Characters, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Publish, Query, Theme, Writing

What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?

Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”

Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.

Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.

In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.

But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?

I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.

Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?

Could you?

With a goat?

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Books, Fiction, Horror, Musings, Reading, Reflections

How I read from there to here!

Recently, I’ve been thinking of all the books I’ve read in my life … not that I can actually remember them all—or even a third. Specifically, I’ve thought of different categories of books and when I read them. While waiting for my first son to be born I read the likes of Updike, Angelou, and Bradbury. By the time my second son was born, less than two years after the first, I used my reading time mostly to escape with Holt, du Maurier, and Clark.

They looked like angels.

Fast forward a few years and two more sons. As I recall, at that time, my tastes in reading seemed to fall mainly in two categories: horror and humor. Hello, King and Bombeck. This probably makes perfect sense to any mothers reading this.

By that time, I was also heavily involved in the church and that’s when non-fiction began to outweigh fiction. For the next 20+ years, I read far less fiction. Oddly—or maybe not—my fiction choices during that time were almost exclusively horror. I ended that period with two large bookcases, one filled with religious books and the other with King, Straub, Rice, Harris, and non-fiction books on the supernatural.

They might kill me for this one, circa 1993!

Then, my sons were grown and I rediscovered fiction. I eased in with Auel, Binchy, Gabaldon and then, I discovered my true love—Southern fiction—in the likes of Tyler, Reynolds, Smith, Walker.  When one future daughter-in-law recommended I widen my reading scope, I discovered books most of you had probably read when they were on the bestsellers list: Marquez, Russo, Hijuelos, Proulx, McCullers, and short story collections by O’Connor and Munro. The floodgates open, it seems now I discover a new favorite fiction author every week.

How about you? Has your adult reading path meandered or or been straight and sure?

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