I appreciate that, Lreads. I think fiction writing is always an act of imagination--of getting inside a character who isn't you, whether that person is male, female, young, old, rich, poor, shy, gregarious. My mother likes to say that when I was a toddler I insisted on being picked up so I could look inside every store window. That's what a writer is--someone who needs to look inside every store window. In other words, you need to be deeply curious. To me, fiction is first and foremost about character. My goal at the end of the novel is for the reader to feel that she knows my characters as well as or better than the people in their own lives. It’s a challenge, I suppose, for a male writer to write from a female perspective but no more
so, it seems to me, than for a young person to write from an old person’s perspective, a poor
person to write from a rich person’s perspective, or a gregarious person to write from a shy
person’s perspective. I don’t see why gender should be a more insurmountable barrier than
other ones. I believe good fiction can transcend difference, that it can take us out of our own
experiences and allow us to inhabit the experiences of others. It’s what happens, ideally, to
the reader, and in order for it to happen to the reader it has to happen to the writer too.
A few years ago, I gave a reading from an early draft of The World Without You, and I
was reading with a woman novelist who read a section of her novel told from the perspective
of a man. When the reading was over, she, too, was asked the gender question, and she said,
“Are you kidding me? I spent half my life flirting with boys. I know them far better than I
know girls.” She was kidding, sort of, but I think there’s a real truth there. In a lot of ways
it’s easier to write from the perspective of someone different from you. We’re so close to our
own experiences that we don’t see ourselves as clearly as we see others.