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Women Crime Writers Discuss Violence, Women, and What Readers Will and Won’t Accept


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Hello again! Here I am with another group of excellent writers: Ivy Pochoda (These Women), Amy Gentry (Bad Habits), Cynthia Pelayo (Children of Chicago), Elisabeth de Mariaffi (The Retreat), and a special appearance by Lisa Taddeo (Animal). Our topic was deliberately broad: women and violence. We talked about that and a whole bushel of related and unrelated topics: horror, Momfluencers, Cottagecore, arrogant women, likeability, the Texas mom cheerleader murder, Medea, bookstagram, ambition and, Ivy’s mic drop revelation about a job she had in proximity to the rich and famous. Don’t steal our ideas, aspiring crime writers. If someone publishes a crime novel in Instagram stories about a mother with a touch of bloodlust we will retaliate.

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Lisa: Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves: Hi I’m TK and I live in TK and I wrote TK.

Ivy Pachoda: I’m Ivy and I live in Los Angeles but I’m from / in Brooklyn right now and I wrote These Women et al

Cynthia: I’m Cynthia . I live in Chicago. I write poetry and genre blends of horror/mystery/nonfiction.

Amy: Hi Ivy and Cynthia! I’m Amy and I live in Austin and I wrote, most recently, Bad Habits.

Amy: (and also Cynthia I’ve been low-key stalking you on Twitter bc I’m trying to write a horror novel rn)

Elisabeth de Mariaffi: Hi everyone!

Cynthia: Recently I wrote Children of Chicago (crime + horror blend) and Into the Forest and All the Way Through (true crime poetry)

Lisa: We have one more person coming midstream but let’s start. The gist of these roundtables is I throw out some questions and you guys type type type.

Cynthia  : *cracks knuckles* I’m ready.

Elisabeth : hahaha, sounds fun.

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“I WANT women who are the bad guys.”

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Lisa: My rough idea for this discussion was about women and violence. I have noticed an uptick in books where women are violent and no uptick in pearl clutching, which leaves me wondering if we are either inoculated to violent women or less likely to say it is only a male phenomenon.

Is this equal opportunity perp progress, or an indication of another cultural shift?

Amy: I’m not sure about the wider media response, but I do know that there’s still PLENTY of pearl clutching in the reader reviews!

Lisa: Oh, do tell!

Cynthia: Interesting, I’ve seen lots of pearl clutching for my book, but I think my book is a little more complicated since the protagonist is in law enforcement, a woman of color AND a villain. She is most certainly violent, and I think it’s the combination I threw at people that was too much sometimes for them to process. Latina + Detective + Villain.

Ivy: We sure are inoculated to violence in books and films, in culture, I should say. But I’m gonna echo Amy here. Readers are often FURIOUS about women acting counter to the conventions of nature and nurture.

Lisa: Aha! I suspected as much.

Lisa: Your book, Ivy, is very much on point here.

Ivy: I think it’s fairly ok, reception wise and in the world in general, to have examples of female violence where that violence is in reaction to the crimes of men.

Cynthia: I agree. It’s mostly women who are upset by not having a protagonist who is fighting against the world and ends up victorious over all of the bad guys. I WANT women who are the bad guys.

Lisa: So a man has to strike first?

Amy: I mean, in my experience it’s still not okay if the man initiates the violence! But, whatever.

Lisa: Absolutely Cynthia 

Amy: Honestly readers are just as upset about my female characters being bad moms, bad friends, etc., as they are about the violence. So not sure if it’s the violence per se, or the just being female?

Elisabeth: I feel like readers/viewers are okay with women acting out of revenge, but the idea of women just… acting is sometimes hard to swallow.

Elisabeth: Okay yes what Amy said.

Ivy: I’m saying that if a woman retaliates or seeks retribution that’s treated a little differently than if she’s violent in the way a man might be.

Amy: Yeah Cynthia hard same on women who are just bad. In the bad, not-good way.

Lisa: That’s an interesting distinction. Revenge is definitely a major motive for violence.

Ivy: Just WAIT til my next book Elisabeth.

