Author Essays

Roland Merullo on Writing from a Female Point of View

Inevitably I get a question like this: how is it that, as a male author you’ve been able to write, in a believable way, from a female point of view?

I do a fair number of public appearances every year and what I enjoy most is the give-and-take with the audience.

Inevitably I get a question like this: how is it that as a male author, you’ve been able to write, in a believable way, from a female point of view?

I’ve written novels like Vatican Waltz and The Talk-Funny Girl that are told by a first-person female narrator, and I’ve also written novels like Breakfast with Buddha and Lunch with Buddha that are told by first-person male narrators.

I’ve written a love story told by a man (A Little Love Story), and a thriller (Fidel’s Last Days) about a woman undercover agent, and a multi-narrator novel (Revere Beach Boulevard) that’s told by men and women, old and young, straight and gay, good and evil.

So I guess part of the answer to the above question is: I don’t like to be limited, and I don’t like to write the same kind of novel over and over again.

But, to answer the question more directly, when I write from a woman’s point of view I try, primarily, to write from a human being’s point of view. I try to go deep into that part of us that is more essential even than gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, class, or any of those other aspects of our humanity that get so much attention.

I really believe we are more alike than different.

It’s absolutely true that women and men have certain fundamental differences. But I try to work the territory that is “below” those differences. Deeper.

Each in our own way, we all love and want to be loved. We all have relationships, and those relationships always include both happy and difficult moments. We all experience fear and hope and worry and disappointment and exhilaration, and that’s the place I like to work.

The biggest mistake a man can make in writing about women is to grab for the cheap tricks—writing about clothes, body parts, menstruation, even childbirth.

These are not things I know—despite the fact that I’ve been married for 34 years and watched the birth of our two wonderful daughters. I can’t know those things, not in the deepest way, not from inside. And I don’t try to fake it.

In Vatican Waltz and The Talk-Funny Girl, I write about young women who are struggling to find or to make lives that suit them, to free themselves from destructive or unsatisfying relationships and work toward a way of being in the world that satisfies them on all levels.

To me, there’s no “trick” in writing from the point of view of another gender. The only trick is to dive down into the human condition, messy and beautiful as it can be, and write about that as honestly as I can.

Do have any favorite novels written by men from a female point of view, or by women from a male point of view? Share in the comments!

About the Author

ROLAND MERULLO is the author of the Revere Beach trilogy, A Little Love Story, Golfing with God, and Breakfast with Buddha. A graduate of Brown University, he lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two children. Visit him online at RolandMerullo.com
  • MimiB

    I am always pleased when I’m reading and forget the gender of the author, as that means the writing and characters are coming from a place of common humanity. However, having said that, occasionally, I feel something is lost when characters are too gender neutral. Men and women share many things, of course, but there are also subtle differences in how we approach life, think and deal with emotions. Some of these are innate to our DNA and sometimes the result of societal learning and they must be considered or the characters and their reactions will not ring true. Many male and female writers are quite sensitive to, and skilled showing, the nuances of gender, so this certainly isn’t a criticism. But occasionally we’ve all read books in which the viewpoints just don’t ring true.

    As one example of a novel written by a woman with a male point of view, I’d suggest The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. She rather perfectly gets into the mind of an adolescent boy… at least it seems so, based on the boys in my life. They can be quite perplexing as well as predictable, and are often not able to fully articulate or understand why they think and behave as they do. She’s really captured this in the character of Theo.