Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Um... I'm a Guy

Please help us welcome author and cop James Greer.

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"I was pissed, but I got over it," she growled.

I write suspense novels. Sometimes there's a romantic quality, sometimes a sinister villain bent on mayhem. One theme knits them all together. The lead character is always a woman police officer.

You may ask yourself - I thought the first rule of writing was to stick with what you know.

I've heard that too. For the most part, I write about cop stuff. Actually being a police officer, of course, helps. Certainly, twenty-five plus years of meddling in others' misfortune (and being the occasional cause) has provided vivid characters, multiple WTF situations and not a few projectile-vomiting moments. Need a humorous dismemberment story to enliven a chapter? A castration attempt gone horribly wrong (that isn't redundant - trust me) or perhaps an illustration why drunk people should not manipulate loaded firearms? Got enough for all of us.

I have no overriding interest in focusing on policemen, beyond their utility in telling the story. I am a policeman. We tend to be Peter Pan-esque about things, your basic "growing old, not up." We've been sort of done to death as a genre, anyway. But, women.... Always interesting, never dull. More than enough variety to populate several novels.

Ask ten women why they became cops, what they get out of police work ("money" is too easy) and I get ten different answers. Most women are circumspect about the profession and their place in it. Some of them are painfully candid about what the whole lousy business has done to them and their relationships. Find a woman who trusts me enough to open not just her head but to permit occasional peaks into her heart and I'm totally in business. To a writer, she's the gold standard.

But for pete's sake.... It infuriates me when I ask a question like, well, would having a child change a woman's perspective on risk-taking and I get "(sniff, errrr) Would you ever ask a man that question?"

NO! I already know that answer and it's boring (generally, male risk takers...take risks). Not to put too fine a point on it, I'm asking because my main character IS A WOMAN! She's a SWAT sergeant, she's a mom, and a crazy SOB is holding her work partner at gunpoint. I'm thinking (go ahead, call me a sentimental fool) that she's given the subject of risk a wee bit of thought, weighed all of the ramifications of leaving behind a devastated husband and motherless child. Maybe she's imagined her dying moments, the unbearable sadness she might feel at abandoning her child. I'm thinking my readers would want us to explore this together.

Of course I don't get it. Much of the time, I don't get you. Um - guy! My friend's thoughtful response included, among other things, a discussion about what it means to accept responsibility, both as a mother and as a professional. As usual, I couldn't write fast enough to take it all in.

Describing male cops (and their lack of introspection, for the most part), I have my own experiences to fall back on. Ninety-five percent of my police friends are guys and we've carefully avoided ever betraying an emotional attachment to anything besides sports or drinking. Most of us are horribly predictable, anyway. Last week, for example, an especially attractive, especially well-endowed woman drove right through our car crash scene. Were we angry? Not really - a bit ashamed of ourselves that we forgave her so easily, that's all. But, I digress.

Huffing about questions that focus on a woman's perceptions sets up a substantial barrier, too, even if we eventually get down to business. The damn boundaries are a moving target? Fabulous. Now every question is loaded. "I got over it?" What the hell is that supposed to mean? I'm a married man - when a woman says she got over it.... Really? REALLY? When? Is that why Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus sold a bazillion copies?

I'm looking for good lines, insight and the ultimate compliment - sales. If I admit I'm ignorant and I need help, do I seem vulnerable enough to let me off the hook, from time to time, because I think like a guy? I'm a little old for puppy dog eyes, and a little worldly to need another mother.

I ask questions because I don't have the answers. Now...got a minute?

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James Greer is the author of the romantic suspense novel Out of Ideas and the short story with the same female protagonist A Parasol in a Hurricane. You can also more of his rants and thoughts at Bike Cop Blog.


Deputy Karen O'Neil is a California girl, shedding the abusive husband who'd ripped her from a sun-drenched, stimulating life as a San Diego cop to isolation in rural Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Talented, attractive, and cut off from everything she wants, her rock-bottom self-esteem lunges at the mysterious airplane crash as though a life line, a chance to escape the doldrums of perceived failure in every other aspect of her life.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Adam Phlatt has his own issues. His career is going nowhere. His love life smolders in ruin after he horribly misplayed his heart, something he swears he'll avoid forever.The accident investigation is a no brainer, a simple case of too much airplane and not enough pilot. The easy inquiry over, he plans his return to Chicago and the safety of his own loneliness, yet he somehow entangles himself with Deputy O'Neil's complex personality.

Karen refuses to let go of the case, or of Adam. When she discovers the pilot's life is a lie, it's a whole new ball game. Thrust from one perplexing clue to the next, they tumble headlong onto a group of criminals, intent on protecting a lucrative shadow business with violence, if necessary.

