Autor Interview – Judy Penz Sheluk

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Penz Sheluk, the author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. I have read several of her books and loved them all. If you like small town mysteries with a strong, female lead character, look no further. Her books feature murders, antique stores, coffins and tarot cards—all the good stuff! On September 21, the second book in the Marketville Mysteries, Past and Present, is coming out. Certainly something I am looking forward to! 

Welcome Judy!

What made you start writing? Was it something you always did or picked up later?

I’ve been writing stories inside my head for as long as I can remember, certainly as far back as elementary school. I thought everyone did that. It wasn’t until a few years after I was married, and commuting a fair distance to work, that I mentioned a story I’d been “working on” to my husband. He was like, “You write stories in your head?” And I said, “Yes, don’t you?” He bought me a Creative Writing Workshop for my birthday. That was in 2000. I remember the first time I had to read a story out loud to the class. The theme was “painful teenage memory.” I wrote Cleopatra Slippers (later published in THEMA Literary Journal). When I looked up from reading (nervously and badly), everyone had tears in their eyes, and a couple of people were actually crying. I remember thinking, “Maybe I can do this.” That was 2002.

Which character mostly resembles you?

They all have a bit of me inside of them. For example, Emily Garland (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) is a runner, a journalist, and she’s in her early thirties. I’ve run 4 marathons and countless half-marathons, I’ve been a journalist since 2003, and I used to be in my early thirties! Arabella Carpenter (same series) has a motto “Authenticity Matters” and I very much follow that philosophy. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable (Skeletons in the Attic, Past & Present) is also a runner. She’s also inquisitive, no-nonsense, and somewhat haunted by her past. I’ve got a few skeletons in my attic, too.

How do you come up with ideas for your books?

From life. For example, The Hanged Man’s Noose was about a greedy developer who comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening all the local businesses and indie shops. We see that happen all the time. I just thought, “What if someone was willing to murder to stop it?” My latest book, Past & Present, was inspired by the contents of my late mother’s train case. As I started researching her journey, I knew I’d found my latest idea for a book.

Any specific writing routine? Bound to a specific location? Favorite chair?

In my Philipsburg Blue (Benjamin Moore historical colors) office on my iMac or at our camp on Lake Superior, watching the water, on my iPad, or sometimes, by writing longhand in a notebook. Never in a public place like a coffee shop. I don’t know how people can do that. I generally listen to talk radio when I write, though sometimes I’ll write with country music in the background. When I’m super focused or easily distracted, I opt for silence.

You have a publisher. What would you say to all the indie-writers out there? Should we all try to get one?

I have a traditional MWA approved publisher (Barking Rain Press), but in February 2018 I started my own imprint, Superior Shores Press, so I’m now a hybrid author. However, I think if you’ve never been published, trying to self-publish right off the hop would be incredibly difficult, if only because you won’t understand the business (because publishing is a business) and you won’t have a following. After 3 years of books, blogging, and other social media, I’ve developed a modest following (not in Stephen King territory yet but hope springs eternal), and so I thought it was time to take the leap.

Who are your favorite writers (and why)?

John Sandford for his dry humor and bang-on pacing. The late Sue Grafton, who improved with every book and made me want to write mysteries. Agatha Christie for leading the way.

What do you do to relax?

In the summer months, I love to golf. I still run, but not the crazy distances I used to (sometimes I think a marathon would be fun, and then I get a grip on reality). I love walking my dog, Gibbs, a three-year-old Golden Retriever. I read a lot, mostly mystery and suspense.

What would you tell any writers out there that are struggling?

Don’t give up. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was turned down 61 times over three years and it’s brilliant. Accept constructive criticism and learn from it. Write every day, even if you only have 15 minutes to do it. You can’t edit a blank page.

Last question… What can you tell us about your latest book?

Ha! I thought you’d never ask. Here’s the back of the book synopsis.

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

Past & Present is now available, http://authl.it/afj. Publication date Sept. 21, 2018.

