Sales, Sleepy Hollow, and Celebrity Crushes

 Annie's doing great, by the way.

Annie's doing great, by the way.

Today is Small Business Saturday, and in celebration my publisher Lee & Low Books is giving away books for 35% off. The sale ends December 2nd, so do your Christmas book shopping now!

In case you missed it, here are some other things I've written recently:

Merry Thanksgivukkah!

Cool Links for Cool People

Why, hello there, cool people. Would you like some cool links? Here are some cool links.

And we're still recapping Game of Thrones and Mad Men every Monday night on Overthinking It, so hop over if you want to watch us subject these television shows to a level of scrutiny they probably don't deserve.

Yes, We Can! (Write Male Characters)

You know what makes me sad? When I hear women writers saying, “I don't think I can write a male main character. I'm just can't get the voice down.”

Please don't say that. It makes me want to cry.

If you've said something along these lines before, let me offer some reassurance. Of course, you can write a male main character.

Let me repeat that with big capital letters for emphasis. OF COURSE, you can write a male main character! I'm sure of it. Why am I so sure? Easy! There's no such thing as a “male voice.”

 Boys.

Boys.

I'm not a man, and I don't have mind-reading powers (yet!), but I do have the next-best thing to telepathy: books. I read a lot of books. Having gone to a schmancy college with a fairly old-fashioned English department, I've read a mountain of books by men, primarily and unfortunately white Western men. I also watch a lot of movies and television, most of which are made by men. This unhealthy amount of media consumption has given me the confidence to say that I have a good handle on what (primarily white, Western, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered) men are like—and I bet you do, too! They are, after all, the dominant culture.

Based on this lifetime of research, we can come to the following, not-so-shocking conclusion: Men are different. I don't mean from women1. I mean from each other.

There was even a scientific study2 proving that this is so. Researchers found that, for the most part, men and women aren't all that dissimilar, personality-wise, but individual men can vary substantially from other men. But I don't need science to tell me this, because I know men, and also I read books, and books tell me men are varied creatures.

Let's do a little experiment. When you hear or read the term “male voice,” what do you think of? Punchy, “muscular” sentences and little description? All male gaze all the time? Little affection or romance and little philosophy? A lot of machismo and little to no complaining?

Whatever your idea of the typical male voice is, keep it in your head for a second.

Now consider this list of characters:

Holden Caulfield

Don Quixote

Okonkwo

Gilgamesh

Tom Sawyer

Bilbo Baggins

Don Juan

Stephen Dedalus

Yossarian

Arthur Dent

Oscar Wao

Tyrion Lannister

Tom Joad

You get where I'm going with this. All of these characters? Male, written by men, all extremely different from one another. I know they're all different because I've been in their heads. I know how they think. So do you, probably. You know some men are macho and some are neurotic. You know some men are taciturn and some are florid. You know some are cold and others affectionate3, some are all about the body and some are all about the mind, and some are loners while some would do anything for their friends and family. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Just look at poetry written by men! Compare Basho to Wordsworth to Rumi to Eliot to Juvenal to Donne to Larkin to Auden to Hughes to Pope to Yeats to Whitman to Homer to Hughes to Ginsburg to Carroll to Neruda4. You cannot look at that list and tell me there is such a thing as a male voice. And if there's no such thing as a male voice, trust me, you can write a male character5. Just write a human. Perhaps that human acts a little differently from a woman, because he has privileges she does not, and perhaps he's been socialized to act a certain way by his elders. Then again, maybe he hasn't. It depends on the character.

Long story short, to write all male characters as if they're all the Marlboro Man or Seth MacFarlane is doing men a disservice, and it's doing boy readers a disservice. Why not show them there are many different ways to be a man? It's not about being politically-correct6. It's about being accurate.

 

FOOTNOTES! 

1Although they sometimes are, a little. Thanks, patriarchy!

2http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/02/06/men_and_women_are_basically_the_same_new_study_says_our_personality_traits.html

3Check out this beautiful collection of old photographs depicting male affection: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/07/29/bosom-buddies-a-photo-history-of-male-affection/ This “men don't touch each other” thing is definitely not universal. It's certainly less true in Latin and Mediterranean cultures, for example.