Lisa: It’s okay if someone has taken your child, eg. But isn’t that old news?

Amy: Exciting…!

Cynthia: Right, I agree. Acting on revenge is one thing, but if a woman is acting out violently just to be violent, or perhaps for another motivation, I don’t think that works well with audiences. I’m still going to write it however.

Lisa: And you should!

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“’It’s the ol’ likability factor.’ Audiences feel betrayed if you give them an unlikeable woman character.”

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Ivy: I think for the most part the palatable examples of female violence as a reaction to abuse or trauma are considered acceptable. But when a woman transgresses the maternal construct society (and literature) has built for her, then you’re in trouble.

Elisabeth: It’s the ol’ likeability factor.

Amy: Again–it is amazing to me how many people found fault with my vengeful protag in Last Woman Standing!

Lisa: That seems right to me, Ivy.

Cynthia: I really feel as though society is still terrified by the woman that is bad…to just be bad. I think a lot of it is still grounded in old perceptions of what a woman should be. If a woman is just violent for violence sakes, without emotion or remorse, I think that scares the hell out of some people and they don’t know how to interpret that.

Elisabeth: And not just bad but maybe… dark?

Ivy:  There’s a rather interesting book of nonfiction, When She Was Bad, that goes into this quite deeply…. Women are often not allowed to own their crimes but must make excuses for them such as: brainwashed or on drugs or disturbed. WE CAN’T DEAL WITH VIOLENT WOMEN.

Lisa: Agree Cynthia. And Elisabeth I think likeability is a big factor here. Yes I know that book Ivy!

Ivy: There are times that I want to cancel likability as a way to discuss characters. It’s so ridiculous.

Lisa: So it’s the fear of female anger?

Amy: Agreed, Ivy

Elisabeth: Truthfully I don’t think I’ve written violent women per se, but I do write women who have some darkness, who have complicated relationships with other women, and that’s where the questions come in.

Lisa: I think that’s one of the most interesting places in CF—female friendships/frenemy-ships/rivalry

Amy: Ooh yes—complicated relationships with other women is a big thing that can get you in trouble.

Lisa: Amy, you write about this a lot

Amy: (with readers I mean)

Cynthia: Elisabeth nailed it. It’s the ol’ likability factor. Audiences feel betrayed if you give them an unlikeable woman character. Unlikeable male characters are so quickly accepted, but give them a wicked woman, and not some Disney-ed wicked woman like “Maleficent” but give them someone like a serial killer that is not doing it for revenge then you will violate the unsaid universal rule of making your protagonist sympathetic.

Amy: I do, in the last two especially.

Lisa: Is there a difference if the violence is female on female or if a woman is violent toward a man?

Ivy: I think a lot of acceptably violent women exist in books such as Lisa Unger’s where we dwell in the realm of the psychological and not directly with the crime,

Amy: That’s an interesting question, about woman-on-woman v. woman-on-man violence.

Lisa: That’s a good point Ivy. It’s okay if it’s a reaction, not just action.

Cynthia: That’s interesting, woman on woman violence, v woman on man…or what about woman violence on children?

Lisa: Ladies shouldn’t hit first.

Amy: Violence against children, I am guessing, would be a big no-no for most readers! Considering that if a character is not a perfect mother—and I mean PERFECT—they’re gonna get reamed for it.

Elisabeth: Oh, we have a hard time dealing with women’s violence toward children. I feel like there’s so much room there to actually have a bigger discussion about abuse.

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“I think bold women, in the real world, are punished for their boldness”

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Cynthia: There’s this issue with ladies hitting first. I still think people don’t really like when women are aggressive or outspoken. They are automatically pegged as unlikeable. People say they want bold women, but most of the bold women I know do encounter a lot of pushback. This is very much so in the arts.

Amy: Yes, it’s probably one of the most prevalent forms of women’s violence actually.

Elisabeth: Yes, but also ambition.

Lisa: Ambition is tough.

Amy: Oof I keep wanting to pull up more examples—but I’m not sure I want to keep dissing on readers for not liking my violent women—they like what they like! I just like something so, so different in my own reading.