Thank you Judy! 

More about the author: Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose; A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons in the Attic; Past & Present). Her short stories appear in several collections.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.

Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com or at Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Bookbub.

Author Interview – Janice Richardson

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Janice Richardson, the cozy mystery author of the Spencer Funeral Home Series. I read the first book in the series, Casket Cache, in which we meet Jennifer, a funeral director in Niagara (Canada).  While she is trying to solve a compelling mystery, she also has a funeral home to run. Not your most common profession, I grant you, but…it made for a very interesting, different, and most of all, appealing read.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to read it, and I was hesitant at first. Like many people I read to escape, and a funeral home wouldn’t be my first pick. However, it turned out to be a lovely read. Written with emotion, this is not your typical cozy; the stories of Jennifer’s workdays and the grief of her clients feel very real. But Jennifer is compassionate, empathetic and kind, and a wonderful protagonist to follow.

Welcome Janice! To start off, can you tell us a little about the Spencer Funeral Home Series?

Recently I watched the PBS special Into the Night:  Portraits of Life and Death.  What a beautiful and compelling documentary.  As baby boomers age, people are confronted with their discomfort around death and dying and learning to face their fear and uncertainty.  It was an uplifting, gentle, positive and at times, sad documentary.

It is for those reasons I wrote the series. First—to educate readers.  Not everyone has been in a funeral home, or had to speak with a director or plan a funeral.  It is a traumatic and difficult time.  Second—to present a portrait of a funeral director in a way that was realistic and endearing.  Last, but not least, I wanted the story to entertain without being silly or disrespectful.

Since the series was published I have noticed more funeral directors have jumped on the bandwagon and are writing fictional stories about the funeral profession and helping to allay the fear, secrecy and unknown.  There are memoirs galore by funeral directors (The Making of a Funeral Director is my non-fiction contribution), all of which make for interesting reads, the fictional reads open new doors for readers who don’t like non-fiction.

What made you start writing?

The memoir was written in the ‘90s and put away.  With the advent of self-publishing, I chose to spruce it up and put it out there.   It is serving its purpose, I have students and individuals who are looking at funeral service who write me to say the book helped them.  That means the world to me.

As for the cozy mystery series, it just sort of happened.  I moved from the northern part of the province to the south, leaving behind my life as a special needs mom.  For a while I felt lost.  I did not plan to write a book, let alone a series.  It just happened, pouring out onto the keyboard over a two year period. Being alone became a pleasure, my special needs children are happy and well cared for, so it was time to move on.  The books helped me with that process, almost writing themselves.

Just like Jennifer, you were a funeral director yourself.  What made you choose the profession?

When I was eight, my adopted mom took me to a relative’s funeral.  She was a realist, an old school nurse who didn’t sugarcoat life lessons.  She explained everything to me.  I loved the solemnity of the funeral home and service, the peaceful atmosphere and the support the funeral director provided.  My instinct was to comfort people who were crying and sad.  At the graveside, as I watched the committal, I knew then and there I wanted to be a funeral director.  It was years before I was able to go to college and pursue my chosen career.  I have no regrets.

What is your writing ritual?

Ha ha – it’s 90 miles an hour, up to 12 hours a day.  Add to that half the night chasing plot bunnies.  I do like absolute quiet, which is possible since I’m retired.  I sit in an easy chair, laptop on knee, fingers flying.  Stopping to eat, stretch or go outside and sniff the air is an inconvenience.   That method does make for some serious rewrites and edits, but it’s how I write.

You write about the place where you live (Niagara).  What do you love most about your home town?

The Niagara region is beautiful.  I moved here six years ago and often wonder why I didn’t move south sooner.  The peninsula has a temperate climate (for Canada), the Niagara region known for its wine, fruit, and tourism.  Toronto is a few hours north, Niagara Falls is 25 minutes away, the US border is ½ hour away.  My town is on the old Welland canal, similar to the Erie Canal across the border.  When I want excitement, I go to the Falls for the attractions, casino, and shopping. I love the vineyards and orchards and lavender fields.

