Do women authors get overlooked for the major crime fiction awards? Are they less likely to be reviewed by the most prestigious media outlets? Those questions prompted Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, Betty Francis, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard and Susan Dunlap to form Sisters in Crime (SinC) at the annual Edgars Week in 1987. The original aim was to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry, but the organization now includes a few "brothers in crime," too.
SinC continues its original mission but also has added newsletters, regional chapters, conference support, annual reports, networking, and mentoring. They also like to have a little fun, which is why this month there is a Sisters in Crime Blog Hop, where authors pick from a few questions and go from there. A couple of those questions intrigued me in particular, so I thought I'd take a stab at them. (Yes, a crime fiction author using "stab" is an intended pun, but no blogs were harmed in the making of this post. I think.)
First, "Which male authors write great women characters? Which female authors write great male characters?"
I never ceased to be amazed at how some readers (maybe a few authors, too), think that it's impossible to write the POV of the opposite gender well. An author spends his/her entire creative experience using their powers of observation and hopping into the minds of good guys and bad guys alike. So why should writing an opposite-gender character be an impossible task? I must admit this question is near and dear to my writing heart, because one of my main protagonists is Scott Drayco, a former pianist turned FBI agent/consultant. I'll also admit there is a wide range of effectiveness in this realm, but good examples aren't hard to find. Here are a few:
Women writing men? Back in the Golden Age, Ngaio Marsh started a series with Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. P.D. James has had tremendous success with her Inspector Adam Dalgliesh series, as has Martha Grimes with Inspector Richard Jury, and Ruth Rendell with Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. More recently, Tana French created memorable characters via her Dublin Murder Squad Detectives Frank Mackey and Stephen Moran, and Karin Slaughter with her GBI Special Agent Will Trent series. Not surprisingly, many of these do tend to be procedurals, where the detective ranks have often been the purview of men.
Men writing women? These are a bit harder to find. Steig Larsson featured Lizabeth Salander in his Millennium Trilogy, although some might argue her character was hardly a typical female role. John Sandford wrote a series with the noirish Clara Rinker, an assassin for hire. Jeffery Deaver penned three novels featuring California Bureau of Investigations body language expert Agent Kathryn Dance. Christopher Darden and Dick Lochte teamed up for books featuring Nicolette (Nikki) Hill, a 30-something black prosecutor in Los Angeles, California. There does seem to be a bit of a pattern here, too - the women characters men write often tend to be of the "kick ass" variety.
Second question, "Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?"
I'll add what I included in a Q&A with D.A. Bale. My protagonist, Scott Drayco, is a former classical pianist whose career was cut short by violence, which is what steered him toward law enforcement instead. Why make him a pianist? I started out with violin lessons at age 3, piano at age 7 (studied for 12 years), and after various other instruments and voice lessons later, I’d earned two music degrees. You’d think such a background means I listen to music when I write, but I find it impossible. To me, music is a foreground experience, especially with classical forms, and listening while writing is too distracting. I often listen *before* I write, though! Not surprisingly, I enjoy music-themed mysteries, and if you're a fan of the subgenre, too, check out this Mystery Readers Journal issue with some examples.
Part of the SinC blog hop is to "tag" other authors you might be interested in, so I thought I'd include some fellow Friday's Forgotten Books folks, namely:
Patti Abbott, who just signed a contract with Polis Books for her upcoming novel Concrete Angel and blogs here.
Hilary Davidson, author of the Lily Moore series and recent standalone thriller, Blood Always Tells, and who maintains an author blog.
Terrie Farley Moran, whose debut novel Well Read, Then Dead was published this July by Berkeley Prime Crime, and who blogs at both Women of Mystery and Criminal Element.