Ivy: I think bold women, in the real world, are punished for their boldness ultimately…. at least by some.

Elisabeth: I mean, ambition as something that engenders violence.

Lisa: So is arrogance. I’m working on something non-CF now that has me thinking about how it is unacceptable for a woman to be arrogant.

Ivy: Exactly

Cynthia: Right, that’s what I was thinking Lisa. There are some awful and tragic cases in the news of women abusing children.

Lisa: Confident is okay, but not conceited.

Amy: Yeah. I’m so interested in why readers can’t identify with confident women.

Elisabeth : It’s a fine line and a line that is always being moved, I think.

Cynthia: Yes! Audiences sure do get upset with an arrogant woman. Is it arrogance, or confidence? I think it’s both.

Amy: And—conceited? I mean do people think they’ve never behaved badly? Never been arrogant or acted superior? They’re probably wrong.

Elisabeth: An arrogant woman entering the story automatically means she is a villain.

Lisa: I love conceited. People stop using it in around 7th grade but it’s a real thing.

Amy: I find it so weird how badly behaving women seem to make EVERYONE very defensive—very “unrelatable”—whereas badly behaved men need only to “save the cat” to be relatable

Elisabeth: How boring. What if the arrogant woman was the hero? she certainly is to herself.

Amy: Give me conceited, arrogant bitches. I will read about them and love them all day long.

Cynthia  Agreed, Elisabeth but at least for me, there’s something alluring about an arrogant woman. Like wow, she knows what she’s doing and she has this power. I love it.

Amy: Yes, agreed Cynthia.

Cynthia: That’s my new battle cry Amy.

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“What are these people reading where the women are so freaking nice?”

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Ivy: Not to be a total nerd here, but if you look at Lady Macbeth or Clytemnestra, the language they use to describe their acts of violence is anti-maternalistic… so male writers from the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare clearly can’t deal with violent women except to describe them as bad moms.

Lisa: Relatable, likable—these are all forms of a power dynamic that has men on top.

Amy: I just—what are these people reading where the women are so freaking nice??

Cynthia: YES Ivy 

Lisa: Yes, Ivy—I mean, Medea was an OG abuser.

Cynthia: Medea! Yes. I’m just shouting yes and yes over here

Amy: Also—long live bad moms, tbh. Give me all the bad moms in books.

Cynthia: Right, if you are violent, then you’re automatically not a nurturer, or a good mother…or capable of being a mother.

Lisa: Dead moms are more common.

Ivy: Women must always be given a relatable excuse for their actions in fiction. Men never need this.

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“We use “final girl” even if she’s in her 20s? She’s a woman. Not girl. Love it.”

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Cynthia: At least that is what those previous works stated about women that were violent, they attack their value as mothers in society…or the possibility of being mothers.

Cynthia : Right Ivy—audiences applaud a woman seeking revenge, the Final Girl

Cynthia: BUT flip that. What if we just have a bad woman? Audiences do not like that.

Amy: I think the reason readers react so strongly is that we (women I mean) are so, so, so sensitive to being called bad moms ourselves—which we always, always are—and “not-a-mom” is almost as bad, socially speaking—that we shudder from identifying with it. There’s a defense mechanism there.

Lisa: The key being “girl.” Where are the final women?

Cynthia: Right? I love that Lisa

Elisabeth: I’m finding with every book I’m less and less interested in the male characters, specifically because I don’t really want my women reacting to men all the time. Do you know what I mean?

Cynthia: There’s this virginal obsession, and just the language we use “final girl” even if she’s in her 20s? She’s a woman. Not girl. Love it.

Amy: I always put the likability question back on readers. I mean, I know these characters are likable. I like them. So it’s possible to like them.

Cynthia: I agree, Elisabeth. I don’t really care for story lines centering around a woman’s relationship with a man. What is her world? Her motivations? I want her story if she’s bad, violent, who is she?

Lisa: And why is she?

Lisa: The WHY is major. It’s what gets audiences in a lather.

Cynthia: Most definitely, what were her circumstances to make her…her.

