Monday, August 23, 2010

Women's Fiction is Good Enough For Me!

Hi Girlfriends,

My name is Lori L. Tharps and as of today, August 24, 2010, I can officially call myself a novelist. If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have said I'm an author because I have written two non-fiction books -- Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America and Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain. And please note, I love both of these books and I enjoyed writing them immensely, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my dream has always been to write fiction. And today, my dream has come true. Today, my first novel, Substitute Me hits store shelves.

Substitute Me is truly women's fiction (except for the cover which looks like a Forensic Thriller). The question I wanted to answer in writing this book was, "Can a woman really have it all if she has the right help?"Or, another way of looking at it might be, "What does a woman have to sacrifice in order to have a successful career, a thriving family and a comfortable home?"In Substitute Me, Kate Carter is a modern career woman on her way back to work after an extended maternity leave. Zora Anderson, a 30-year-old college drop-out from a good family,  is the woman Kate hires to be her son's nanny. In alternating chapters we hear from Kate and Zora how the lives of both women and the people they love, are irrevocably altered over the course of one year. One reviewer called the book "a modern-day horror story," while another called it "warm and engaging." I guess it's all in the eye of the reader, but I would definitely place the book in the category of a 'domestic drama.'

Today I had a conversation with a male colleague who heard about my book and he immediately asked, "Is this a book for men?" And I said without hesitation, "no." I wrote it thinking about women, the main characters are women and the issues are ones most women will be able to relate to. Of course I have no problem if men want to read (and/or buy) the book, but I'm not going to boo-hoo if the male species isn't immediately drawn to the material in Substitute Me. That being said, I'm keeping close watch on the recent debates about "women's fiction"being overlooked by reviewers, literary tastemakers and just regular dudes.

Maybe my next novel will feature a male main character that every man in America will relate to, but I seriously doubt it. I'm sure my next novel will feature a female protagonist with an unquenchable sense of wanderlust, a taboo romance and maybe a smidgen of social commentary. Or maybe I might craft a romance as quirky and delicious as Ernessa T. Carter's recent hit, 32 Candles, which I happen to know quite a few guys have admitted to reading and loving as much as their wives. And they didn't even mind being seen with a book with a pretty pink cover.

So, just out of curiosity, what books that could fall into the category of women's fiction, do you think men would enjoy and why?


  1. Wow, that's a great question that I don't have an answer for. You've made me very excited about Substitute Me, though!

  2. I love the premise of your book, Lori. I don't know the answer to your question. I know that when I really love a book I'll tell my husband and father (who are big readers) and they'll both read it and usually love it. (Girl in Translation was the last book I encouraged them to read.)

    As for me, when I hear from the very occasional male fan, it always feels weird. I almost feel like apologizing for writing such a girly book.

  3. WHat a fascinating question--and I share your curiosity about men and reading my books. Mine are definitely woman-oriented, but men (sometimes with a bewildered look)love them. YOu never know! plus, getting insight into how others think is a great and consciousness-raising thing! (I suppose some men think: chick book. And ignore it. Maybe your very scary cover will lure some men to a new experience!)

    The book One Day, for instance--I know a lot of men who say it's one of the best ever. And mightn't that be thought of as "female"?

    Have fun with Substitute Me! Terrific title..and wonderful idea!

  4. "Substitute Me" sounds right up my alley - and congrats on the release! I've been writing for a while and I still feel like a fraud calling myself a writer!
    Just looking at the men I know, it's tough to get them to read anything, let alone anything with a pink cover or about "finding yourself". It's a cliché that unfortunately rings true to me that men (in general) won't read anything too feelings-centric, even though some of the most famous male novelists write books that appeal mainly to women and are very emotional (I'm thinking of Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina to name a few). I think it takes a certain kind of man who can enjoy the subtlety and emotional authenticity of Madame Bovary and frankly, if men refuse to read these types of books because they’d rather read about mutants or explosions, then it’s their loss!

  5. Ooh, I love the premise of your book. Can't wait to read it. And huge CONGRATS on your boor debut!! I always laugh when people call my books "women's fiction" like it's a bad thing. Given that women buy WAY more books than men, read WAY more fiction than men, I think most books probably are written for women. And mine tend to be on the serious side, so I actually hear from plenty of men who liked my book (usually after a woman recommended it to them). Anyway, I try to write the best book I can and if it skews toward women, so be it. I write what I like . . . and I'm a woman.

