Today I (Kim) would like to introduce Vaughn Roycroft, an epic fantasy writer I met through the Writer Unboxed group on Facebook, where we are both on the moderating team. He is a frequent commenter on our posts here at What Women Write and, having beta read the first book in his trilogy, I can say he's not bragging when he says the Skolani will greatly appeal to women. (I'll let him explain why.)
Brave or Foolish? Yep, besides being a writer, I’m a dude. And I’m here on a blog called What Women Write talking about what women read. As of this moment, I haven’t decided if this idea is brilliant or daft. I’m leaning toward the latter, but what the heck. It’s almost Independence Day here in the US, so I might as well light this thing up and see if it’s a lovely skyrocket or a complete dud.
Why Should I Care? After all, as I already mentioned, I’m a dude. And it’s summer—high season for poolside page-turning. I’m all for reading whatever inflates your air-mattress, no matter who you are. As long as you’re reading, I’m all for it.
I must admit, I hadn’t thought much about who reads what prior to finishing a draft of my trilogy of epic fantasy manuscripts. Then I suddenly had beta-readers, and a funny thing started to happen. It happened so slowly, I didn’t notice at first. It took a brilliant post by my mentor, Cathy Yardley, to yank it to the forefront of my oh-so-observant male consciousness. Do You Know Your “Right Reader?” forced me to examine the facts. Of the trilogy’s dozen or so readers, the ones for whom the work best resonated were preponderantly women. And it’s only become more evident since. It seems my Right Reader is female.
Who knew? Not me. I’m not sure why this initially bothered me. Maybe I was just surprised. But my business background soon brought me back to my senses. I knew the importance of a target market. I realized not only that I shouldn’t be bothered, but that I should gladly embrace it. As Cathy points out, your Right Readers aren’t going to be your only readers. But they will be your advocates. And in a business driven by word-of-mouth and recommendation, that’s a priceless commodity.
|Image by Iwan Nikolaevich Kramskoj - 1866|
Women Really Read This Stuff? I guess that the surprise was due to my genre—epic historical fantasy. I mean, I did not spare the battle scenes or violence. And my work is loaded with all the usual geeky tropes, like foreign-sounding names and special swords (heck, I even have special swords with foreign-sounding names). But I’ve come see it should not have been a surprise—for several reasons.
#1- Diversity: (This one will be obvious to the readers of WWW.) Of course women are as diverse in their tastes as men. So, of course, their reading and writing preferences are going to be just as diverse, if not moreso. (Forgive me, guys, but since I’ve been monitoring gender trends, I’ve met far more women who read widely, across genres and fiction plus nonfiction, than men. It’s just anecdotal, and maybe simple coincidence, but lately I’ve discussed books with so many men who tell me they only read nonfiction.) Since discovering my Right Readers, I’ve met so many women who both write and read epic fantasy. Maybe this was initially surprising to me because y’all are so much less likely to wear your Frodo Lives tee-shirts in public than us male geeks.
#2- I write strong females: In fact, they’re kickass, if I do say so. One of the most fantastic elements of my work is the creation of an all-female warrior sect called the Skolani. I’ve written about why I created them in a post called Regarding Kickass Warrior Chicks. To quote from the article: “With the addition of the Skolani, I hoped to create a genuine historically-correct atmosphere in which my male and female characters could approach one another with the same respectful consideration as would two males–to have the opportunity for males and females to appraise one another both inside and outside the realm of sexual attraction. I wanted my male and female characters to be friends, comrades, occasionally lovers, or even esteemed foes, all within the context of a believably historical setting.” I suppose it shouldn’t have been a shock that my female characters would appeal to a segment of female readers.
#3- Calgon, take me away! So I’m a guy who likes an occasional lingering bubble-bath. So what? (See? I’ll bet you’re becoming less and less surprised my work appeals to women, huh?) Seriously, as a reader, I want to be transported. I want to be taken somewhere I couldn’t or wouldn’t go in real life. Also, I not only want to feel something while I read, I want to be left feeling something afterward.
Whose Fiction? In an interview by Amy Nathan, my friend Therese Walsh, co-founder of Writer Unboxed, was asked how she defines Women’s Fiction. Therese answered, “For me, women’s fiction makes you reflect on your life in a meaningful way. It isn’t escapist fiction. It isn’t light or even fun. It might make you cry—even sob—then leave you to consider: Why did that touch me like that? What does it say about me that this book resonated so authentically? What have I learned here? Good women’s fiction leads you to a thoughtful place and connects you with your innermost self.” I really like this description. Maybe they should’ve called it “Mostly Women’s Fiction.”
The Total Literary Package: If you take out Therese’s line about escapism, you have my favorite kind of book. I already loved history when I read The Lord of the Rings at age eleven, and fell in love with being transported (escapism, I suppose). And it might have been partly due to reading my mom’s castoffs in my youth—books like The Thornbirds and The Far Pavilions—but not only do I love the way historical settings transport me, I also enjoy the emotional evocation of an entwined romance element within an epic tale. Wrap all of that up for me; I’ll take it. Set me poolside and I’m a happy reader.
And I attempted to write the kind of story I love to read. So if this is something I share with a segment of female readers, I’m thrilled. Since discovering my Right Reader, I can say something my geeky high-school self would’ve never dreamed to ever be remotely accurate: “Chicks dig me.”
Now it’s your turn. Feel free to set me straight. Am I being brave or foolish to presume to tell the readers of What Women Write about what women read?
About Vaughn Roycroft:
In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and storytelling. After college, life intervened, and rather than writing fantasy fiction, Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ he and his wife left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their getaway cottage near their favorite shore, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. In addition to polishing his epic fantasy trilogy, Vaughn is a moderator for the Writer Unboxed Facebook Community as well as a regular contributor to the WU newsletter, Writer Inboxed.
Get a glimpse into Vaughn’s writerly world at vaughnroycroftblog.com.