's story. It just happens to be written by a woman.

According to the NY Times article, that means the audience who would most enjoy it, who should most read it, won't ever pick it up because it's written by a woman. I don't have any doubt it's true since a male friend who knows I don't have a romantic bone in my body, assumed because I'm a woman writer, Marina Melee must be a romance.

Once again, I'm considering publishing Chupacabra as LM Hinkey, rather than Lynne (that damn "e" keeps prevents any possible ambiguity a "Lynn" has). Maybe I need to find the correct box to put myself in, but for now, it eludes me. The boxes that people expect don't fit. In the south particularly, people expect women to write southern fiction. I don't. I just live here. And I don't write "women's fiction," as I'm expected to do, either. I'm a female writer. And I don't write paranormal romance with vampires and werewolves, even though there is a supernatural beast in my current work.

My paranormal murder-mystery has no romance (okay, the dog is a bit randy), no sex (except for the dog), it isn't set in the south, and the protagonist is a man. True, there are some strong female characters like Kiki, Senora Milagros, and Carmen, but their estrogen-laden presence is balanced by the equally strong testosterone of Jack, Eddie, Flaco, and Norbert Ellis.

For now, I'm holding my breath that the agent I would love more than anything to represent me, and who represents a number of my favorite (male) authors--those who I emulate (at least I try)--will like Chupacabra despite it not fitting in the boxes I've been handed. Of anyone, I would trust her to guide me and my MS through the process to ensure my work is read and marketed as the quirky, satirical look at gods, monsters, and human belief in both of those that it is.

What do you all think? Do women author's get pre-judged and labeled because they're women? Is it just a sad reality of our world that if women authors want men to read their books, they have to use initials or a pseudonym?


  1. Nice post! Thanks. And I put my name: Holly Michael on my blog and everyone who comes thinks I'm a porn star because there's a Holly Michael Porn Star. Sheesh!!!

  2. Well, there's one way to get traffic to your blog - right up there with putting the "p-word" in it!! ; )

    Wondering what that's about - go check out Holly's bog!