I recently read an article in my local paper, that was discussing the best-selling paperbacks at the moment. I’m sure you have read something like this recently, and I’m not going to bore you with the list again, because the important point that the article made was this; the large majority of bestsellers were both women, and in their forties or older. The article also said that this was a factor. People felt better buying from this demographic and age group because they felt they could trust them more with the writing of a novel.
Also, are all women in that demographic really that good at writing? I know of a novel I tried desperately to read, but couldn’t even finish…it was full of spelling and grammatical errors. The descriptions bored the hell out of me, and the characters had about as much personality as a pancake flattened under a car tyre. (*cough* Twilight *cough*) The writer fitted perfectly into the demographic that people would apparently trust with writing a novel, but I don’t think I’d trust her to write a I.O.U.
Hmmm….also, the article made me slightly worried because I’m twenty-four. Does this mean that if anyone found out my age, they would doubt my ability? I’ve always been more mature for my age (I know lots of people say this though), and I blame that on my childhood, where I had to grow up fast. My boyfriend is considerably older than me (in his forties), and we’ve been together for two years, so we must have found something to talk about. If I talked about things the same way most people my age do, I imagine he would have got pretty bored by now!
But readers don’t know me. They don’t know the way I am. If I was perhaps writing YA fiction it would be a different story. They probably wouldn’t even think I could write children’s books, as I don’t have any children; yet I had to help bring up my two younger brothers from the age of eleven, so I do have a good idea of what children like to read about.
First, they will check a genre. Mine is paranormal romance. Now, the paranormal part is absolutely fine, because that is completely made up, and you can pretty much go with it as you please. But the romance part? Well, that requires heartbreak, and love, and sex, and any other multitude of things that it requires half a lifetime to learn properly. Maybe. Because people, without knowing my age, have said they enjoyed the romance and sex in Conner, that it wasn’t over the top, or too vulgar, but did exactly what it was supposed to. (Read into that as you will ) Then they read further into the blurb, and find that it has elements of a thriller or mystery. In fact, this is where you will find it on the German and French Amazon sites; Thrillers. Again, surely this must be something that has to be learned through quiet knowledge and understanding of a lot of elements, yes? And yet somehow I managed to do this.
Then we come onto gender. Oh, boy. I don’t consider myself a die-hard feminist, but then again….yes, I am.
When I tell women about my book, and explain that not only is it a paranormal romance, but has large elements of non-gory horror in, they usually want to know more. That’s it. When I tell men the same thing, 9 times out of 10 they will ask me a question. The same question.
“Why do you write horror? There’s already romance in the book. Why don’t you just write romance?”
Oh, I’m sorry. You’re quite right, of course. My silly willy ickle fluffy woman brain just couldn’t handle writing anything more scary than a spider running across the floor huh? You think I cower behind the cushions when ‘Casper’ comes on?
Okay, maybe that was a TAD overdramatic. And for the record, I am most definitely NOT saying every man does this. I just happen to know some real chauvinists. But it annoys me more that they say this without having read the book! I challenge that those same men wouldn’t say the same thing about Stephen King right? And I know there are women who do this to men as well. Women who are aghast when a man writes romance. They stare at him uneasily, wondering if he meant that he was in fact gay, and is writing about men only. “No,” he replies confidently, “it’s a man and a woman. And it’s written from her point of view.”
So why do people judge an author by his or her cover? (see what I did there? That’s a take on a phrase!) Gender does not equal what subject you write about, and neither does age! I know several people far older than me who know less, and people far younger than me who know a damn sight more! I understand that we make judgements all the time about how people look, I don’t live under a rock, but I don’t understand how this can possibly apply to books? A book doesn’t have gender, and can successfully cross them. A book never ages, and can be loved by young and old alike. A book is a construct, like a painting or a dramatic scene in a play. Yet an artist or an actor is never too young or old. So why should a writer be?
If you are a fifty year old woman who wants to write a YA mystery novel, you go for it! Are you a sixteen-year old with a great idea for a thriller? You go ahead and write it! Because I personally don’t care what gender you are, or what age you are. Personally, I care whether you are a good writer or not. And that’s it.
But if you are curious to see how well a silly twenty-four year old woman can write, you’re just going to have to buy Conner, aren’t you?