It is a particularly dull and miserable day, today, with unbroken thick grey cloud overhead, an unpleasant, damp cold, and a very thin rain in the air. I read bits of my novel, and I yearn at this moment to be in India. That I am looking through a few of the photographs I took in India, at the moment, does not help.
I am now at the stage of giving my short novel its first edit. I have written the book from the point of view of an adult female in a rural community in Northern India. It is primarily about both the relationship between the two main characters; a woman and her daughter-in-law, and about the roles and the treatment of women in a male dominated society. The way that I have written it, it is essential for the reader to be able to get inside the head of one of the main protagonists. So, for this reason, I felt that the narrator had to be one of them.
It is a little unusual, of course, but hardly unheard of, for a writer to write with the voice of someone of the opposite sex, although it is more usual for female authors to adopt the voice of a male narrator, rather than the other way round.
(Is that because we are so shallow and easily understood? Don’t answer that, it might be a post for another time, although if I did attempt to write it, I probably wouldn’t have the courage to finish.)
Anyway, whether this voice I have used in my novel sounds authentic or not, might be quite another matter.
I can imagine several areas where I might have succeeded less well than I would have hoped;
a) It might sound like a male voice, especially to female readers.
b) I may have painted a vague, shallow picture of my narrator, subconsciously avoiding difficulties.
c) I may therefore have painted minor characters more brightly than the protagonists.
d) By doing this, I may present as an arrogant westerner, thereby fulfilling images of ex-colonial stereotypes.
On my CV, however, I do have a few months when I was living and working in a small town in Northern India, much of the time spent in rural areas, amongst a dozen or so visits to India in total.
It probably goes without saying that I also have a keen interest in most things Indian, many books about India and, of course, we all have Google.
And writers do, all the time, write about places and situations that are outside their experience, and it is never really possible for anyone to fully understand the thought processes of someone from another time, another culture, or another gender, and so it is a level playing field in that respect.
So, with a glance out of the window at the gloom outside, I’ll get on with it. I do wonder how many male writers have tried to write with a female voice, though, and how successful they felt they were…
…anyone want to come in at this point?