Are you and Jennifer much alike?

Hmmm.  I would like to think so.  Jennifer would be the ideal funeral director.  She has her weaknesses, she is driven, doesn’t like to ask for help.  As we get older, as the years pass and we reflect back, there are chapters or paragraphs in our lives that we wish we could rewrite.  An author is given a chance to do just that in their characters. I think Jennifer is a composite of several people I admire and respect and the type of person I wish I had been sometimes.   In the last book she faces some major challenges.  I left it up to the reader to decide how the story ends.  I know how I wanted her to face the future and I love it when readers share their version of how it should end.

What do you like most about being an author?

Encouraging new authors is one the best jobs an author has.  Now that I have published five times and my books are doing well, I enjoy encouraging and supporting others.  It can be as simple as retweeting or liking a post or offering support by reviewing a book.  We are a community.  Attending Facebook events, local author events or signings is part of giving back.  I am so grateful for the support I received when I started from beta readers, my editor, authors, bloggers and friends.

This is so very true. Support within our community is invaluable. 

It was very kind of you to interview me and review Casket Cache, Lucia.  Your Dunnhill series is a delightful read and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Thank you Janice, that warms my heart! And thank you for sharing your story. It was wonderful to hear more about you and your work, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.  

You can find Janice on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook, and Casket Cache is currently free as e-book (Amazon and other retailers)

Author Interview – Laurel Heidtman

This month I interviewed Lolli Powell (Laurel Heidtman), the writer of The Body on the Barstool. Ricki runs a bar, and one morning as she walks in, she finds a dead body—murdered—sitting at the bar… The book is a fast-paced cozy mystery, with funny dialogues, and good plot twists. If you like cozy mysteries, you won’t be disappointed.

Welcome Laurel. You have written quite a number of books. You have published mysteries/thrillers under the name Laurel Heidtman, and a few cozy mystery/romance novels as Lolli Powell. Can you introduce some of your work?

As Laurel Heidtman, I have three books published in my Eden mystery series: Catch A Falling Star, Bad Girls, and A Convenient Death. Each novel can stand alone, although the characters’ personal stories continue to evolve in each new book. The Eden series is set in the fictitious college town of Eden, Kentucky, near Daniel Boone National Forest. I also have a thriller, Whiteout, that takes place in Daniel Boone National Forest (with a few scenes in Lexington).

As Lolli Powell, I have a contemporary romance, The Boy Next Door, set in Kentucky, and a romantic suspense, The Wrong Kind of Man, set in Indiana. I also have two books, The Body on the Barstool and Whiskey Kills, in the Top Shelf cozy mystery series. This series is set in a fictitious Ohio River town in southern Ohio about halfway between West Virginia and Indiana. I write the Top Shelf books in first person, while all the others are in third person.

Some of your books are set in Kentucky, where you live. The Body on the Barstool is set in Ohio, and I thought your descriptions were wonderful. How do you go about writing about the setting of a book?

I’m from Ohio originally—although farther west than the setting of the Top Shelf mysteries—so I’m familiar with both states. To get some details right about the geography of an area, I use the Internet. I also use that to verify details about plants, sunset/sunrise times in a particular month, the way locals speak (for example, pop versus soda), common surnames, etc. I think that descriptions of settings should be painted in broad strokes—just enough detail to give the reader a feel for the place, but not so much that it bogs down the story.

Is there a genre you like writing more than others, or do you enjoy mixing them up?

I’ve enjoyed doing all of the genres I’ve tried so far, and I’d like to try other genres. I’ve probably enjoyed doing the cozy mysteries most, though. I do them in first person and find I prefer that, plus I do my best to make them funny (sarcastic humor). I wasn’t sure I could write humor, but readers seem to be “getting it,” so I guess I’m succeeding.

How do you typically get your ideas for a book and does the story change much during writing?

