Men writing as women. Women writing as men.

Thursday, July 26, 2018 Permalink

Once upon a time female writers had to write under male pseudonyms as it wasn’t appropriate for women to pen… well anything really, under their own names. Think: Emily Bronte writing as Ellis Bell; Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson as Henry Handel Richardson.

Thankfully much has changed since then.

At least I think it has.

I was writing a review on the weekend however and pondered on the whole concept of men writing as women and women writing as men, and / or the benefits of being kinda genderless. #inamannerofspeaking

There’s a group of writers and readers committed to supporting Australian Women Writers. And I think that’s great and I’m pretty sure the initiative started to enhance women’s presence on the Aussie writing stage. (Which is kinda weird as I know of far more female authors than male!)

Anyhoo… as I was reviewing the very good Believe Me by JP Delaney I realised I was using vague pronouns when talking about Delaney. Obviously something twigged in the back of my head from the time I reviewed (his) previous book The Girl Before. British author, Tony Strong, writes as JP Delaney. I googled it to make sure and came across this article in the Guardian.

JD Robb, JP Delaney, Alex Marwood, SJ Watson

It kinda implies that readers prefer female writers in charge of their female characters.

Some of the authors referenced are ones I very much enjoy: Riley Sager, SJ Watson and SK Tremayne. You’ll note they don’t pretend to be female, but in using a gender-neutral name it obviously allows readers to make their own assumptions.

Having said that, the reverse may well be true…. which is possibly why Nora Roberts started her ‘In Death’ series under the moniker JD Robb. And Serena Mackesy writes as Alex Marwood.

A few reviewers commented on how well Michael Robotham wrote his female lead in The Secrets She Keeps, which came out last year…, as if it was surprising.

I don’t think I care whether I’m reading a book written by a male or female. As long as the characters seem authentic, then it’s all good. Similarly I don’t mind if the lead is male or female. Of course I predominantly read thrillers and suspense so women (more than men) are quite often the victims or targets.

There are a gazillion Jack Reachers, Harry Boschs and Jason Bournes out there;  but thankfully an increasing number of Harriet Blues, Helen Graces, and Gemma Woodstocks.

I don’t read much romantic fiction so wonder if it’s something male authors dare venture into. I know I could google it (but… meh) as I’m sure there are (hopefully not having to write under a pseudonym), but the movie Paperback Hero comes to mind.

men writing as women

It’s an Australian movie starring Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan. Blokey-bloke Jack (Hugh) is a truck driver and writes romance novels under the name of his best friend, Ruby Vale… and of course when he / she (both of them) have to travel to do publicity, hilarity (and some romance) ensues.

Of course now my mind (as it is wont to do) is going off on a tangent wondering if there are heterosexual romance novels written from the male point of view? If not, is it because they’re mostly read by females who want to be able to identify with the female lead? Hmmmm…..

Do you care whether you’re reading a book by a male or female author? Do you need to know? Are there genres more suited to one than the other? 

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | And Anyways | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

  • Jo
    July 25, 2018

    I love this topic – & remember that movie well. I think I’d like to write under a male name & write a romance from that perspective – just because I’d like to try.

    • Debbish
      July 29, 2018

      I guess even just writing with the male character as the sole point of view, would be interesting.

  • Jan Wild
    July 26, 2018

    I haven’t given this a lot of thought TBH but on reflection I think I do have a preference for female authors – perhaps it is just about relating more closely to the experience and portrayal. Interesting post Deb.

    • Debbish
      July 29, 2018

      I ponder a little on my predilection for movies / books with lead characters I can relate to and tend to overanalyse my reaction if they’re from another culture or gay etc…

  • leannelc
    July 26, 2018

    I always find fantasy novels written by men focus on the big battle scenes more than the main characters, women tend to flesh out their heroine (usually it’s a girl!) and the other characters more. I must say that I lurrrrrve JD Robb (girl crush big time!) even more than I love Nora Roberts (irony!) and when I think of men and romantic fiction (mushy stuff) Nicholas Sparks always comes to mind for some reason. Great post Deb x

    • Debbish
      July 29, 2018

      I didn’t think of Nicholas Sparks when I was trying to think of male writers of romance! Very true.

      And yes, I love JD Robb!

  • Jodie
    July 27, 2018

    This is always an interesting concept. We went to a writer’s conference, and one of the authors was Lisa, but she wrote as LS (last name). She said because she wrote thrillers, it went over better!!

    • Debbish
      July 29, 2018

      There are certainly quite a few suspense / thriller writers who seem to use initials. I know cos I have to google them often so I can use the correct pronoun in my review (if I need to I mean!).

  • sizzlesue15
    July 27, 2018

    I don’t place importance on the gender of the author, Deb but rather the quality of the writing and the plot. I’ve never actually thought about how some authors use ‘non-gender’ names but now I’ll be reminded of you each time I see a book where the gender is not specific. Have a great week and enjoy!
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    • Debbish
      July 29, 2018

      And I bet you’ll see it all of the time now Sue – that’s what happens to me, I notice it far more often!

  • Kathy Marris
    July 27, 2018

    I think men writing as women do the sex scenes differently, maybe a bit rawer. But otherwise I don’t have a problem with men writing as women or vice versa. JK Rowling is now writing under a pseudonym of Robert Galbraith for a series of detective novels and she does it well.

    • Debbish
      July 29, 2018

      The use of a pseudonym can be interesting…. I read an author who writes under three different names (though three fairly different genres and I only read one of the genres!).

  • Suzy
    July 29, 2018

    I don’t really mind men or women authors as long as the book is well written. Actually I haven’t given this much thought but your post was an interesting read.
    visiting via Lovin’Life

    • Debbish
      August 1, 2018

      Thanks Suzy. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought too much about the gender of the author either but when reviewing the books usually check so I know whether to talk about ‘he’ or ‘she’! 🙂

  • Natalie Peck McNamara
    July 30, 2018

    I think I have made assumptions over the author when choosing a novel. Interesting really how we make our minds up before we even started something.

    • Debbish
      August 1, 2018

      Very true. I think I’d be more prone to make an assumption about a male writing a romance from a female’s point of view…. which is terribly sexist of me!

I'd love to hear your thoughts