At the LDStorymakers Conference this year, I walked into the ballroom at the beginning of a session and encountered a lady who wouldn’t shake my hand.
We introduced ourselves and I told her I write women’s fiction. I don’t remember her exact words, but she looked me square in the eye and asked, “How are you qualified to write women’s fiction?”
I was perplexed. What qualifies every writer to write anything? I must admit that getting into the mind of women is dangerous, and a difficult journey. Not unlike the first moon landing, and being a man, how can I presume to be successful in this genre?
I stumbled over my answer, not knowing quite what to say. “I’m the only man in a six member critique group and I get insights from my partners?” I could’ve claimed an understanding, and I would’ve liked to claim the title of, Casanova of the Twenty-first Century Book Writing World, but I’m just a man. I think Nicholas Sparks would like to contest that claim, anyway.
I shared my dilemma with my friend, Tristi Pinkston, and she joked, “You should’ve looked her in the eye and said, I’m really a woman.”
I write stories about women, for women, in a way that men would enjoy reading it too. You see, there are differences, but basically there isn’t much separating the sexes. With a few genre specific details, all fiction is pretty much the same. Yes, there are situations women find themselves in that men wouldn’t, but women’s fiction, not romance, is a contemporary story about the struggles and joys of women characters. The secret to success is telling it with resonance to women. Sometimes, that includes romance.
My new friend made me consider the answers to many questions, and sparked a visit into my project files. I’ve written stories about men, but my very first, written twenty years ago, was about a woman who struggles to find balance between the corporate world and her desire to be a singer. A mystery unfolds along the way, and she finds answers to her life’s questions.
The second book, my first LDS market, was a coming of age story about a teenage girl. Pregnancy and a desire to find her own way, spurs a late night flight to a new life in the big city. Through a series of missteps and misplaced trust, she finds herself at the end of her rope, and discovers God.
As I said before, I’ve written male protagonists and testosterone-laden plot lines, but really, women’s fiction is what I’ve always written. So, how am I qualified? After considering many possible answers, I came up with a good response. I write women’s fiction because my characters dictate their stories to me. I am competent, if people find joy in reading them.