I honestly don’t know how I get most of the ideas. My latest one, A Convenient Death, was sparked by two murders that happened while I was a police officer. A convenience store clerk and a customer were murdered one night, and the case was never solved. I started with this, but I made up everything else about the victims and the crime. Sometimes news stories provide the germ of an idea, such as stories about human trafficking and the Dark Web (both of which play a part in my book, Bad Girls).

However, most of the time, a story just seems to pop into my mind, which means, I suppose, that my subconscious is busy working while I’m not aware of it. I call my subconscious “the boys in the basement.” When I hit a stumbling block during the course of writing a book, I don’t worry too much about it, and sure enough, a few days later “the boys” present a solution.

And, yes, the story sometimes changes during writing. Any fiction writer will tell you that characters seem to take on a mind of their own once they’re on the page. I often say it’s as if I’m channeling the characters and just writing what they tell me.

Your bio describes a very interesting range of careers. A dancer, a bartender, a police officer, a registered nurse and a technical writer. Not to mention two English degrees? How did you end up doing so many different things? And where did you find the time? 

I had plenty of time to do all these things because I’m old now! 🙂 I spent my twenties working as a dancer and sometimes bartender, as well as attending college part-time (I started at age twenty-two and graduated with a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing emphasis six months before my thirtieth birthday). The dancing and bartending jobs supported me and paid for college. This was in the late sixties/early seventies, and those jobs paid better than most jobs for women.

I was close to graduation when the police officer husband of a fellow student told me his department had to hire their first female patrol officers or lose federal funding. I took the civil service exam, did well, passed all the other tests (background, psychological, etc.) and was hired. The department ran their own recruit school to train their new hires. I spent my thirties as a police officer.

I finally burned out on police work and decided to go to graduate school for a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree (fancy way of saying technical writing). I got a paid internship that turned into a job with what was then Armco Steel. I was never so bored in my life and was not unhappy when the duties of the department I was in were transferred to another state and I was laid off.

My husband was three years away from retirement by then. We decided we’d buy a motorhome and travel, but I was too young to retire. Travel nurses were in demand at the time, so I decided quite logically that nursing would be the perfect career. Back to school again, this time for an associate degree. Before my husband retired and we bought an RV, we fell over a gorgeous home overlooking a lake in Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, and there went the motorhome/travel dream. I got a job on the mental health unit at the Lexington V.A. and worked as a nurse there and later at another hospital for the next four years.

I always read the Sunday classifieds and happened to see a job posting for a technical writing job for a Lexington company that wrote software for large court systems. Thanks to the combination of my police background and my master’s degree, I got the job to write manuals and online help. That technical writing job was more interesting than my first one, the pay was good, and the sweetener was they let me work at home most of the time. I stayed with them until I was eligible for early social security, at which point I retired. Now I’m finally writing fiction, which is what I should have been doing all along. I’m not sorry my life played out this way, though, because the different experiences help with writing, I think.

By the way, those aren’t the only jobs I’ve had. They’re just the ones that have lasted the longest. I always say I have a short attention span. 🙂

What made you want to write novels?

I was an only child, we lived in the country, and we didn’t get a television until I was 13. I had other children to play with sometimes, but not every day, so books became my daily “playmates.” I loved reading, and as far back as I can remember, I wanted to write fiction. For too many years, I allowed life to get in the way of that.

What do you like best about being an indie author?

I’m a control freak when it comes to my own life, so I like the ability to publish what and when I want.

Are you working on something right now?

I published A Convenient Death, the third book in my Eden mystery series, at the end of January, and I’ve started on Name Your Poison, the third book in my Top Shelf cozy mystery series. I hope to release it no later than April.

Thank you Laurel! I look forward to reading more of your books. Check out Laurel’s website, blog, or Lolli Powell’s website to find out more. 

 

The Lost Ones (Part 3)

This is the final post on The Lost Ones: Writers we lost in 2016. After all, we are about half-way through 2017.

