The response to my blog post a little while ago about the fact that most crime fiction talks and other events seem to be attended mainly by women readers prompted a host of fascinating comments, which I’ve been mulling over ever since. On my recent trip to Darnhill Library, for instance, I talked about those comments when answering a question from the audience about the gender of my ‘typical’ reader.
Richmonde, in a fascinating comment on the blog post, had said, ‘We can't just turn up on our own to bars, parties, clubs, concerts – men can. So you'll find us out in force at any event where being a single female isn't an issue: lecture at a library, lunchtime chamber concert, art gallery, religious service, music workshop.’ When I relayed her point to the almost exclusively female audience at Darnhill, there was general agreement that it was spot on.
Coupled with that is the female enthusiasm for mystery fiction. Barbara said in her comment, ‘Women tend to be more social in their reading habits, and men more solitary, generalizing very broadly. Also, I suspect it's simply more acceptable for women to be seen enjoying fiction and books in general than men, who are supposed to be lifting weights or cooking meat over fires or something .’ Of course, as she says, this is a generalisation – I’m afraid you won’t catch me eagerly lifting weights or cooking meat over fires, in fact not ever, and I really love mystery fiction. But there is a lot of truth in Barbara’s general point.
I was also very interested when Maxine said, ‘Apparently 60 per cent of UK readers are women over 50. That is one reason why you are doing so well to have a character like Hannah Scarlett - we like reading about capable, attractive, intelligent women.’ The fact is that when I conceived the Lake District Mysteries, I had the idea of developing a slow-burning relationship between Daniel and Hannah, but I felt that Daniel would be the lead character. That is why the early chapters of The Coffin Trail are dominated by Daniel and his partner (whom none of my readers have ever cared for!) Miranda. But when Peter Robinson was kind enough to read the book pre-publication he commented particularly on the strength of Hannah as a character, and as I have tried to get more and more into her mind-set, she has moved to centre stage in the subsequent books.