Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why Aren't There More?

Last night I attended a presentation by Robert Liparulo. The venue was about an hour from my home, and I rode up with a friend.

Bob's presentation (since I've actually met him, I call him Bob now *grin*), was entertaining and dealt with writing suspense and thrillers. Duh. Now you know why I made the trek.

But it was a question Leslie asked on our way home that got me thinking.

How many big-name—household-name—female suspense/thriller writers can you name? And why aren't there more?

Leslie postured that perhaps men were genetically engineered to write a better thriller.

Now, before you jump all over Leslie, she's one smart cookie, and was only trying to ferret out something that made sense. And since Leslie's background is in the medical field, well . . . her initial suggestion came from an honest place.

And during our drive home, I wasn't able to come up with anything brilliant to offer as an alternative.

But I've thought about it since and have concluded that while the reason isn't gender-based, perhaps it's gender-biased.

I admit, I have room to grow myself. For example, I had to remind myself that Memoirs of a Geisha was written by a man.

There's a reason why groups like Sisters-in-Crime came into being.

It's a question of opportunity. It's a question of awareness. It's also a question of commerce.

What do you think? Are we genetically hard-wired to be better at writing certain types of novels, or is it something else?

CR: Heat Lightning by John Sandford.

It's all better with friends.


  1. I'm not convinced there's a genetic reasons for there being so few big name thriller fiction. I do think there's a cultura bias against it. I've always been attracted to darker fiction and that's what I write. The only publishers I can find who will touch me are the smaller houses of the type not even recognized by MWA. I try not to get pissed that I'm overlooked at a serious writer and just keep producing the best work I can. What else can I do?

  2. There are so many things about this business that create frustration, the only thing I can think of that would be worse would be to write something you really didn't want to write just to get a publishing contract . . . which may or may not ever come.

    Fear of success completely felled me once. i was getting a pretty decent contest submission ready to go, in a genre that no longer did it for me, when I freaked out over the possibility of winning. Would they expect me to keep writing the same thing?

    So, producing work you're proud of? Creating a story from thin air that's compelling? That's a gift.

    It only takes a tiny amount of snow to make a huge difference in the high country. My plan is to spend the next several months focusing on women suspense/thriller writers. I've got a bit of a TBR to work through (I'm anal, I admit it), but I'll be looking a little closer at books I choose to come next.

  3. I'd like to suggest not genetics, but social-conditioning as the prime suspect. Traditional male/female roles remain largely the same, despite 'feminism'. This conditioning affects men too.

    And I abandoned the writing of a certain type of novel many years ago when it dawned on me that if it were ever published, I'd have to do another one!!!


  4. Actually there are a number of women "thriller" writers. They probably aren't recognized as such due to the way their works are marketed.(And due to the way the public perceives books and casts their votes for genres via their spending dollars.) Tami Hoag is one such author that comes to mind. I'm sure you can think of others.

    You might find them shelved under the "romantic suspense" section, or the "suspense" (and little romance). Many of them outsell the male centric thrillers. They just aren't shelved in the thriller section. They're written by women, often with a female audience in mind, but increasingly with a male/female audience.

    Word for word, adrenalin rush for adrenalin rush, I'd say that they are equal to the thriller in every way (granted, some with more romance than others.) They just aren't marketed as "thrillers."

  5. Tami Hoag and Dana Stabenow are on my list of authors to check out.

    I agree the we've been conditioned to have certain expectations, and have to think that someone willing to take a little marketing risk could really cut a big wedge in the male dominated pie.

    And . . . I have a Robin Burcell in my TBR pile!

  6. Maybe it depends on how you think of the genre? Certainly there are lots of men writing techno thrillers and action/suspense. But I would've said there were an equal number of women writing suspense that could be characterized as more psychological or literary: Lisa Unger, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Laura Lippman. There are women who write the former and men who write the latter, of course. But overall, I wonder if the numbers lean toward one gender versus another? I would've said no, although that could be wrong.

  7. Hi Peg...Thanks for coming out to see me the other evening. I had a great time and it was wonderful to meet you.

    In addition to the female thriller writers already mentioned, I recommend: Gayle Lynds, Tess Gerritsen, P.J. Parrish (two women writing as one), Sandra Brown, Lisa Gardner, and MJ Rose (a bit on the racy side). You can find a lot of female authors on the website for the International Thriller Writers: http://www.thrillerwriters.org/

    Take care!