Last month I read the forthcoming Hard Case Crime novel MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust. This is a fine novel and a great addition to the excellent Hard Case Crime series. My review will posted on my website Mystery Dawg next week.

What I want to discuss is the apparent distinction that the publishing world uses in introducing authors and their work to market. Why is there a distinction made between a male author and a female author. Aren't they both authors? Does saying a book is written by a female mean its a special event? There are many wonderful authors who are female writing in the crime/mystery genre but I only see authors.

What about you? Do see a distinction between male and female authors?

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As far as TV goes, just about every sitcom these days has the husband as a bumbling idiot who is always in trouble and who is always wrong. It's irritatingly obvious now, but you can see it in Home Improvement as well. Tim is always brought to task for his screw ups, yet Jill does the same stuff and the episode completely ignores it. Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, and According to Jim are more recent examples.

So yeah, gender bias definitely works both ways. You just don't hear about the other side as much because men rarely complain about it and women often do not look at both sides of the issue.

Gender bias is also used as a trump card sometimes in order to garner attention/publicity or sway public opinion.
I agree that there ARE psychological differences between men and women, but I disagree that having female protagonists who are "divorced and bitter" equates to gender bias or male bashing. I'm guilty as charged in THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY with much of your characterizations, but my readers find it intriguing to have four single, female characters who are strong of spirit, humor and grace - even if they do walk a fine line between justice and revenge. It is the relationships they have with each other, their families and yes, even the male sidekick/police officer, that makes them most interesting.

My point is that I'm not writing for a male audience and I don't mind if men steer clear of my books. I'm not trying to upend the world here, I'm simply trying to entertain. If I wrote for a mixed audience I suppose I'd have a different take, but from a marketing standpoint I want to be identified as a female author whose books appeal primarily to a female audience.
I think there are definitely 'boy' books and 'girl' books - novels that will appeal more to one sex than the other - just as there are children's books, middle-grade, and young adult. I don't see this as a problem; to me, designations like this are just a marketing distinction, the same as when novels are categorized as mystery, or romance, or chick-lit, or horror. The publishers are just using these labels to try to attract the readers they feel will be the best audience for the book so they can sell them.

No doubt the readership crosses over all the time - I doubt the ten-year-old avid reader reads only novels dubbed as "middle-grade" - heck, when I was ten, I was reading James Michener's HAWAII (and learning all about sex in the process, but that's another subject!).

I write science thrillers, and I'm fully aware that that designation is going to turn off women readers who think they don't like science. I don't see that as a problem, because if they feel that strongly about science that they'd refuse to read a book that's labeled a science thriller, most likely, they wouldn't like my book if they did read it.

I'm also publishing my science thrillers as "Karen Dionne," and not with my initials. I think if a man is so biased against women authors that he has to be tricked into reading my novel, he probably wouldn't like it either. The novel is what it is, and presenting it honestly is I think the best way to find my readers - including the cover blurbs from best-selling male AND female thriller authors.

I think any label has the potential to turn away readers (personally, I have an aversion to cozy mysteries - there's just not enough action for my tastes - and wouldn't read a chick-lit or a women's fiction over a thriller any day), but on the other hand - if readers are so narrow in their tastes that they won't explore a book that's labeled outside their comfort zone, seems to me the problem isn't with the labels, it's the reader's.
Years ago I submitted a short novel to Redbook under a phoney female name as my wife said I couldn't write a romance. Redbook liked the novel and sent it back for me to 'flesh out' into a longer book. I never 'fleshed' it out (whatever that means) and it's been in my 'finish later' file all these years.
To me, the distinction between male and female authors is not what they write but how they write. As a mystery author, I tend to limit my nowadays reading to that genre and their are some great female authors in the field...however, I have a hard time with how much in depth female authors take their descriptive exposition whether it be location, clothing, the food their protagonist eats, etc. Male authors, at least it seems to me, waste little time with such nonsense. A rose is a rose usually holds true for men.
As a sidenote: My wife still thinks the Redbook novel is great. She watchs too many women channels on the boob tube.
I have very mixed feelings about the whole "female author" thing myself. However, I do feel that my gender is relevant in that I'm writing in a genre primarily dominated by male authors and also because I'll be the first woman to be published by Hard Case. I'm deliberately trying to shake up traditional gender biases with my work and while it would be possible to do that without revealing my own gender, I find it easier to address those kinds of issues from what can only be described as an unconventional female perspective.

