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Monday 6 May 2019

✉ Writing The Female Protagonist - R. G. Belsky

Today author takes over our blog to tell us about his latest novel, Below the Fold (, Oceanview Publishing, 356 pages), a Mystery, book two in the Clare Carlson Mysteries series.

"Below the Fold is a gripping and intelligent thriller that rips open the dark underbelly of TV news, written by a former television and print journalist himself. Fast-moving and full of colorful, down-and-dirty characters, this terrific novel is the second in a series starring the compelling and engaging TV journalist Clare Carlson. I highly recommend it."--Douglas Preston, New York Times best-selling author

"Below the Fold is what journalism is all about . . . crackling with the kind of authenticity only an experienced reporter could capture."
--Lee Goldberg, New York Times best-selling author

"Below the Fold is a terrific mystery, written with a veteran journalist's eye. The pacing and plotting are everything you want, but it's R. G. Belsky's insider knowledge that adds a wonderful layer to this story of media and murder."--Michael Koryta, New York Times best-selling author.

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || Author Guest Post || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||


      My new book BELOW THE FOLD is about a woman TV news journalist named Clare Carlson who uncovers a link between the seemingly insignificant murder of a New York City homeless woman to long-buried secrets involving a number of wealthy and powerful figures.

      This is the 12th mystery novel I’ve published, and the majority of them have featured a female protagonist - all written in the first person POV.

      Oh, I should also point out that I’m a man.

      That surprises some people, but it makes perfect sense to me as an author.

      When I started writing my first mystery novel back in the ‘80s, I had a male newspaper reporter as my protagonist.  It was okay, but seemed a bit too much like a lot of other male-dominated mysteries out there at the time.  A friend in publishing (a woman friend, I should add) read my manuscript and suggested: “Why don’t you make the reporter a woman? Now that might be really interesting!”

      I did, and the result was a woman newspaper reporter named Lucy Shannon who appeared in my first novel and a subsequent one.  I also did a four book series about another female journalist, TV reporter Jenny McKay.
Academy First Suspense
(October 1985)
Academy First Suspense
(February 1997)
Jenny McKay Mysteries
(August 1989 / retitled June 1993)
Jenny McKay Mysteries
(December 1993)
Jenny McKay Mysteries
(June 1994)
Jenny McKay Mysteries
(June 1995)
      My current female protagonist Clare Carlson - as well as those earlier two - is based in part on many of the talented women I’ve worked with in real life newsrooms over the years.  She’s tough and she’s smart and she’s a helluva journalist.  But her obsession with breaking the big story makes it difficult for her at times to balance her work with her outside life as a woman, a wife and a mother.

      Lots of women journalist I know have faced these same kind of challenges.

      And no, she’s not based on any single woman I worked with in newsrooms over my career in the media.

      Let’s just say I’ve known a lot of Clare Carlsons in my life.

      Female protagonists in mystery fiction like Clare were actually pretty rare until the ‘80s when Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone burst onto the scene as PIs.
That was followed a few years later by Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.  These were tough women, and they blazed the path for all the great fictional female characters we have today.

      Of course, writing the female character as a man, and doing it in the first person POV like I do, is not as common.

      But I’m not the only author who does that kind of thing.

      James Ziskin has won numerous awards for his series about Ellie Stone, a woman newspaper reporter from back in the ‘60s, which he writes in the first person.

      And it can work the other way too: Susan Isaacs wrote a wonderful novel called Magic Hour in the first person as a man.

Dick (R.G.) Belsky
      Is it hard for me to write from the viewpoint of a woman character like Clare Carlson?  Well, not really.  But that’s because I get input from a lot of smart women I know and work with in the media world.  Especially, of course, when it comes to dressing my character.  I make sure I get female advice on that.

      The only time it ever went wrong for me was in an early book where I dressed a woman reporter in jeans and with a casual look the way I saw other women reporters dress in the newsroom where I worked then.  But my book editor decided to change all that and put my character in some old-fashioned, proper dresses from another era.  When the book came out, one of the female reporters I worked with told me: “I loved the book, I loved your character - but who the hell dressed her?”  Other than that, I think I’ve done pretty well creating believable female characters.

      I’ve written male characters too.  During the past few years, I did a three-book series on a reporter named Gil Malloy who works for a New York City newspaper.  And yes, that was a bit easier because I didn’t have to ask anybody how to dress him!

      But right now the most important person in my fictional world is Clare Carlson.

      She’s tough, talented and takes no guff from anyone - I like to think she could hold her own with Kinsey Millhone, V.I Warshawski, Stephanie Plum or any of the other great female characters written by women.

      Hey, I like Clare.

      I hope you will too.

When the murder of a “nobody” triggers an avalanche.

Below the Fold
Pre-order NOW, OUT 7 May 2019!

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CMash said...

I am one fan that can answer the author's statement....Yes, I definitely like Clare too! Can't wait for the next book in this series.

R.G. Belsky said...

Thanks for telling your readers all about Clare and Below The Fold. I think she's a pretty interesting woman!

BooksChatter said...

Hello and thank you for popping by!
Thank you for being such a great guest, and of course for giving us Clare.

I have not read Below The Fold yet (it is next on my list) but I did read Yesterday's News last May and I was hooked (I pretty much read it in one sitting). Clare is definitely interesting and, despite some clues, the revelations took me by surprise. Very well done! I loved it and have been looking forward to Below the Fold!