This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
The lovely Rupert James has kindly written us a fantastic guest post (Thanks Rupert!) about being a man, writing fiction for Women. His new book Silk is out now, and you can buy it by clicking right here!
When I started writing Silk, a big, sexy novel largely about women, I seriously considered publishing it under a female name. The gender divide in the fiction market is massive: women write women’s fiction, men write for men. Women write chicklit, sagas, romances, while men write thrillers, or poignant memoirs about their fascinating record collections.
In the end, however, I decided to keep my original gender and see how a man would get on in the women’s market. Of course, I’m not the first: in their day, Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins were the most successful producers of “women’s fiction” in the world. But in the last couple of decades, the publishing business has become extremely polarised. There’s a perception that men can’t, or shouldn’t, write about the emotional lives of women. At the time of writing, Silk is in Heat magazine’s top ten books – the only one of the ten written by a man. I fully expect readers and critics to ask “how can you – a man – possibly know how women think/feel/act/have sex?”. Well, I’ve spent a lifetime in the company of women, and you know what? We’re not really that different.
Turn the clock back 150 years, and things were very different. Men dominated fiction to such an extent that a debut novelist called Mary Anne Evans decided to publish under a man’s name in order to be taken seriously. It turned out to be a sound strategy. That novel, Adam Bede, launched its author, George Eliot, very nicely indeed. Circumstances are different today, but the fact remains that fiction is very gender-specific. Evans/Eliot became a man because female writers were regarded as frivolous and shallow. Today, women dominate the fiction market, both as writers and readers – and, if you’re going to have a chance at commercial success, you need to appeal to them.
So am I making a big mistake? Should I have followed my first instinct and done a literary drag act? I don’t think so. For one thing, being a man in this market has novelty value – and, in the words of Gypsy Rose Lee, you gotta have a gimmick. Secondly, I’d like to think that we’re ready to move beyond the pink, fluffy world of chicklit into something a little more grown up, in which there is dialogue between the sexes, rather than a retreat into chocolate/shopping on one side, motors/football on the other.
You’ll find all the girly stuff you could possibly want in Silk – there’s fashion, sex, handsome unsuitable men and a lot of great shoes. But beneath the genre trappings, I hope you’ll also find that there’s an entertaining story with something to get your teeth into – something that looks beyond the usual assumptions about gender and sees all of us – men or women, straight or gay, black or white – as interesting, complicated human beings.