Ivy: Well, let’s see, I did an event with the Liv Constantine(s) and their novel was all about a vengeful possibly murderous women but it was of a kind that seems not to attract derision.

Lisa: Yes yes yes

Cynthia: YES, Lisa

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“If Gone Girl had been written by a man it would have been up for prizes”

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Amy: What are the best examples of violent women you all have read lately? I mean, leaving aside the reader response–what do y’all like?

Lisa: What’s clever about Liv C is they really know how to build a character. They do deep background, which can be boring but they keep it moving.

Cynthia: Not sure if I’m stepping on a grenade here, but why do you think it worked for Gone Girl and not others?

Ivy: We can only accept female violence if it’s in relation to a man… I keep saying this. But it’s true. And in writing my new book I kept wanting to write back story to JUSTIFY my violent lead but was like, why must she be abused or traumatized. What does it matter WHY she’s violent.

Lisa: We have another panelist who will jump on soon who has written a very good novel about a violent woman.

Amy: Gonna come out and vote for “because Gone Girl is an absolute banger” lol

Cynthia: Because Gone Girl blew up, it was a cultural phenomenon for a minute.

Lisa: YES Gone Girl. A million times

Ivy: She’s not THAT violent in Gone Girl.

Lisa: If GG was written by a man it would have been up for prizes.

Cynthia: Right, so there’s that push and pull and that motivation.

Amy: yeah—and she gets victimized too! But it’s a magic eye poster of a book. It’s brilliant. Men and women can both read themselves in it and get read right back by it. Brill.

Elisabeth: Lisa wow, yes

Ivy: I also think we rarely see unvarnished violent women. GG we see her nice house and enviable life and it provides a distraction.

Lisa: Is there anything in any of the Jonathans as good as the Cool Girl?

Cynthia: That’s true. With the parents, being used as a young child…and not really having an identity because of that upbringing.

Lisa: Agree Ivy

Lisa: But I love how both of the protags in GG are rotten to the core.

Ivy: The only part of GG I didn’t need was her backstory.

Amy: I’m not sure Amazing Amy is enviable! Though she certainly portrays herself that way

Lisa: It’s an amoral book.

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“Kill the Mommy Blogger”

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Ivy: Her lifestyle is though…

Amy: It’s equal opp misanthropy, which I love

Lisa: Lifestyle is on the decline. GG is about how Gen X has gotten dogged.

Elisabeth: Ivy totally agree, the Amazing Amy stuff didn’t do anything for me.

Amy: Her lifestyle is actually a big comedown from NY though! She’s like a mommy blogger who moves from the big city and has to fill her days by becoming an influencer. (No shade on mom blogs or influencers but…she’s the OG)

Lisa: OMG Mommy Blogger thriller is so good

Amy: They’re living in a big empty house with no furniture, they’ve lost their journo jobs, etc

Lisa: Someone jump on that

Amy: haha surely someone has!!

Ivy: I’d kill the mommy blogger

Lisa: Exactly Amy. A lot of the momentum in GG is about loss.

Cynthia: The mommy blogger thriller. Is this is thing? Someone make it a thing.

Cynthia: Haha. “I’d kill the mommy blogger”

Amy: Oh I have a friend who researches Christian momfluencers–maybe she’s writing a crime book!

Lisa: I can see Amy doing it. Or we can give it to an up-and-comer.

Amy: The Mommy Blog Murders

Cynthia: The Mommy Blog Murders. It’s gonna blow up.

Amy: hahaha

Lisa: She should, Amy. Who is more frightening than a Christian Mommy Blogger?

Amy: group project, let’s make up a pseudonym

Elisabeth: hahaha

Ivy: It can be written over 20 sec instagram stories.

Amy: Get this pitch together! I see Mommy Bloggers offing each other’s children by secret contract.

Elisabeth: in fact, it HAS to be written over Insta stories.

Amy: OR IS THAT TOO DARK

Lisa: YES Ivy. Or Tik Tok

Cynthia: Oh hell! THAT is a great idea. Offing other people’s kids…because they are not perfect enough. Someone write it.

Lisa: So it’s The Chain meets Basic Bitches?

