I was talking to another (female) YA author a few weeks ago, both of us bemoaning the fact that we’d both crashed to a halt at similar points in our new books-in-progress, and at roughly the same time too.
The funny thing was, we had both come to the same conclusion about the reason. We’d just left behind male characters: boys we’d grown terribly fond of. Two of them, in my case, who both told their stories straight into my head. We agreed it was almost easy, the way they’d taken over the narrative, to the extent that they wouldn’t shut up. They wrote themselves, the little beggars.
So this other writer and I had both moved on to new protagonists, and the new protagonists were female, and everything had crunched to a miserable halt. This had got to such a disastrous point for me that I’d just had to switch viewpoints midstream and flip over into the boyfriend’s head. I need to be in love: is that all it is? How shallow of me.
I’m not trying to draw any conclusions from this. I’ve heard some male authors say they don’t feel they can write from a female perspective, not because they ‘can’t’ in a technical sense, but because they don’t feel they have some nebulous ‘right’ to do so. Yet so many men write women convincingly and beautifully. At the same time I wonder if any fella would feel offended by me having the cheek to write ‘as’ a fella.
So all I’m doing here is wondering. Do other writers prefer to write the opposite sex, or their own? Is one easier than the other for you? Would you ever hesitate? Does the gender of an author make you take a doubtful breath if their protagonist is the opposite sex, or don’t you care in the slightest?
Anyway. A very heroic postie staggered across the four-foot snow mountain outside my door yesterday (I’ve stopped shovelling; it felt like an almost suicidal defiance of the gods) to deliver Keren David’s debut novel When I Was Joe (for it was she, the author I mentioned). I’ve already read the first three chapters and I’m already addicted – yes, to its totally convincing cross-gender portrait of a young male.
(And why James Dean and Billy Crudup? Oh, just because I felt like it...)