I had not heard of Helen Bailey before, but if you live in the UK you may have. She was a YA writer (the Electra Brown series), but wrote one book for adults: When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis.

badthingsgoodbikinis

In 2011, she and her husband went on vacation to Barbados, where her husband drowned while swimming in the ocean. She witnessed his death. “A wife at breakfast, a widow before lunch.”

Trying to deal with the loss of her husband, she started up a blog, Planet Grief, in which she reached out to other people who had lost loved ones. The book When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis is a memoir of her journey through the process of grief, based on that blog. She tells about life without her husband, of the simple things that would make her break down in tears, and of her dog, Boris, her loyal companion.

Her stories are filled with raw emotion—especially in the first half of the book—her writing poignant, and sometimes funny. Reading about her experience of loss, of which she writes in a very honest and open way, is heart wrenching.

Her tone gradually changes in the second half of the book. Maybe, there is a way through the hurt, a way toward accepting. Eventually, she meets another man with whom she starts a new relationship.

The book probably had a different effect on me than on people who have experienced a similar loss. For me, it was humbling. The devastation of the loss of a partner, her grief and pain, are almost palpable. She talks about friends being there for her, friends not being there for her, and people being awkward, or even inappropriate. In our society, I feel as if we often try to ignore death. Like many, I have been afraid to say the wrong thing to people who have gone through loss, or I just don’t know what to say or how to be there for them. This book may not have solved that, but at least it has given me plenty to think about.

In her last entry, she has sold her old house and bought a new one with her new partner. She closes the book with “It will all be OK in the end. We promise you.” She, and many of the widows and widowers she had been in touch with, had found new purpose, new joy in life, and some, new love.

We all like happy endings. But for Helen things turned out differently. She disappeared in April 2016. Three months later, her body, and that of her dog Boris, were found hidden in her house. She was 51. In February 2017, her partner was convicted of her murder.

Reading the book made me sad, but reading the book knowing how it all ended for her made it infinitely sadder. Her voice was so personal, almost like you are getting to know her while reading.

One story in the book especially stuck with me. Helen’s best friend gave Helen and her husband a bottle of champagne, which Helen wanted to save for a special occasion. All of a sudden, the best friend dies. The champagne is now symbolic, and no occasion is ever special enough. But then Helen’s husband drowns, and the opportunity for sharing the champagne was gone forever. She writes:

Why couldn’t I have seen that just being alive and with [my husband] was the only reason I ever needed to open it? I had been waiting for some big flashy occasion to come along, when in fact life with him was the big occasion.”

Finally, Helen takes the champagne to a party. But, as irony has it, when they open the bottle, the champagne has gone bad.

There are many things I will take away from the book, but most of all it will be that. Cherish the times you have with your loved-ones. Make every moment special. And when life offers you champagne, drink it.

The Lost Ones (Part 2)

This is the second part of Writers we lost in 2016, in which I highlight a book written by a writer who passed away last year, but was unknown to me.

This time I read a book from Cory Taylor, an Australian writer, who initially started out writing children’s books. I read her first novel, Me and Mr. Booker, written in 2011, which received the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Pacific Region.

me-and-mr-bookerThis was an interesting read. The person telling the story is Martha, a 16-year old girl, living in a sleepy, small town in Australia.

I thought Martha’s voice was authentic and well captured: A mixture of boredom, immaturity, and self-absorption, just “waiting for something to happen.” But, Martha is also witty, quite astute in her observations of the people around her, and of course, a teenager caught in her teenage years. Therefore, I couldn’t find myself disliking her, even more so since the adults in her life are—well—sad, filled with self-loathing and disappointment.

Martha describes her father as a bully as well as a loser, and faults her mother for having a hard time banning him from her life, even though they’ve split up. When Martha meets the Bookers, who just arrived in town from England, they are a welcome diversion, and—as the title suggests— she gets involved with Mr. Booker, who is twice her age. For me, there was nothing likable about Mr. Booker. It was very difficult and uncomfortable to read through the parts of their sexual affair, since their age difference made it such an obviously unequal relationship.