That being said I recently took one of those online tests that was supposed to reveal my mental gender. I scored as male. I found the questions and conclusions of the test to be pretty suspect but it sure made me giggle. Like a girl.
Aha! A true liberated woman. :)
I don't think there's a male author on earth who could get away with the title Money Shot.
I actually want to write a hardboiled book in the vein of what HCC puts out and asked someone in the industry if it would be impossible for me, as a woman, to sell it. The person, who is an editor with another publisher, who also focuses on hardboiled/noir, told me that the overwhelming percentage of submissions that come in are written by men. Over 90%. So my perception on the outside was as a woman, I couldn't sell this. It was an error in perception - it's really just that not many women are writing that type of book, so if that's your thing, you'll be reading more men.


I agree.

I wonder how many of those 90% of “male” writers are women writing and submitting under a pseudonym. Since I also write in a male-dominated field (gay suspense), I was asked by my publisher to use initials only. Now, I’m not hiding my sex, but I’m not making it obvious either, because (like Angela mentioned above) male readers are less likely to pick up a book written by a woman.
I don't give a shit whether a book is written by a man, a woman, or a hermaphrodite green alien from the Planet Zog. A good book is a good book is a good book. As Sandra says, the vast majority of the books I enjoy the most are written by men. I love noir, hardboiled, warped and funny (if I can get three of those in one book I'm in ecstacy). Of my top 10 authors probably 2 are female (I don't mean they're probably female - they definitely are!). Of my top 20 authors there are probably 5 women - Megan Abbott, Barbara Seranella, Liza Cody, Vera Caspary, Dorothy Hughes. I also like Zoe Sharp and Ruth Dudley Edwards and early Lindsey Davis. I haven't yet read Christa's book but I know I am going to love it.

I don't care for cosies or romantic suspense and most of those ARE written by women. I love PIs and dirty sleazy raunchy bad guys and most of those ARE written by men. I can see the good points and the bad points in both types - the whiny heroine who goes down into the basement without a torch, having received a message from the serial killer to come alone is no worse than the duracell PI who gets shot 17 times and still has enough energy left to shag 5 women before a breakfast of neat whisky and 20 Capstan Extra Strength. I just prefer the stinking PI to the scented amateur (story of my life :o) ). It's just my taste - neither type of book is better than the other. I would dearly love to find some more female authors who write dark books. And I don't mean serial killer dark - neither Mo Hayder's books or Boris Starling's books are to my taste - or psychological dark (I'm not a big fan of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine).

I'm not big on action packed thriller/conspiracy type stuff - which, I suppose, mostly tends to be written by men on the whole - although I can think of a few written by women which chuck in a gorgeous FBI agent and her hunky partner. I don't care for those either.

When I was little it was my Dad who read to me at night time. As a result I grew up loving Biggles and Just William and John Buchan and Jennings and Billy Bunter but I also consider myself a girly girl. I like high heels, I like lipstick, and if you look down my cleavage I'm not going to punch you in the face (within reason!) :o)

A good book for me is one about the characters and the relationships between them (and I don't mean the will they/won't they end up in bed together stuff - I mean the whys and the wherefores) and men do that just as well as women (Eddie Muller, David Corbett, Al Guthrie, Charles Willeford, James M Cain...)

I've seen women on internet lists who say they only read books by women and men who say they only read books by men. I think they're both losing out on some great reads. I don't choose a book by the sex of the author. I want a good story, well told, and I'd happily read it even if it was written by a pantaloon wearing armadillo. If it has the added benefits of being nasty, warped and funny then so much the better.
Here here! You're like my Scottish twin.

Except I'm more of a tomboy.
I'm pretty frustrated by this myself. The fact is that more books are written by women for women (who make up the larger part of the reading public). Women writing for women will often focus on women's issues. They also specialize in certain fields (romance, cozies, romantic historicals, suspense, cat mysteries and feminine hobby mysteries).

Christa Faust is an exception to the rule. But there are many female authors who stay away from strictly feminine topics (and characters) to keep to the middle of road between, say, the cozy and the hard-boiled.
What a tricky topic! Kudos for having the courage to bring it up and out in the open.

As a writer who happens to be female, I've worked hard to maintain a strong and confident voice. That has meant focusing on characters, plot, literary devices, skills and themes, rather than allowing gender to hi-jack my work. Straightforward, declarative prose has been my motto, and I've taken pride in the compliments I've received from both male and female writers and readers for my work.

I have a peeve: I really hate it when a female writer gets caught up in male-bashing, or when a male writer does likewise to females. We are all in this art-form together, no matter what personal approaches we take. When I am reading work by a female author and I encounter hostility toward the other half of the population, I am seldom able to read on. I have as little tolerance when a male writer marginalises a female character for no reason other than being female.

I realise that many great names have been made on the controversy stirred up by that kind of gender bashing. But for me, intolerance of any kind is, well, intolerable.

A male reader whom I greatly respect once told me that I seemed to really understand what motivates men. I took that as a tremendous compliment. I probably didn't deserve the compliment, though.

After all, aren't we all more or less motivated by the same needs?
Donna Carrick

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