As a prologue to this topic, I have to note that Saturday my 4 year old daughter came dashing into my room. “Mommy! What’s your female address?” She was trying to sign up for a Build-a-Bear account online and needed my female address. Er, email.
In the past I’ve written these books with titles like “Choosing Mr. Right,” and “A Little Sisterly Advice,” and “Delicious Conversation.” Nearly alllllllllllllll the readers of these books have been female.
Every once in a while I’d hear from a man somewhere who’d read one of them. And my response was often, “Why?” Maybe his wife made him. On a few occasions I got negative feedback from a male reader, and I’d answer, “You’re not exactly the intended audience.” Every once in a while a man would tell me he read it and liked it. Mindblowing, but made me feel happy, but maybe a little suspicious that he was lying.
So, now I’ve written BIG IN JAPAN. It’s a sports novel, which is lightyears outside my previous genre. There are still some romantic elements, due to my firm and unshakable belief that every good story ends with a kiss, but it’s a male protagonist, told from a man’s point of view, about … sumo wrestling. Not a girly topic. And there are fight scenes. And shoving. And a few kind of gritty parts. Guy stuff.
For this reason, it shouldn’t surprise me to hear back from men who have read the book (for one) or that they enjoy it a lot (for another), but it does. Every time.
Last week I got a sweet facebook message from a lady who said she bought BIG IN JAPAN and took it on a fishing trip with her husband. He grabbed it away while she was putting a pole in the water and she didn’t get it back from him for two days.
Another friend said she insisted her husband just read a few pages, and then he was up until 2 a.m. finishing it.
A few days ago a man tweeted about it, telling people, “Seriously, you need to read this book.”
A guy in his 50s read it a few weeks ago and sent me an email to reminisce about Japan, a place he’d lived in the 1970s. Reading BIG IN JAPAN, he said, was familiar, and the terms I’d used made him feel like he was back there.
How satisfying is this?
And mystifying at the same time. At lunch last week a friend said, “This is your first novel with a male protagonist, isn’t it.” I nodded yes. “Well, you nailed it.”
Yippeeeee! Or would a man say booyah?
But I have a secret.
I couldn’t have done it on my own.
In order to get my male character right, I received a lot of help from a few, select male beta readers. They went through and said, “Uh, Jen, NO guy would say this,” or, “You’re going to have to make this less girly,” or whatever, about the dialogue and some of the content.
There’s a place where one of the sumo wrestlers is talking about the heroine and my original text was something flattering and very complimentary and rather dignified and respectful. My beta reader said, “Nnnno.” His suggestion instead? “That girl can really hang a kimono.” I blushed as I typed it. As a true blue through and through girl I just think differently from a man. Buck wouldn’t have been Buck without guidance.
(This could segue into a whole new topic about why boys need dads, but I won’t go there today.)
So there’s a reason it even approaches “guy novel” status. Guys helped guide it.
So, in honor of them, here’s a shout out to my incredible male beta readers: Paul Johnson (aka The Good Greatsby), D. Corey Sanders (author of Shinar 54), Chris Stewart (author of a zillion bestselling novels) and candidate for U.S. Congress. There were girls too, but today I’m here to celebrate the men who read.
May all their days end with a kiss.