4And then watch this adorable “Ask a Grown Man” segment from Thom York and Nigel Godrich on Rookie Mag. They point out that there are shy, romantic boys out there, too!

5A short aside: Although I think it's difficult for women to screw up writing male characters, from what I've seen, it's not too hard for male writers to screw up when writing female characters.  To you guys, I give the same advice. Write humans (while bearing in mind that women are often treated as second-class citizens, especially if they are of a certain race, class, or other minority group). Also try to remember that women don't think about how hot their boobs are all the time. I mean, every once in a while, sure, but we don't wake up every morning and think, “Boy, are my knockers firm and plump today! I can't wait to rub soap all over them sensually in the shower in case some male reader happens to be watching!” Hope that helps.

6Oh, how I loathe that term!

Your Inspiration Comes From Where?!

Authors are so frequently asked where they get their ideas from that I sometimes think they might flip out like Geoffrey Tennant on Slings & Arrows: Yes, I was inspired by my parents—and my teachers and every play I ever seen and every book I've ever read and everything ever! And it wouldn't be untrue. Inspiration comes from everywhere, and teasing out exactly where you got each idea and character from is an exercise in not-gonna-happen-ery.

That said, sometimes you realize long after you've written something that the ideas you thought were so clever and original were actually unintentional ripoffs of other, usually greater, works of art. Or, in my case, cartoons. I'm an avowed animation fan—I spent this beautiful weekend hidden inside BAM so I could watch Princess Mononoke for the millionth time—so this is not surprising. But it is a little amazing how neatly the characters from Hammer of Witches line up with the 'toons I watched as a kid.

Amazing, and slightly disturbing:

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Baltasar, Uncle Diego, & Aunt Serena = Tony Toponi and Papa and Mama Mousekewitz from An American Tail

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Although Baltasar + Jinni = Van and Merle from Vision of Escaflowne

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And (as mentioned on the Lee & Low blog) Baltasar + Catalina = Taran and Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron

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(Although if we include video games in this analysis, then perhaps Baltasar + Catalina more closely = Locke and Celes from Final Fantasy VI)

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Martin Pinzon = Frollo from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Rodrigo = Wiggins from Pocahontas

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Speaking of Princess Mononoke, High Priestess Anacaona = Lady Eboshi (and I love them both so very much)

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Antonio = Haggis McMutton from The Curse of Monkey Island (but, like, less Scottish)

And I'm sure there are more cartoon connections I haven't thought of yet. If you think of one, let me know!

Hmm, it now occurs to me that some of you might be more willing to pick up a copy of Hammer of Witches if I make a comparison to some super-hot bishonen-type character that all the girls swoon over. Like I could say that Baltasar is exactly the same as Avatar: The Last Airbender's Prince Zuko, except he's even hotter and more brooding and...

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...and actually this is the far more realistic Avatar comparison. Sorry, Zuko fans. Maybe next time?

[PS - The Hammer of Witches hardcover is out NOW! Go buy a copy of the book Kirkus calls "an engaging, magical adventure." You can get the audiobook here. E-book coming soon.]

Advance Praise for Hammer of Witches!

The amazing Victoria Strauss and Joseph Bruchac were nice enough to read the advance copy of HAMMER OF WITCHES. Here's what they had to say:

“This rollicking historical fantasy has it all — nail-biting adventure, exciting mystery, fabulous magics, and characters you can really root for. I enjoyed every word.” Victoria Strauss, author of Passion Blue and co-founder of Writer Beware

“A truly enjoyable energetic tale, a hero's journey that is filled with as much magic — and wry humor — as I've ever seen crammed into one story.”   —Joseph Bruchac, author of Wolf Mark and Skeleton Man

Big thanks to both of you for taking the time to read HoW. I am truly humbled by your kind words.

My editor Stacy told me I should use this opportunity to squee (her word, not mine), so here is a picture that illustrates my feelings right now:

 Squee.

Squee.