Most of the adults in the book appear to live a life of pretense and just going through the motions, while drinking too much. Yet, their disillusion with life is heart-breaking, because they all seem so trapped, without seeing, or perhaps, wanting a way out.

I read it in one afternoon. Truthfully, I am still not sure I enjoyed it; I like books that make me feel better, and this book does not provide many “feel-good moments,” as the people in it come across as mostly unhappy. Nevertheless, it was very well written, and the voices in the book felt real, resulting in a captivating story. More importantly, it kept lingering in my mind afterwards. The book made me feel conflicted; on the one hand I caught myself being judgmental about the characters while reading it, but then also feeling for them for being incapable of finding a way out. In the end, I was desperately rooting for Martha to escape this life and find something better.

Cory Taylor was diagnosed with melanoma in 2005. After Me and Mr. Booker, she wrote My Beautiful Enemy in 2013. Her last book, Dying, a memoir, was published just before her death. She was 61 years old.

Women in Literature

Last month was Women’s History Month. I am a woman, so I wanted to give some thought to the status of women in literature. And their struggles.

In the past, a female author faced serious obstacles. Women’s rights were practically non-existent in the 18th-19th century, the time of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. A woman belonged to her husband, and so did her property or inheritance, as well as their children.

Back then, it was generally frowned upon that women wrote books. Jane Austen published anonymously, under the name “A Lady.” The Brontë Sisters—Charlotte, Emily and Anne—wrote under their masculine pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte Brontë explained this as follows:

“Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called “feminine” – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice…” (from Wikipedia)

Taking a male pen name was not unusual. Mary Anne Evans published under George Elliot, because she wanted to be taken seriously. George Sand, was in fact Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. Louisa May Alcott from Little Women wrote under A. M. Barnard.

Times do change, albeit slowly. Women voting rights here in the U.S were only granted in 1920. And what about that gender pay gap…?

There are still plenty of places around the world where women’s voices are repressed and should be heard. At least, here in the western world, the situation for women has improved over time. Nonetheless, when taking a closer look at how women authors here are appreciated, we are still not equal to men.

For instance, when it comes to big awards, women are lagging—for some awards more than others. The Pulitzer prize in Fiction was awarded to six women in the last twenty years. The Nobel Prize in Literature in the same time frame yields the same number. That’s only 30%. More interestingly even, as Nicola Griffith pointed out, of the women who won the Pulitzer Prize from 2000-2014, three had written a book from a predominantly male character’s perspective. As did the male writers who won the Pulitzer in the same period. And none of the books had a predominantly female perspective.

J.K. Rowling was told by her publisher to use her initials instead of her name, because it would do better with the boys, since Harry Potter is—well—a boy. It would be interesting to see if the Harry Potter series did less well with girls; I for one doubt it.

In 2015, Catherine Nichols, an American author, sent out six queries for her new novel under a male name; the result was five answers within 24 hours: three requests for the manuscript and two rejections. The previous fifty queries she had sent out under her real name, had received only two requests for the manuscript. She increased her queries under the male name to fifty, and the manuscript was requested seventeen times. Now, this may not be a completely valid scientific experiment, since she probably sent her queries to different agents, but taken together with the above, it’s not exactly encouraging either. Her male counterpart was received better, even though the book was the same.

I wonder though, if all this has less to do with the quality of writing or more with the persistent, though silent, perception within our culture—still—that men write better. Or for that matter, that a book written from a male perspective sells better—to both men and women. I caught myself in the library the other day, picking out books for my kids, actually debating whether the book I was holding would be too girly for my son, the main character in the book being a girl. But, and this is the crux, would I have asked myself that question if I’d picked out a book for my daughter and the main character was a boy? I doubt it. Now, I try to raise my children without gender bias, so why would I make that distinction?

Maybe it would be good for men to immerse themselves more in the female world, and read books from a female perspective. We, as women, seem to have no problem with reading books from theirs.

Next time I go to the library, I’ll keep that one in mind.