Kendra here: I met Jeremy in 2009 at Thrillerfest in NYC. My husband is a huge fan and has even played video games in Jeremy’s home. On our trip to the Northeast last summer, high on our list was to meet up with Jeremy for dinner. Comment for the giveaway at the end of the blog!
If my Aerosmith inspired blog post title didn’t impress you enough, here’s a quick rundown of who I am. I’ve written more than 30 novels and novellas under two names, Jeremy Robinson and Jeremy Bishop. Jeremy Robinson is published by Thomas Dunne Books, a hardcover imprint of St. Martin’s Press. Jeremy Bishop is published by 47 North, one of Amazon’s imprints. In addition to all that, I self-publish (under both names) between 3 – 5 novels or novellas per year, some with co-authors.
In 2011 I self-published my first Jeremy Bishop novel, Torment, a torturous horror novel that was far darker than anything I’d ever written before. Picture Dante’s Inferno mixed with a zombie novel on acid splattered in the blood of three hundred sacrificial bunny rabbits. During the three months it took to write the book, I became seriously stressed and a heaviness settled over me like lead blanket. When I was done, I had a #1 horror bestseller, but vowed to never go that dark again. More than that, I decided that my next Jeremy Bishop horror novel would be much more lighthearted.
To achieve this goal, I made three choices. My main character would be sarcastic. I would write in first person to fully explore that humorous personality. And my main character, whose head I would live in for several months, would be a woman. First, because in a long term relationship I prefer the company of women to men. Second, because the main character of Torment was also a woman, and…well, I literally put her through hell and needed some catharsis. Thus, Jane Harper was born.
But let’s be honest. I’m a guy. Not a wood chopping, cigar smoking, raw meat gnawing type, but I do have a beard and sometimes wear flannel. I’ve written female main characters several times before and am fairly well known for writing strong female characters that kick ass, often more than their male counterparts, but I’d never attempted to write in the voice of a woman. Sure, I’d written dialogue for women, but writing an entire book in the voice of a woman was new. And a challenge.
So how did I overcome the handicap of my Y chromosome? Luckily, I have a wife with two X and a sarcastic sense of humor. We talked about how a woman might think, but it was hard for her to put in words. After all, she doesn’t think like a man and the differences aren’t always blatant. So I wrote three chapters of the first Jane Harper novel, The Sentinel, and passed them on to her.
No surprise, Jane sounded like a man. But as my wife read the text, she realized what was wrong. It’s not that I wrote Jane as a man. She was as feminine and womanly as any of my female characters, she just didn’t think like a woman. As my wife read, she made notes along the way and two big revelations emerged. Jane’s voice lacked precise details and personal connections.
Where a man might recall a childhood bully thusly, “That guy Evan was a jerk,” a woman might remember her childhood tormentor’s first, last and middle name, the names of his parents, his sister and dog, the kind of shoes he wore, that he walked like an ape, and the licorice scent of his breath as he demanded lunch money—a dollar seventy-five because it was pizza Wednesday and slices cost .75 each. The extra quarter was for milk. Guys don’t normally think with that kind of detail and personal information. We might recall those details if asked, but they’re not part of our mental narrative. And in that level of detail, there is humor. Sarcasm goes from blunt humor to an art form. Here’s an example from the book’s first chapter:
Jane Harper has just thrown a jar of red paint from an anti-whaling ship to smash against the hull of a whaling ship. This was the original paragraph:
Red gore explodes across the Bliksem’s gray hull. I let out a genuine whoop. Some suppressed side of me finds this fun, and for a moment, I understand the appeal that has thirty, mostly college dropouts, heading out to sea to combat whaling for months at a time.
After my wife revealed what Jane was lacking, this is how the paragraph changed:
Red gore explodes across the Bliksem’s gray hull. I let out a genuine whoop. Some suppressed side of me finds this fun, and for a moment, I understand the appeal that has thirty, mostly college dropouts, heading out to sea to combat whaling for months at a time. It feels like when I egged Jimmy Sweedler’s house after he left the prom with Susan Something. A part of me hopes he got her pregnant, was forced to marry her, and now lives in a trailer infested by rabid chipmunks. But the thirty-three-year- old, responsible part of me just feels bad for his parents, who had to clean up those two dozen eggs.
Yeah, two dozen.
I had anger issues.
Note that I didn’t have to change the first few sentences, but simply added an expanded level of personal connection and detail that adds humor and reveals character. Now, just because I understand the difference, doesn’t mean I was suddenly able to think like a woman. I sometimes would have to go back through a chapter and inject details and personal connections that I forgot to add the first time through. It’s a challenge, but Jane is so fun to write—probably because she sounds like my wife, who really deserves a lot of the credit for Jane’s success.
I self-published The Sentinel in 2012 and Amazon.com’s horror imprint, 47 North, soon took note. The Sentinel has just been re-released with a snazzy new cover and its sequel, The Raven, arrives on August 13, 2013. So a big “thank you” to my wife, for helping this dude write like a lady.
Jeremy’s website: http://www.jeremyrobinsononline.com/
Jeremy is giving away five e-copies of PROJECT NEMESIS. Comment below before midnight PST on 8/8/13 to win. Winners will be randomly selected with Random.org.
READERS: What fantastic male author have you read that writes from a female point-of-view?