  6. Congratulations, Lori!

    My husband has read Susan Wigg's contemporary WF and liked it. I can't think of one I've read off the top of my head, but I will give you this: Douglas Kennedy's _Leaving the World_, which is as women's fictiony as can be but was *written* by a man.

  7. Congratulations on the release! So exciting!

  8. Congratulations on your fiction debut, Lori! SUBSTITUTE ME looks great, and the premise sounds so intriguing. You bring up such a great point! When I buy a book, I don't think twice about whether the author is male or female, or whether the main character is a man or woman. I just want a story and people that grip me. It's so bizarre that men DO consider this. I'm not sure why that is (except the old double standard). Would a man say, "Oh, wow, there's a dog narrating this novel called THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. Even though I've heard amazing things about it, I don't think I'll pick that up because I'm not a dog so I couldn't possibly relate." Hmmm.

  9. I'm a beer drinking, (sometimes violent- when someone bullies me in the water), cussing, coarse, high school teaching SOB! But damn it, I just love good books. I took American Bride on a campout with my ranchy dad's group and read it proudly (the cover had a wedding dress). I loved Certain Girls and Jennifer knocked my fuc-ing socks off with her writing.
    So bring on the pink covers, I know who I am and what I like to read. Good books are just that.
    Greg Gutierrez
    Zen and the Art of Surfing

  10. Thanks everybody for the support. I'm getting warm fuzzies all over. I'm so thrilled to be part of this Girlfriend's group of writers. Thanks for inviting me into the club.

    And Greg, represent!!!

  11. "So bring on the pink covers, I know who I am and what I like to read. Good books are just that."

    Go, Greg!!!

  12. I am adding this one to my ever growing TBR list. As for your question, I don't know. I've tried suggesting books to my husband but he doesn't like the relationship issues that most women's fiction tends to include.

  13. Congratulations on your fiction debut! *applause* Enjoy the ride and keep smiling.

    And right now I'm gonna love me some Greg Gutierrez ... what a guy!

  14. Congrats on the first fiction--very exciting day! Regarding men reading our books, I had a man write me last week who was in the hospital waiting for his wife's surgery. He hesitated a long time before buying ASKING FOR MURDER, because the cover looked girly. (Actually, I've seen worse--and it was purple, not pink.:) But then he enjoyed it so much that he tracked down my email and wrote. That kind of feedback feels so good!

    But in general, I don't pass my women's fiction reads on to my husband, I give them to my sister:).

  15. Lori,congrats on your debut novel! I love the cover (which for some reason makes me think of Sleepless in Seattle (and not a forensic thriller!), tho not sure why exactly, especially since that looks like Brooklyn Bridge.)

    I added it to my to-buy list!

  16. I'll have to think about that question - it's a good one.
    Congrats on your new book!

  17. Lori, HUGE congrats on your fiction debut!! Substitute Me sounds wonderful! My husband is a big reader, so I can get him to take a look at women's fiction stories every now and again. He read and found interesting Anita Shreve's The Pilot's Wife, which I enjoyed as well. I think that undercurrent of mystery held his attention :).

  18. Lori
    Congratulations on your first book! What a fantastic moment when the first book comes out. I hope you sell millions and millions of copies.
    Substitute Me sounds like a very fun book.

  19. Lori, congrats on your pub date. I, too, call my work women's fiction. My husband had to basically snatch an ARC from me and insist on reading 32 CANDLES and I always feel a little weird discussing it with guys. But I'm discovering that books are books. Men read E. Lynn Harris, men read women's fiction. It's fine. And I'm curious about how products like the Kindle will open up the market.

    For example man-man fic has just exploded among women, but you never seem to see women reading it on the subway or out in public. So, it seems to me that e-readers must be in the mix. And that makes me wonder if more men will start reading more women's fiction in the future, since no will know.

    Right now, I'm imagining a literary novel in which a woman finds her dead husband's e-reader and is surprised by what books she finds there, leading her to wonder if she ever really knew him at all...

    But as for your original question, I think men would enjoy THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, just b/c I can't see a real reader not enjoying the language and intriguing premise of the story. But it definitely has a rather chick lit cover.

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