Most of my readers will be female. And that’s fine! But it is something I think about…

0138cb8.pngRecently at a panel, someone asked how I envisioned my audience. And I was like, well, when I write I’m envisioning a reader who’s just like me! But…realistically, I know that my reader isn’t going to be me. And I don’t mean that in the sense most writers do, where it’s like, you’re writing for an audience larger than people like you. I mean that people like me probably won’t read my book.

I mean, thirty year old guys don’t read YA novels. And if they do, they definitely don’t read contemporary YA novels about conniving teenage girls. Even teenage guys don’t read those sorts of novels.

Realistically, my novel is going to be read mostly by girls and women who’re between the ages of 15 and 35. Which is great. Jonathan Franzen once made a stink, after his selection by Oprah, when he said he was afraid (I’m paraphrasing) that this would turn off male readers (who he obviously really wanted to reach).

I’m pretty agnostic on the sex of my readers. I honestly don’t care. I like women. I’m dating one. Most of my friends are women. And in my professional life too, it’s all women. I go to YA writer events and there’ll be thirty people, and I’m the only man. Which, again, is not bad (or even awkward), it’s just a thing. So I don’t care what percentage of my readership is male. To me, readers are readers.

But it is something I think about. My readership is different from me. It’s like when I’m writing, I always think, “How will this read to a white person?” Similarly, I think, “How will this read to a woman?” I can’t say exactly how this affects the work, but I’m sure it does.

Another question I get asked is, “Why does your novel have a female protagonist? Did you ever consider writing it with a male protagonist?” And the answer is that I didn’t. My protagonist sprang fully formed into my head. And then people will get all mystical and be like, “Well..I suppose that’s just what the story wanted to be.”

But no, I don’t believe that. Because even if the answer is rooted in the unconscious, I do think there’s a reason that Reshma is female. On the most literal level, it’s because the antecedents for this character–two teenage plagiarists who made national news–were both female. But on a more symbolic and sociocultural level, I think it’s because there’s something about the theme of perfection that ties in very well with how our society conceives of women. There are guys who want to be perfect, but I don’t think that’s part of the masculine ideal in the same way. For women, it really feels like perfection is a necessity. You need to be beautiful and intelligent and successful and nice and popular and beloved–You need all those things.

But at the same time you’re punished for wanting to be perfect. People will call you artificial or robotic. And if you try to project an image of perfection and subsequently fail, then there’s a certain glee in the public reaction. We have this desire for women to be flawless, but we also hate and fear the women who succeed (example: the ocean of hatred that people feel for Gwyneth Paltrow). So yes, I think she’s female for a reason.

 

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, I was going to say something profound about most of my readers being female. Mmmm…I don’t think I have a takeaway point here. Sorry.

4 thoughts on “Most of my readers will be female. And that’s fine! But it is something I think about…

  1. davidperlmutter1

    Wait a minute, lady. I’m A 35 year old guy, and I read the odd YA thing. Just to keep my hand in with what’s going on, as I’m a writer in that category myself, as well as for slightly younger readers, if only due to the chronicle ages of the lead characters of most of my stories, and not the marketing categories they would be arbitrarily slotted into if they were real beings. I want my work to be as real and authentic as it can be if it deserves to have an audience like the one you’re talking about. It doesn’t matter to me what genre it is, or what audience, it’s “supposed” to be for, as long as it looks interesting to me and/or it’s well written. That’s all that matters to me, and all that should matter to any and all readers.

    I’m just saying, try to give some of the guy readers and writers credit for trying to understand you and write about you in a respectful and empowering way. I know I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one writing prose right now that does.

  2. davidperlmutter1

    Sorry about calling you a lady, Rahul. Serves me right for not reading your bio, and not discovering you were a man until I made that post. But I hope you, of all people, will understand what I’m trying to achieve and how hard it is sometimes.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      It’s no problem! I know that plenty of guys read YA, but it is my impression that we are a tiny minority: I think it’s hard to overstate the degree to which the readership of YA is primarily female.

      1. davidperlmutter1

        Which is one of the reason why I think most of the lead series characters I’ve been working with in my stories, and hopefully in novels in the future, are female. That, and television animation, one of my biggest loves and influences, has tended to give the edge in skill and intelligence to the old double x over the past two decades. So it’s no surprise my work has turned that way.

        You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, after all.

        But unlike TVA, I want to get the fellas involved, too. Way too many idiot boys and men in those shows despite all their brilliant creative assets. So I make sure most of my ladies all have at least one good smart and caring guy they can speak to in troubling times, who can be understanding but chastising when need be. A bit like Doctor Who’s lady companions, if you need a comparison. That show knows how to be fair to both sides of the gender divide, which is probably why it’s lasted so long.

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