from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

Question about initials
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Ashley asks:

"A little off topic, but a question I've been thinking about lately. (Please, pardon me if this has been discussed elsewhere.) I'm wondering about Ms. Rozan's choice of writing under initials, a very gender neutral choice. Before you were so well known, did that gender-neutrality change how readers, critics, publishers, etc. saw you? Do you feel it made a difference? Did you feel less categorized as a "female mystery writer?" Has there been a good side and a bad side?"

I started the initials thing because my early short stories, which I sent away to try to get published while I was working on my first novel, were written from Bill Smith's point of view, first person. It wouldn't have occurred to me there might be a problem with a woman writing a man in the first person but when I workshopped the beginning of the novel I was told sheepishly by a man in the group that he'd read it looking for the mistakes because he was sure a woman couldn't write a convincing man. I thought that was unfair to the work itself so I sent the stories out under my initials. I really don't know whether it made a difference in getting those first stories published, but anyway the jig was up when my first novel came out and the publisher put my picture on it.

I do think there's a perception that people have trouble writing the opposite gender, writing gay when you're straight, writing another race or cultural group. You get a certain amount of leeway when you write in the third person but once you start using that "I" readers can get, in a sense, politically offended before they even start the book. I've actually gotten more flak for writing a Chinese woman in the first person than for using a male narrator's voice, but interestingly, the strongest objections have been from white people. As long as I'm doing it "right," painting a complete, non-stereotyped picture, Asian-American readers seem to enjoy it.

Let me also say that my first name, especially when combined with my last, has always annoyed me, so I saw this as the chance of a lifetime.

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