Girl’s stories vs boy’s stories

Posted: September 14, 2010 in Children's fiction, Henry Hoey Hobson, Reading
Tags: , , , ,

As a kid, I loved reading Zane Grey westerns and Jack London adventures

I’d ride horses bareback and fight boys with sticks, then retire to my room with my uber-Barbie (the one with the swivel waist and the bendable knees).

I devoured Jane Eyre, Ann of Green Gables and Little Women with the same avid obsession as Reach for the Sky, the true story of Douglas Bader, the legless World War II fighter pilot.

In my dreams I was Black Canary from the Justice League of America comics, but it was Green Lantern’s motto that I would chant when alone:

In brightest day and blackest night

No evil Shall escape my sight

For those who worship evil’s might

Beware the power of Green Lantern’s light!

My childhood idols included Catwoman, the Lone Ranger, Emma Peel (for her lethal elegance) and Jane Russell (for her smart mouth).

I grew up to fight with girlfriends over my right to watch Diehard over Passage to India (which admittedly I still haven’t seen). But it didn’t stop me sobbing convulsively all the way home from Driving Miss Daisy.

I read Robert Ludlum and Wilbur Smith long before they became franchises, and would segue seamlessly from John Le Carre to Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.

I’ve never preferred male authors to female authors, or female protagonists to their male counterparts; my lifelong preference is for well-written, strong stories with engaging characters.

So clearly I am the wrong person to ask “Is your latest book for boys or for girls?”

Henry Hoey Hobson is for anyone who ever missed out on the A-team, anyone who ever feared that they might not fit in, anyone who would love to be accepted for simply being him or herself.

And in my book, that would be just about all of us, wouldn’t it?


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Comments
  1. Karen says:

    Chris! A lovely blog. I soooo agree with you. We write in the hope our stories will appeal to readers, not have sex appeal! I struggle with that question in that I really dislike being asked it. I say ‘both’ but I just wish it didn’t come up. Thanks for this! Karen xx

    • chrisbongers says:

      Thanks Karen, it’s a shame that books often have a gender-bias in the marketing and packaging. It would take a brave boy to read a book with a “girly” cover on the bus, whereas it’s not quite as intimidating for girls in the reverse situation.

  2. Lynne the Lurker says:

    Why do people want to pigeonhole everything?

    Why is Western society so bipolar? I prefer both cats and dogs as pets, drink tea and coffee, and believe a good story can please both boys and girls.

  3. chrisbongers says:

    I totally agree, Lynne. I wish the marketers did. 😦

  4. umlando says:

    I’m wrestling with this both as a publisher and an author.

    The publishing is chapter books for struggling and reluctant readers, and with that group trending male in the US, at least, I’m pleased I got a 10-title set with female leads into production.

    As an author, I have been trying to write a two-protagonist story just to avoid making it a girls’ book or a boys’ book. (The protagonists are a girl and a boy.) After being blown away by *finally* reading The Hunger Games (just finished at lunch today, two days after starting), I am both encouraged to pick the sister as the main one, and concerned about cutting off the brother by making his monologues all exterior. (HG is written in the first person.)

    Another part of this is whether I, as a male, have the insight to write a female lead. Janet Rowling did fine with Harry Potter, but hid her gender by publishing as “JK.”

    I’m struggling to come up with other examples of gender-crossing authors and protagonists.

  5. chrisbongers says:

    Melina Marchetta’s latest novel, ‘The Piper’s Son’, is told, convincingly, in the voice of 22 year old Tom Mackee. James Roy gets inside the head of a teenage girl in ‘Anonymity Jones’. I’ve just written a novel whose first-person protagonist is a 12 year old boy, Henry Hoey Hobson.
    I think that writing is a lot like acting: if you truly inhabit the character, understand their world, are privy to their desires, motivations and fears, then the character will write him or herself.
    Graham Greene once said that the moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.
    (Or her, as the case may be. :))

  6. jason nahrung says:

    OMG I think I have that Detective Comic!!

  7. […] Her last offering, Life in Outer Space, was one of my favourite YA reads last year, and I am expecting incredible things from her new heroine, the comic-loving Cinnamon Girl (which ticks all my boxes given my comic obsessed past). […]

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