"Oh, I thought you were a woman."
Not a lot of guys would grin if they were told that. I heard it five times...in a span of 40 minutes...by Literary Agents no less!
An explanation is in order.
In early June, I attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. This was my second year attending. In
|Lunch on the beach during the conference|
Although the story is a dual-perspective novel (switches between the female and male protagonists), the first chapter begins with her, Gemma. In fact, the story is Gemma's story. Andre is the agent of change. Also, although one could argue that this is a love story and therefore probably a romance novel, this story is can also pass for women's fiction.
So, to summarize: the pitch to the agents is that the manuscript is women's fiction or romance (depending on what they're looking for), the story begins in the head of my female protagonist, and to top it all off, my name is not the most manly name in the world.
Ara the Barbarian? Ara the Invader? You see what I mean?
Anyway, so as I waited for my first meeting, I began shadow boxing, humming the Rocky theme, and asking myself, "Are you going to bring it? Well are you?"
With that, I entered the lion's den. I found the first agent and marched up to her.
"Hi, I'm Ara. Nice to meet you." Firm handshake. Very manly.
"Oh." Pause. "Nice to meet you too." Pause. A shy grin. "I thought you were a woman."
The first time, my eyes went wide before I grinned. By the fourth one, I was laughing, full of pride.
Why, you ask?
Because I had succeeded in effectively capturing a woman's voice in the opening pages. I had done my job as a writer -- respect the characters. The agents all said the same thing. "You've nailed it," one said. Another said, "Readers may be surprised."
To be fair, this is not an out of the world skill. Successful authors do it all the time. A famous example: JK Rowling is not a teenage boy. You get the point. This is normal and has to be done. We all do it.
But for me, this feedback was monumental. When I set out to write Game of Love, I wanted to tell Gemma's story. Not the way a guy would perceive it, but the way she would perceive her life and the challenges she faced.
I've blogged about this before, and if you don't believe me that's fine. Just believe me when I say that I believe my characters are real. They exist in my head, my thoughts and imagination. My job is to listen to them and put their words on paper, the best way I can.
It appears I did a good job of that--or at a minimum the character is credible. Now all I have to do is convince an agent and then an acquiring editor that the story I've told is a sellable one.
Fight the good fight!