Amy: Lots of floaty Victorian dresses

Lisa: OMG I hate cottage core

Amy: in daisy fields

Lisa: I hated it the first time. Gunne Sax is so frigging ugly.

Amy: I love all the cores, but only to ogle in fascination

Ivy: I think we can get it sponsored by Red Tricycle or the Nest

Amy: I sort of love Gunne Sax but yes it is murdery

Lisa: Ha! Or the Knot.

Ivy: Totally.

Cynthia: How can they not sponsor this? This is a major marketing opportunity.

Lisa: Gunne Sax looks like those Mormon girls who are always trying to escape the compound.

Ivy: I wanted to murder my sister-in-law every day for spamming my inbox with her TinyBeans baby updates.

Lisa: Ivy that’s justified homicide.

Cynthia: Even with the pandemic, I still think some people have a draw to look at a perfect life, what does that look like and we all love to look in even further when we see it’s NOT really perfect.

Lisa: Perfect Life + violence = Bestseller

Amy: y’all

Cynthia: Exactly. We love to see the destruction of the fake perfect life.

Ivy: Cozy Chic

Lisa: I love the idea of killing cottagecore icons.

Cynthia: Cozy chic.

Lisa: Like a souped-up Little House

Amy: do y’all know there is a core for everything? I looked up goblincore just to see the other day, it’s a thing

Amy: mushroomcore, leafcore, applecore

Ivy: Now… in the Little House days a woman could kill some outlaw and it’s cool

Amy: I promise you every core exists

Cynthia: It’s part of why some people are obsessed with the train wreck of celebrity culture, because even with all of that money, they still have many of the same dysfunctions regular people have…and sometimes it spins into violence and audiences are all into it.

Lisa: But I’m not sure if they know they are Normcore or just like fanny packs.

“People will steal our ideas and write our bestsellers!!”

Amy: The Pioneer Woman Murders

Lisa: OMG that woman is creepy

Cynthia: Pioneer Woman Murders. A couple leaves the city to start a homestead and bam…murder.

Ivy: The Pioneer Woman murders with trans fat

Lisa: I love the idea of a woman who is like do the canning, school the kids, murder the neighbor.

Amy: I’ve always wanted to do a book about someone recreating the Oregon Trail for a blog–how about historical reenactors that murder each other in an old prairie house?

Ivy: It’s all cream cheese in a Pillsbury roll dipped in butter and fried.

Ivy: Amy, that’s awesome

Lisa: Or an updated Donner Party?

Ivy: Donner party but with recipes.

Amy: I like how we just devolved into an ideas thread. You can’t print this! People will steal our ideas and write our bestsellers!!

Lisa: Don’t worry I’ll edit the prime stuff out.

Ivy: I think we want mother in books to have ideas beyond their station but not to act on them… to put the family unit first but recognize the limitations.

Lisa: And it is a serious MomFail when something goes wrong

Elisabeth: Like the college admissions thing, could you write one of those mothers and make her… likeable?

Cynthia: Yes, I mean, I have special needs kids, so I naturally have an anxiety to protect them. So I am drawn to that in fiction because I identify with it.

Amy: Good as Gone has a child abduction and my mom friends couldn’t read it. They were too upset. I didn’t get it.

Lisa: Or the woman who killed her daughter’s cheerleading rival

Ivy: I tutored the Huffman Macy kids

Ivy: Just saying

Elisabeth: I’m listening!

Amy: Texas cheerleading mom will forever have a place in my heart!

Ivy: They hired me to teach them Latin when they were 9-ish.

Amy: WHOA

Cynthia: What!!

Lisa: OMG IVY spill it!

Lisa: Weren’t they in the admissions scandal?

Elisabeth: apparently the Latin didn’t take

Cynthia: Why isn’t that a book? Admissions scandal unlikeable mom. Kills a few people. Why not?

Ivy: Yup… but this was much earlier and they were super normal and cool. Their friend hired me to show off to them…

Amy: Aw. (for the kids, I mean)

Amy: They didn’t ask to be born into this biz.

