Helen asked me to write about “the challenges of writing a strong female lead in a genre dominated by men.” However, I actually wouldn’t count that as one of the challenges I faced when writing Fluency.
Writing a female character is no more difficult than writing a male character. People are people. As a friend of mine likes to say, we all, male and female, look to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for safety, security and happiness. Throughout my lifetime I’ve known scores of women who were strong, resilient and capable. So writing Jane as my protagonist wasn’t any more of a challenge for me than writing a male character would be.
Of course when I sat down to write Fluency,I was aware of the dearth of SF featuring female protagonists, and that certainly was something I thought about, but I wasn’t interested in writing to a “market” or writing toward that ever-elusive “next big thing.” I just wanted to, as Carol Shields said, “write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.” I sat down to write something I was excited about. My intention was to grow as a writer, and I knew I couldn’t do that if I wasn’t completely enthralled with the story I was telling.
So I didn’t study the market. It never occurred to me to write Jane as a male, even though the real person I partially based her on is male. I didn’t think about what things might make the book more saleable; I just wrote the best book I could possibly write at that time.
Now that’s not to say that there haven’t been some pratfalls related to gender in the release of this book. It became clear pretty quickly that I’d made at least one big gaffethat possibly could be attributed to my gender. I wrote the book thinking that the audience would be other female SF enthusiasts like me, but it turned out that 90+% of my earliest readership was male.These readers were quick to point out (and actually be offended!) that I didn’t know my gun terminology. I had, in fact, done hours and hours of research to get those few brief mentions of the M9 Beretta as correct as possible, and I even had expert beta readers, but there was one gun diagram that led me astray. I got the words “clip” and “magazine” confused, and no one brought that to my attention before the book was published.
I also discovered that a certain small subset of (vocal) male SF readers find any kind of romantic subplot to be anathema. Goodness forbid there is sex in a SF novel. Though the novel was clearly labeled as “space opera,” and that genre is defined by Wikipedia as “…a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, weapons, and other technology. The term has no relation to music but is instead a play on the term ‘soap opera.’” Since I don’t see the word ‘celibacy’ in this definition, until further notice I’ll assume that future humanity hasn’t taken to frigidly dividing like amoebas.
While that wasn’t a challenge, it certainly was a consequence after the fact. Other consequences included misogynistic insults in reviews, accusations of writing a Mary Sue, of writing a book to fulfill a childhood desire to be special, of writing an entire novel just so I could write a sex scene…oh, I could go on and on, but Helen has already written more than once about internet hate and trollish behavior. Suffice it to say that there are still a lot of boys in the sci-fi audience who don’t think girls have any business playing with their toy spaceships. This wasn’t a surprise to me, so it was easy to compartmentalize that stuff as it came up.
The challenges I did face in writing Fluencywere the same kinds of challenges all writers face, regardless of gender: motivation, focus, planning, self-doubt. The challenges in selling Fluency were also the same that all writers face: presenting an interesting product, generating interest, and getting the book into the hands of the target audience. Had I chosen to traditionally publish, convincing an agent and an editor that Fluency was saleable would have been an additional obstacle, however I can’t speak to that since I published the book myself.
My success with this book, and the popularity of Jane as a female protagonist,certainly lends credence to the idea that attitudes are shifting. We are moving away from defining roles along gender lines, and most readers are open to reading about any kind of protagonist that we throw at them. Hopefully, one day soon, questions like the one Helen asked me to address will not even be on anyone’s radar.
Publisher: Blue Bedlam Science Fiction (June 18, 2014)
Category: Science Fiction: Space Opera, First Contact, Action-Adventure, Alien, Romance
Tour Date: March 2-April 30, 2015
Available in: Print & ebook, 373 Pages
NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.
The ship itself remained silent, drifting.
Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it’s an adventure she can’t refuse.
The ship isn’t vacant, as they presumed.
A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane’s head, “You are home.”
Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien’s help to survive.
Praise for ‘Fluency’:
“Author Jennifer Wells’ writing genius comes from her vast knowledge of the highly technical subject matter and her ability to put the reader in the middle of it without losing him/her in technical jargon while creating characters that seem completely natural and believable.”– Jean Fisher for Independent Publisher News
“With her first novel, Jennifer Wells adds a fresh voice to the sci-fi genre and distinguishes herself as an author to watch.” –Theresa Kay, author of Broken Skies
“One of the runaway sci-fi hits on Amazon this year has been Jennifer Foehner Wells’ space thriller Fluency and quite frankly it’s a welcome addition to the genre.