Karen and Adam face an impossible confrontation, even as hope triumphs over experience, and they fall in love. Their first intimate encounter as lovers is interrupted by the disappearance of a friend under sinister circumstances.

A killer targets Karen, and Adam must regain what he once was--a man tough enough to save the woman he loves.

Her attention focused on a smoking hole containing the remains of a wrecked airplane and its equally wrecked pilot, will Karen O'Neil notice salvation walking up behind her?

Buy now.


SJ Drum said...

Great to hear from a man about writing female leads. I'm trying out writing a male lead and find I have all kinds of questions (not all related to testicles).

I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Jim Greer said...

SJ - thanks for the comment and...they seemed to be standard on this model. :) Good luck with your project and the only thing I can suggest is that we are simple creatures who mean well. Mostly.

Anthology Authors said...

I do understand why women respond that way, James. I mean, I've seen female reporters ask these types of questions of women, but not the same of a man. It does get old and seem a bit chauvinistic. However, perhaps as women, we need to realize we are a wee bit more complex than men. (g) Hm... something to think about.

SJ, Jim's books are fabulous! Being his publisher, I'm not biased at all. ;) But seriously, even if I wasn't his publisher, I'd think the same.


Janice said...

Women are complicated. We say "fine" and it ain't fine. We're mad. If we say something like "I got over it", we didn't. We just don't want to talk about it anymore.

I'm a writer too and ask my husband things from the male perspective. However, I don't get a lot of answers from him. It gets a little frustrating. So then I'll ask my daughter's male friends or BF, if the question isn't too embarrassing. *grin*

Good luck with your new release. I wish you many sales.


Jim Greer said...

Marci - first, thanks for the huge compliment! Few writing things are as rewarding as the support of the publisher. Second - it's the perception of chauvnism that surprised me. I do ask in all innocence, so strong reactions don't compute. In and of itself - interesting, something for me to think about.

Janice - the complexity is a total virtue. In addition to writing, it makes the whole male/female thing interesting. You've definitely hit on why I choose women leads - both the research and the writing are never dull. And I'm fortunate - my wife and I are both overanalyzers. We'ver Karen'd this and Amy'd that through all kinds of car trips.

Patricia said...

Wow! This was one of the most interesting posts I've seen in months! Getting into the nitty-gritty of male and female characters and why they think the way they do! One of my books is written from the male POV and I read a bit about what I should and shouldn't do. I tended to throw a bunch of it out the window, mind you, because I don't feel all men are "unemotional" and "don't talk much". But I did alter lengthy conversations and changed wordings, etc. However, we all use our personal experiences to create our characters, so they're definitely not going to nor should they be "cookie cutter" people.
It's great to know you're a part of the WCP community, Jim. I'm in great company.

Jim Greer said...

Thank you, Patricia - in this high powered crowd that's a wonderful compliment. I think I write men to be a little more expressive, but every once in a while have the "he said nothing and extended a fist bump." Just to let everyone know they're guys. I had to learn (from several great resources) that women don't ONLY cry when they show emotion. I've had to work at getting a more authentic voice. Still a work in progress, but the journey has just been great. Thank you for your comment!

Faith said...

Yes, women are complicated, but I also thing they make more vicious warriors, fighters, cops, atheletes, etc. We're always deemed the weaker sex, but that's not true at all. Great post!

Kate Richards said...

It really is interesting to hear from one of our male peers. And of course the author in me says..cop/resource...make a note of that. I actually have several female police officer author friends and a lot of their cop characters are guys, so why shouldn't your heroines be! Nice to meet you and I look forward to reading that book with the very sexy cover.

Jim Greer said...

Thanks, Faith! I completely agree - that's why I have no hesitation with putting female characters into hazardous positions and having them demonstrate the virtues you describe. If the character would do it, so long as I've laid the foundation, it works. The same can be said for writing male characters.

Thanks Kate! I hope you enjoy it. If you have any input you can find me at bikecopblog.blogspot.com. Really, I'm still learning and would value any comments. As for resource - I'm always around for a chat. Just give me an intro to your policewomen writer friends to pick their brains. :) As for the cover, my daughters were aghast that their father wrote a book worthy of a steamy cover. My wife just shakes her head.

Anthology Authors said...

It's not you, Jim. It's just that women run into so much chauvinism from both men and women it's become a knee-jerk reaction.

I've read both of your books. The genre is not my usual fare, and I loved them.

Jim Greer said...

Thanks, Marci - huge compliment! Makes me blush. And, yeah - the friend I was quoting is a dear friend, and says many of the same things. She's so used to the uphill battle that her reactions are immediate. Makes for interesting discussions, though!