Two factors recently made me wonder if fiction could be categorized into male and female.
First, two weeks ago James Franco’s summer reading list came out and he received some flack because it was almost entirely male authors. Second, based on a couple agent rejections, I’m worried how my historical fiction is being viewed–both as a female author and because of a male protagonist. Historical novels authored by women often have female leads and are targeted toward female readers. (Like The Other Boleyn Girl.) They are often represented by agents who also handle romance, not military non-fiction. In reality, my novel has more battles than bodice-ripping (think, Jeff Shaara), but would that alone make it male-focused fiction?
I am clearly not a dude. So in an effort to explore the topic, I spoke with Don Houts of the blog MenReadingBooks. In this three-part blog series, “West Coast Don” and I will talk about:
I: What men’s fiction is and isn’t.
II: What makes it great.
III: Why we (all) should read it.
MEN’S FICTION PART I: WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T
Karen: So, what would you consider men’s fiction?
Don: It’s easier to define what it’s not. It isn’t overly detailed about relationship stuff. That’s not to say it doesn’t include it, like in Kathryn Stockart’s The Help. But drilling down on relationships just isn’t the focus. Her story primarily captured the human experience of racism from different perspectives.
Karen: She is one of a handful of female authors included in a very long-list of male authors on your site.
Don: I would guess close to 90% of books that appeal to men, are written by men. But women like Louise Penny are in there. She’s an example of how women don’t need to write like they think a man would write in order to appeal to men. She has a feminine touch, yet she doesn’t try too hard. Her fiction is not brutal or grisly. Even male authors can overdo that.
Karen: Colleen McCullough with her factual-fiction about Julius Caesar might be considered male-fiction. Is that partly because of the genre? Or is it her historically accurate details?
Don: Often male fiction is historical. Or it’s crime. Thrillers. War. Some mystery. But again, it’s about the content. It’s about how artfully the amount of detail is handled. Academic books are often too dense. It doesn’t always have to, but men’s fiction tends to inform like non-fiction. Dan Brown is a good example of fiction that includes a large volume of data, but in a way that’s compelling.
Next week in Part II, Don and I will discuss what makes men’s fiction great.
In the meantime, readers, do you read what you would consider to be male fiction? If so, why do you think it’s male fiction? Or is there a distinction to you?