Saturday, September 18, 2010

When You Read Can You Determine The Gender of an Author

Have you ever picked up a book and not paying attention to an author name or any of that and just started to read assuming that the author was a certain gender, for me it's female, then you come across something in the book that screams "whoa- this author is a guy!"

I have several times.

Paranormal romances and urban fantasy books are mostly written by women- so when a new book gets sent my way with an authors name in initials or with a gender ambivalent name like Jess or Jes, I just start reading thinking the author is a woman.

Then something comes across that screams to me- this is not a woman, a woman would never write that or say that.

Several times it has even become glaringly apparent that the author is not only male but a gay male (no worries, I'm not hating, just saying).

Does that ever happen to you? Can you tell the difference in gender based on something as simple as one phrase or line in a book?

Even more astonishing can you tell not only gender but sexual preference from reading their work?

I can usually tell sexual orientation more in erotica or during sex scenes in a romance than an average book with no sex.

One book that comes to mind when I think of this is the Jes Battis book A Flash of Hex. I received it for review and was reading it thinking it by a woman (it even has a lead female protagonist) then out of nowhere some line or phrase screamed- nope not female. I turned to the back of the book and quickly had my suspicions confirmed.

Don't take this wrong I am not saying I didn't enjoy the book- in fact I liked it quite a bit and hope to read more in the OSI series, I love the combo of magic and forensics.

I just thought it odd that I suddenly could tell gender and sexual orientation from something casually written in the lines of the story.

But now I look for things like that- search for tell tale signs that someone is writing under a pen name or is actually a man when I assumed they were a woman or vice versa.

The only books I have had trouble telling whether the author is male or female have been M.L.N Hanover's.

I absolutely am addicted to The Black Sun's Daughter series. Fabulous. (anxiously awaiting book 3 due out in November- Vicious Grace)

But I honestly can't pick out anything that says male or female.

At first I thought female just because of the genre then I read on another site where someone was asking male or female. Then I heard M.L.N. Hanover is actually the pseudonym for author Daniel Abraham.

Wow. I was surprised. With a lead female protagonist he does an excellent job of writing from a female perspective without making her prissy, unrealistic or just plain off (from a female perspective).

Do you think good writing should disguise a writer's gender and sexuality?

Or do you like to hear the writer's true voice and personality in their writing?


Raven Corinn Carluk said...

I think good writing should end up disguising the gender. If sexual identity shows up in narrative, it's a sign the writer doesn't quite know how to capture the subject.

And I don't mean one or two lines throwing it "off", or giving an "aha" moment.

For example, I'm reading Steamed by Katie MacAlister right now. She keeps switching back and forth between the male and female protagonists. When she's writing as the male, her voice is so glaringly not masculine, and is such a caricature of a man, that I'm having a really difficult time making progress in the book. Even were this book written by "Bob" MacAlister, I'd be able to tell it wasn't a guy writing.

I don't mind the author coming through the narrative. From first person POV, I'd actually prefer it. Just so long as the writing is good. That trumps all else.

Bethany C. said...

I think if writing is 'good' it should be disguised. I'm reading for the stories and characters, not to have the gender of the author be a distraction. Pretty much every book has characters of both genders, so the thoughts, actions, and attitudes of all the characters should be believable. I guess an exception would be erotica, as it's geared to turn on a fairly specific demographic (i.e. straight women, gay men, etc.)
Actually, when I read the first Cal Leandros book by Rob Thurman, I thought she was a guy. Because the protagonists were male, and well, her name is Rob. It didn't occur to me that could be short for Robin, and I'm guessing it was purposefully ambiguous since she had a male protagonist in an overwhelmingly female genre.