Fluency moves at a breakneck pace in a very cinematic fashion, the narrative mostly linear with some minor flashbacks to fill in gaps in the back story. Wells does a fine job of dealing with the technical side of proceedings without resorting to complicated jargon (I know I know, some geeks love the jargon but not this one!) The human technology is believable and the alien technology while advanced, is also impressively practical.
While the strong female character has become a bit of a cliché in sci-fi over the past few years, it’s worth noting that many of these female characters have been written by men. What makes Fluency so refreshing is that Holloway’s character develops in a much more believable fashion given her circumstances. Sure she has to eventually toughen up and fight, but she’s much more than that. She’s a brilliant mind faced with a life-changing event and not just her life but the entire planet’s and her decisions will have monumental consequences. Her ability to focus is paramount and though it may seem she is being manipulated at times, she quickly takes control of her relationship with Ei’Brai. As the story reaches its gripping conclusion it also lays the groundwork for an exciting continuation of this rapidly unfolding saga.
Littered with plenty of nods and winks to classic sci-fi and some clever pop culture references, Fluency is a thrilling, bumpy ride that rarely falters and firmly cements Jennifer Foehner Wells’ standing in the indie scene as an innovative and refreshing new voice in modern sci-fi.”– Eamon Ambrose, Eamo The Geek
“A book that is just as appealing to women as it is to men. I’ll admit, I saw the beautiful cover and thought it was going to be old-school, hardcore sci-fi with lots of technobabble and women in service roles rather than command ones. By the time we got into space I was hooked, and only got more engrossed the further I went.
There’s no flab in this book. It starts out strongly and each scene is carefully considered in how it develops the characters and advances the plot. The pitch rises gradually until leveling off at the end, just as it should.
The prose is straightforward and lets the reading just flow. Dialogue made sense and there weren’t too many narrative sequences. Again, Jennifer Foehner Wells has taken care in crafting a balance of elements.
This is a pretty special book. It’s a modern take on sci-fi, and has a lot to offer. There’s a light romantic subplot, a first-contact scenario, and a high-stakes situation that seems unclear, then clear, then unclear again. This story isn’t predictable and it doesn’t rely on any timeworn tropes. Fluency is something new in fiction, and that always excites the hell out of me.”–Zen, Women of Badassery
Jennifer Foehner Wells lives an alternately chaotic and fairly bucolic existence in Indiana with two boisterous little boys, a supportive husband, a mildly unhinged Labrador retriever, and three adorable pet rats as housemates.
Having studied biology, Jen’s possessed with a keen interest in science and technology. She’s 100% geek and proud of it.
FLUENCY was Jen’s debut. It spent weeks in the Kindle Top 100, going as high as number 4. It remains prominent in several Science Fiction categories. It has garnered 848 five star reviews, to date.
Follow the Tour:
Indie Review Behind the Scenes Feb 20 Live I 6 PM cst
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Mar 2 Spotlight & Giveaway
100 Pages A Day Mar 3 Review & Excerpt
Tea Talks Mar 3 Guest Post & Excerpt
Feminist Reflections Blog Mar 4 Review & Excerpt
Mindful Musings Mar 5 Review
BookJunkieMom @ Rainy Day Mar 5 Guest Post & Excerpt
Paranormal Romance Mar 6 Review
Not Now…Mommy’s Reading Mar 6 Guest Post & Giveaway
Reading Romances Mar 9 Review
The Book’s Buzz Mar 10 Review
What U Talking Bout Willis? Mar 11 Excerpt
Joy’s Book Blog Mar 12 Review, Interview, & Giveaway
Paradise Found Mar 13 Review, Interview & Excerpt
Literary R&R Mar 17 Review
The Goode Word Mar 18 Review
Pinky’s Favorite Reads Mar 18 Interview & Giveaway
Cassandra M’s Place Mar 24 Review & Giveaway
fuonlyknew Mar 26 Review
TrulySimplyPink Mar 27 Review & Excerpt
Deal Sharing Aunt Mar 30 Review
My Tangled Skeins Book Apr 1 Review, Guest Post, Excerpt,& Giveaway
Room With Books Apr 2 Review, Interview & Giveaway
Mary’s Cup of Tea Apr 7 Review
Books and Quilts Apr 8 Review
BK Walker Books Apr 9 Guest Post
Inspire to Read April 10 Spotlight
Rockin’ Book Reviews Apr 10 Review
Brooke Blogs Apr 24 Review