I am a woman writing a series in first person, present tense from a man’s viewpoint. The voice came to me clearly from the beginning and I feel like I know Samuel intimately, since he lives inside my head. I have a couple of men in my writers group who point out to me if I write something that doesn’t “sound” like a man would think that way or do something that Samuel does. I wonder if men do the same thing—ask women if the “voice” or the action or the thoughts of the women they are writing is correct? I suspect it happens rarely.
My name is gender-neutral so some of my readers have assumed I was a man. Here’s a comment from one of the first reviews I received. This is from Lee Lofland, a former cop who writes a daily blog and runs the Writers’ Police Academy:
“Terry Shames tackles her first book from the perspective of a male protagonist. Normally, I can tell when one gender writes as the other, but not with seasoned authors like J.A. Jance who, by the way, is one of the best in the business, if not the best. Shames can now join the very small group of authors who’ve fooled me, and that’s a good thing.”
A fan wrote to my publisher and said she loved my books and “would read anything he writes.”
I don’t mind being mistaken for a man writing a man—but I wonder how often a man writing from a woman’s viewpoint is assumed to be a woman? Somehow, the expectation seems to be that a man can write easily from a woman’s viewpoint, but that women have a harder time doing the opposite. I absolutely do not think this is true. I think it’s the self-assurance of the male writer that infuses his work and convinces people to believe he understands how a woman thinks and acts. If you write with enough assurance, you can persuade a lot of people. I don’t mean that every male writer is assured that all is work is wonderful. What I mean is that men have been writing “women” for so long, that the expectation is that they get it right.
In fact, I wonder if some of the things women believe about themselves comes from having read fiction written by men, and being willing to see themselves through that prism.
I’ve written two books from a female viewpoint, and when they come out, I’ll be curious to know if I get letters from people who assume from my name that I’m a man and that they admire me for “fooling them.”