Women and men often look at life through completely different lenses.
So, it really should come as no surprise that the way men and women view the same novel after reading it is sometimes as different as what can be seen through a set of eyeglasses and a microscope.
That became apparent after I recently met with members of two book clubs – one all male and the other all female – that had read my novel.
One club hails from Attica, the rural community about 30 miles north of Metro Detroit, not the infamous prison in New York state. The Attica Ladies have been reading a wide variety of books and meeting regularly for more than 10 years. Noteworthy.
The evening I met with them, it was – believe it or not – a dark and stormy night in February. The wind howled with snow flurries. Roads were slick. Normally, 12 to 14 women attend their get-togethers in one of the member’s homes. On this blustery night, seven women braved Michigan reality to meet, eat, sip wine, and talk about my book.
Mostly, I wanted to sip wine and snack on a buffet of delightful goodies. But the women wanted to talk, and chat, and talk some more about my novel. Each Attica lady is a long-time educator or a mid-level company executive. They are highly educated, affluent, and very sharp.
The other group I met with is made up of all men who have lived in Bay City, MI, most of their adult lives. That’s significant in this case because my work of fiction is set in Bay City.
The Bay City Guys are retired executives who come from all walks of life and meet at the same tavern to eat dinner, hoist a few cold brews, and talk about books. They have met every month – without missing a single meeting – since September of 2000. Impressive.
I met with 16 of their regular members on another cold, harsh February night.
Usually, I’m told, the guys drink a beer or two, eat dinner ordered from a menu, conduct their business meeting, and then discuss the book that had been selected for reading during the previous four weeks.
But, on this night, they could hardly wait to get started with me. They know everything about their city – the history, legends, and myths. Questions started flying after the first brew was tipped.
But this is where it gets interesting. The men were generally more interested in talking about the development of the story line, the plot twists and how I created the characters.
Since my novel involves a newspaper, the men also were intrigued by the internal politics of a newsroom and the newsgathering process.
For example, one retired exec from General Motors said he was fascinated by the way my protagonist, a reporter named Nick Steele, set up and conducted interviews.
“I’ve been interviewed for news stories plenty of times, and I have never heard of a reporter agreeing to conduct a ‘conditional’ interview,” he said. “The way it’s explained in your book makes sense, but I was not familiar with it.”
The Attica Ladies, on the other hand, wanted to spend most of their time talking about the relationships between the characters in the novel. They wanted to delve into the characters’ feelings and inner thoughts.
In some cases, that threw me for a loop. For example, what did my lead female character’s mother REALLY mean by her often sharp barbs regarding Tanya’s weight, her inability to drag a man to the alter, and her barren womb.
Gosh, when I wrote it, I thought Tanya’s mom simply wanted grandchildren, no more, no less. I explained that I did not think that was an uncommon wish for many mothers who have reared their children to adulthood. And Tanya’s age, 37, meant the clock was ticking.
The Attica Ladies also generally thought that Nick and Tanya were not a great match. They cited the 12-year age difference between the two and the fact that Nick is, in their view, a slob while Tanya is delicate and refined.
“Tanya has two Masters Degrees from the University of Michigan, she’s got a great career, and she’s tall, pretty, and shapely,” one woman said. “Nick is not a good catch for her. Why, he walks around with food stains on his jacket and vomit and urine stains on his pants.”
When I told the Bay City Guys what the Attica Ladies had said about Nick and Tanya, they were unmoved.
“Nick is a great guy – rugged, funny, good at his job, and he likes to party,” one of their prominent members said. “And, really, what’s wrong with a few vomit and urine stains?”
Different perspectives from different kinds of readers.
Dave Vizard is a writer and editor who lives near Lake Huron in Michigan. When he’s not working on a piece of fiction, he sells real estate to keep the wolves away from his door. Vizard is an award-winning journalist who worked in newspapers for 34 years.
He also is the former editor of True North Magazine, a Northern Michigan lifestyle publication. Vizard has also taught journalism and writing at the college level. Learn more about Dave and his writing at his Amazon author page and his blog. A Formula for Murder is his first novel.This title is available in print or kindle format from Amazon.