Monday, December 13, 2010

Jenny is a Sexist

I admit it.

I just started reading Murder Most Frothy. Upon opening the book I was confronted with *gasp* a brief prologue in which the anonymous killer is shooting the hapless victim. I got through the first couple paragraphs (paragraphs about gun models, bullet calibers, etc.) and had the immediate thought: Cleo Coyle is a pen name and the author is a dude.

I have no problem with dude writers--in fact I read quite a lot of dudes. And, in fact, I immediately liked this book better than the previously-read, obviously-written-by-a-woman Scrub-a-Dub Dead. Am I being sexist? Yes, but the response is important, I think.

Immediately I flipped to the About the Author section in which I learned that "Cleo Coyle" is indeed a pen name--for a husband and wife team. So I was at least half right. A dude was definitely involved in the writing of this book.

Does this mean that women can't write spectacular scenes that also explain gun makes and models? Hell no. (In fact, I don't know that the wife portion of the team didn't write the prologue, I'm just sexistly assuming.) It just means that there is a different sound to the writing in this particular book that reads more masculine. I'm not making any judgement call on it. But, as writers, I think that's something to be aware of because it can affect your audience. There's a chance that the masculine tone is even off-putting to some readers of the cozy mystery genre--which is predominately women.

Ali once posted a test where you inserted a piece of writing and it would tell you whether you were a girl or a boy. I consistently got 'boy'--and I tried not to take it too personally. There are some famous and talented men writing out there somewhere. (Easy fellas! Just teasing.)

How about you? Do you lean toward reading a feminine voice or a masculine voice? How do you think your writing speaks to your readers? Manly Man? Gentlewoman? Troubled Teen?

3 comments:

  1. I don't think it is that apparent. I read crime drama written by women that are fairly hard-bitten. To me the difference is mostly in depictions of the opposite sex. I have to actively ignore the depiction of women in a sexual context when I read a male writer. Okay to put it bluntly, sometimes male writers are oriented to a part of themselves that you may guess. But only in certain contexts. However, this is not universal. Some men write without this preoccupation and some women (Lisa Jackson for example) write just like a man in this area. Depictions of guns, cars etc are secondary, in my mind.

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  2. Hi Jenny - I am very happy to tell you that I wrote the prologue alone on that one. Indeed, I often tell Marc, my husband, that "sexist" readers will assume I write the girly stuff and you write the male POV. :) Not true. Not one bit. We've both written independently and created all sorts of characters, both male and female, and we've tried to bring that experience to our present collaboration, but please don't assume that because something involves guns or cops or male POV that it's Marc writing (it's often Alice writing). And, consequently, if the scene involves women, emotion, or cooking Marc may indeed be the one with the pen in hand. What I do think male-female collaboration brings to the party is our revision process. If Marc thinks I’ve done something wrong or "off" in presenting how a man *generally* looks at the world, he’ll advise me; and, vice versa, I'll guide him on the POV of females if I think he's not quite on the mark. Do you suppose this is one of the reasons we’re a cozy series that both men and women tell us they enjoy (at least so far)?

    I love this post! Thank you for giving me the chance to address this!

    Warmest wishes,
    ~ Cleo Coyle
    (a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi who collaborates with her husband, Marc Cerasini, to write the Coffeehouse Mysteries and The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries - we've collaborated on other projects, as well) You can visit us here...
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

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  3. Alice/Cleo!--Thanks so much for addressing this post. Thank you too for proving that you can't judge a voice by its cover. =)

    And I think the revision tactic that you and Marc use is definitely a reason that men and women both enjoy your series. --Though we'll find out in little bit if it has anything to do with your recipes...;)

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