Ivy: Cynthia for sure that will happen

Elisabeth: I can see a mother-character getting in so deep that there’s no way out. Sort of Big Little Lies in tone.

Amy: I think there was a book? Not sure about the murders, but…

Elisabeth: And once she’s killed once

Lisa: That’s actually the plot of Elisabeth Saxon Holding’s book and I will find the title

Ivy: People will do anything to get into the Ivy League. For real… then you can bring in all the secret societies.

Elisabeth: dammit

Amy: Did any of y’all read Herman Koch’s The Dinner? There were things I didn’t love about it but I’m a sucker for a good dinner party book, and it had similar subject matter

Cynthia: Right, kills someone to fake test scores, or athletic accomplishments. This could get messy.

Amy: In terms of rich parents protecting their kids

Lisa: Mother protect daughter who has been hanging out with ARTISTS and BOHEMIANS

Amy: Oh I like that Lisa

Ivy : We must always cushion these violent women…

Lisa: The Blank Wall

Lisa: Hooray Lisa Taddeo is here!

Amy: Hi Lisa!!!

Cynthia: HI!

Ivy: Hey!

Elisabeth: Hi Lisa!

Lisa T: Hi, so excited to be here!

Lisa: To recap: we are talking about violent women, Cottagecore, and bad mothers

Lisa T: Oh wonderful, can I ask about cottagecore? When was it established?

Amy: Bad, Violent, Cottagecore Moms: a limited HBOMax series

Ivy: In 1843

Lisa T: not that I dont want to talk about the other two

Lisa: I suddenly started seeing it everywhere right at the beginning of the pandemic

Amy: It was around before then, but like many cozy aesthetics, really blew up during the pandy

Amy: It’s comforting and also super gay!! So I’m for it

Lisa: It feels so much like a can’t we just have nice things?

Ivy: Everyone bought molasses

Lisa: molasses hahaha

Lisa: I once broke a jar of molasses and my husband was cleaning it up for six months.

Lisa: (I am clumsy and a bad housekeeper)

Ivy: I feel his pain

Amy: My lesbian and nb friends find a lot of comfort and solidarity in cottagecore and the related cores! So I do think it’s worth distinguishing from mommy blogs, momfluencers, homeschooling movements, etc

Lisa: Interesting! I didn’t know that Amy.

Lisa: what are related cores?

Lisa: Normcore

Elisabeth: oh, that’s super interesting. Mommy influencers feel hyper-gendered to me.

Lisa: The classic Hardcore

Ivy: Got-core

Lisa: Softcore

Ivy: Gorpcore

Lisa T: oh ok I get it. isn’t everyone cottagecore?

Lisa: I think there should be Crunchcore for pseudo-hippies

Amy: There’s a fantasy of a space that is highly protected and domestic and gentle, but where this was once associated with women’s labor for men, the lesbian cottagecore aesthetics I am privy to are just absolute unicorn fluff happy-times–pure escapism

Ivy  : That overlaps with gorpcore

Lisa: I know it from my compulsive vintage shopping.

Lisa: That’s where I pick up a lot of intell. In the streets of Etsy.

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“Now women are taking control of how they want to be perceived and seen”

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Cynthia: I’ve been thinking about what Amy said about mom bloggers and what Elisabeth said as well..about mom bloggers being very gendered, and yes, there’s this push for some women to show this perfect life. To highlight this perfect life, and I’m wondering why? Why can’t we see this messy, uncontrolled life? Why does it still need to fit within certain conventions? What is the motivation to force this aesthetic/life/identity?

Lisa: In a cottagecore world there is no internet, no politics, and everyone knows their neighbors.

Cynthia: Even the way they present their families is very strange to me at times. This force for “perfection” why? And of course, I can only assume it’s fear of losing control perhaps?

Lisa: I am also thinking about some of the thrillers with a male POV and female villain, like Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife

Lisa: Cynthia it is always about control/power

Cynthia: I think people are just scared of female villains because of a lot of ingrained misogyny.

Amy: 100%

Lisa: Women are dangerous even if they aren’t violent?

Cynthia: Women should be nice and pretty and perfect and passive…but if they are not…if we strip that…then we cannot understand her and that freaks out some people.

