By way of not taking my own advice, I’ve been following a few folks on Twitter who, let’s just say, are super into offering advice for authors. Their advice is many times useful. Other times it seems to be they are channeling their pet peeves vis a’ vis “books” and “characters” and turning that into somewhat breathless-sounding snark, vitriol, or even straight up lecturing.
These are Twitter types with plenty of followers. But who, more importantly, have constant interaction and reaction to their every utterance. I mean, I’ve got over 6,000 followers but every time I tweet I can practically hear the echo it makes as it bounces around in an empty virtual room. I’ve discovered that the folks with two to ten thousand followers who average 500 replies or hearts are, usually, traditionally published folks who write books as well as listicles for Buzz Feed and other Buzz-Feedy type blogs. Hence, people know about them. So there you go on that particular life goal.
The tone and tenor of some of the “advice” that bounces around these days amongst these August literary types is rubbing your favorite Pro Rookie the wrong way, I cannot tell a lie. I mean, I enjoy reading the sort of “go you!” and “don’t give up!” or “you can do it!” type tweets from people who can make a living writing books. It’s encouraging to think that they’re thinking of me, toiling away at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. between working for money doing other things. They know I’m looking at those “end of year best of” lists and gnawing my nails to the proverbial quick over them, wondering how I might ever make one. Knowing that luck has passed me by one more year.
But it seems some of these folks believe that, unless you are exactly the same race, gender, body type, and/or life experiencer of the people whose stories you are concocting then you are, in a word, a poser. So let’s break this down a little bit and by break this down I mean let me tell you my experience (this is my post, after all). I write romance novels and in these books, I typically split the point of view evenly between the man and the woman. In other words, I write as a man half the time. Yep. I do.
And I’m not, nor have I ever been, a male human being.
I’ve written several novels about two men in love. I have never been a man (see above) although I have been in love.
I have also written the stories of people who have addictions to heroin or alcohol or sex. I have none of these addictions.
I have also written from the point of view of mixed race women. I am not of mixed race myself. Although I am a woman.
The current trend amongst advice-givers is that I am a big fat poser for doing any of this. Which is kind of weird to me. I mean, I write fiction. I make sh*t up, in other words. I’m not “revealing my fantasies” or any other popular theory about women who write about kissing and sex in books.
I’m making things up.
Mind you, some of this is coming from a place we need to be. The one where more minority voices are actually published so we can hear their stories. I have always sought out books that are not just another white girl and guy falling in love and having babies. I even tend to seek out books that aren’t always romantic. I love thrillers, mysteries, layered family dramas. All those books with “Girl” in the title? Give ‘em to me.
I’ve always loved what’s now called “own voices” fiction. People who are non-Caucasian, differently abled, gender fluid, or not American are finally getting their day in the publishing spotlight and are among my favorite authors. I am thrilled that more readers are catching on, even if it means I can’t get my chick lit any serious looks by a trad publisher right now. It’s cool. I get it.
However, what I do not get or appreciate are the Twitter professors who continuously claim MANY TIMES IN ALL CAPS that I am NOT ALLOWED to write about anything other than a white, fifty-plus, size twelve, middle class married female with three kids, two cats, a dog, an SUV, and a mortgage living in Michigan. Because some of these folks would honestly tell me that straight to my face. Any other story I might attempt to tell is illegitimate at best, appropriation at worst.
While I get where this is coming from, I’m not thrilled at all about where it’s going.
I do not consider an author’s gender, race, social standing, college education or lack thereof, day job, or anything else when I am considering a book to read. I consider the book, the plot, the characters and if the (ever elusive) back cover copy catches my attention. If I did consider any or all of those things above, then I guess I can scratch all those Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, John Irving (Ok not him, he always writes about the same porn loving wrestlers, God bless his heart), Margaret Atwood, and Barbara Kingsolver novels right off my list. Which I am not about to do.
Your takeaway this month, dear and loyal Pro Rookie Acolytes? Be careful whose advice you consider valid. Your voice is your voice. Your stories are your stories. And the last time I checked, Mr. King was never a killer clown, Ms Atwood has never been a pregnancy surrogate against her will, and Ms. Rowling is not a witch or a wizard. But their stories have sold and will continue to sell and we are allowed to enjoy them, regardless of who thinks they’re legit for writing them.
***Turns off Mic. Puts Soapbox in the closet. Takes a bow.***
Yours in legitimacy,
P.S. Like many of the Twitter advisors I am bitching about, I am merely offering an opinion. We are all entitled to one.
P.P. S. Check out my upcoming release, Sweet. Bitter. Honey. An erotic romance involving two men in love, and the woman who kind of upsets their applecart. I write from all three perspectives and one of the men is a blind veteran suffering from PTSD so consider this your warning: I am none of these things. But I really know how to research stuff!