A couple of months ago, I noticed that Peter posted to FaceBook a blog post that he and some other male authors had written giving reasons why females should read their novels.
I’d been feeling this way about my own medical thriller novels—that men weren’t reading them because they were authored by a female and so I posed this idea to Peter that we should trade our books and have a conversation about author gender and readership. I read his western novel West for the Black Hills and Peter read my debut medical thriller, Proof.
1. Have you read this genre before? If not, why not?
Jordyn: I have not read a western novel before. Honestly, I didn’t think I would like them. The vision I had in my mind was of a dusty ranch in the middle of nowhere—what exciting things could happen? I definitely need tension, conflict and mystery in my novels to keep me engaged as a reader. I didn’t think this was the crux of the genre. My preconceived notion was that they were slow, almost literary novels (flowery prose with long sections of description) about the good ole west. I’ve tried to watch a few westerns on television and couldn’t get into them.
Peter: I should have added more tumbleweeds and stray dogs. Ha! Honestly, I get bored with the average western, too.
2. What did you find surprising about the book? About the genre?
Jordyn: What I found most surprising was the things I love about suspense novels are present in this novel. Mystery, intrigue—a few good twists and turns that definitely popped my eyes open a few times. West for the Black Hills definitely had me turning pages. I set other books aside to finish this one—which says a lot for an author who has a very large TBR (to be read) pile.
Peter: Thanks, Jordyn. I must admit, I was transported to another world with your novel. I even skipped my history reading at night because I had to know what happened.
3. Would you read this genre again?
Jordyn: This is a conundrum. Is it just Peter’s writing that I like or is he a good representation of the genre and other western novels are like this? Do I risk picking up another western novel to see what I think about it? I’m not sure of that yet, but I’m definitely a Peter Leavell convert for sure. Maybe that’s our next challenge—he recommends another western author to me—his favorite western novel—and I’ll see what I think about it.
4. Did you feel like you gained any insight into the opposite sex having read their book?
Jordyn: I felt like there were some themes that ran through the novel that provided some insight into the male mind. What follows are a few excerpts from West for the Black Hills and my thoughts on what I thought could be the male perspective.
“I prayed for forgiveness. The violence of deadwood had led to this punishment, no doubt, God’s poetic justice doled out for my sins. Turn the other cheek. And I had defended myself, defended Raven with violence. Should I have just let her go? I pulled the thin blanket over my shoulders. Was God trying to tell me my possessions belonged to others? I didn’t care about most of my possessions, but my horses were different. I loved them.”
From this passage—I thought—do men think more than women that God punishes for sin?
“‘Is self defense right? Jesus died without defending Himself.’”
There seemed to be a running theme of self defense and proper use of violence. When is it okay to hurt/kill someone if you believe in Jesus who was decidedly non-violent—allowing Himself to be convicted innocently for the crimes of all humanity which led to him suffering one of the most violent deaths possible?
“’I’m no expert on the Bible, but you’re thoughtful enough about your actions that I know you read it. God used plenty of people in the Bible to dole out justice. Stop thinking about the philosophical reasoning behind everything and do your job.’”
I think this might be a male thought process because a woman defending herself that leads to another’s death probably doesn’t think this way because she knows she would have died without action on her part. A woman is probably thinking, “He had it coming and I’m lucky to be alive.”
“He crossed his arms. “Sometimes we’ve got to do the thing we hate most. Almost preordained. God seems to enjoy making sure there’s something we have to do that makes us uncomfortable.’”
In this passage, I thought there was a more universal theme that touches most Christians I know. Personally, I’ve felt God ask me to step outside my comfort zone to do things that I would never do—all legal of course.
5. What made the novel less enjoyable for you that you think may have stemmed from the author being of the opposite sex?
Jordyn: Sometimes I felt like Peter’s writing was very stark and factual but it didn’t detract me because I’ve been told this can be my writing style as well. It could also be how Peter wanted to portray the main character, Philip Anderson, and that’s why he wrote in this manner. Philip’s had a hard life so perhaps this writing is meant to convey that. I do feel like there is more emotional insight into a character from a female authored novel—more insight into thoughts and feelings. The emotional punch is heftier. Some of this is portrayed through the eyes of the heroine in the novel—that Philip won’t even share his feelings with her. So, really, I tend to wonder if this is more just Peter’s writing genius in disguise in a sense.
Peter: To find out it I’m a genius in disguise, you’ll have to read my historical fiction Gideon’s Call to see if the writing voice is different! How’s that for a marketing ploy?
What about you? Do you typically read novels authored by the opposite sex. Why or why not?