Elisabeth: Cynthia I think so much of the whole aesthetic is about control. Because you’re controlling how you are seen, too—influencers, I mean. Every angle is controlled.

Lisa: Or is it the potential for violence that makes men uncomfortable around a confident (arrogant) woman?

Amy: I think the best way to see influencer culture is as an art form–the best ones present it that way, I think

Elisabeth : so it actually makes perfect sense. A mommy influencer killing circle.

Ivy: Yes…. we have been told we need men to keep women in line so if a woman is violent it upsets that balance and also permits a man to retaliate 

Lisa: hahaha mommy influencer killing circle

Ivy: Women do not want violent women for that reason

Cynthia: It must be so exhausting to constantly control that messaging and image, Elisabeth.  Which is why I think there’s something scary lurking with the possibility of losing that control.

Lisa T: Lisa it’s been fun here!

Ivy: It makes male violence permissible

Lisa: Uppity women!

Elisabeth: Ivy what you are saying is SO IMPORTANT.

Lisa: So women bring on violence if they step out of line?

Amy : To portray one’s self in any way can be a form of agency–even if it has pernicious effects

Lisa: The old asking for it trope?

Lisa: Agree Amy. Agency is power.

Cynthia: Interesting. Yes, Amy. So now women are taking control of how they want to be perceived and seen? They are taking that control.

Amy: Lisa yes—cf Kate Manne’s book about misogyny as the enforcement wing of the patriarchy

Lisa: I LOVE HER. Kate Manne is a genius.

Lisa: Down Girl is mindblowing.

Amy  : Yeah–I think it’s an important facet of reckoning with influencer culture, to keep us from knee-jerking hating on women who like, wear frilly shit haha

Lisa: Where are the male influencers?

Amy: omg they’re out there Lisa! thankfully I know nothing about them

Ivy: They are at Fyre Fest

Lisa: Or do they not need to exist because men influence everyhting?

Amy: That’s on-topic!

Ivy: Lisa that’s possibly true.

Lisa: Amy, I am a professional.

Cynthia: That’s really good.

Amy: Some women find it empowering; they make hella money off it; they find other women to support and get support from. I do agree about the inflation of domesticity, for real

Lisa: We should make a Pinterest about patriarchal failure.

Ivy: Sure but there are millions of others who are daily enslaved to their shortcomings reflects on Instagram

Lisa: I think domesticity is out-of-control right now. The pandemic has really messed us up in terms of what HOME should be.

Amy: but are we holding women to a higher standard again, expecting them to police themselves and be more virtuous than men here?

Lisa: Not me. I’m interested in how women are wielding power on social media.

Amy: (btw I cannot BELIEVE I am defending momfluencer culture right now, shoot me)

Elisabeth: oh, yes, we absolutely are—but that’s because men can be aggressive and arrogant and competitive that MAKES them likeable.

Lisa: You are not defending it per se, Amy. Just making sure it has a right to exist.

Amy: I mean, women competing by out-pioneering and out-momming each other certainly has some bad effects (and don’t talk to me about making BABIES into influencers, that shit is gross)

Cynthia: Right. I’m sick of audiences being OK with aggressive and arrogant men and they are OK…especially in mystery and horror. Sometimes art’s purpose is to make us uncomfortable.

Cynthia: If you did not like the work, because what was supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, made you uncomfortable then the work actually accomplished its goal.

___________________________________

“What’s art and what’s commerce?”

___________________________________

Amy: I am interested in which moments feel like art and which like commerce

Elisabeth: I have a book that is on-sale actually today, so I feel very up against the wall on the art vs commercial atm

Ivy: I think they are both… because if you are invested in the artistic quality of what you are writing you damn well hope people read it and that’s commerce.

Amy: Elisabeth!!!!!

Amy: What?? Congratulations!!!

Lisa: Yes it’s excellent! Elisabeth’s book is terrific.

Amy: sorry to derail just—I can’t believe you are here participating instead of on the fainting couch!!! cheers!

Cynthia: CONGRATS!

Lisa: CONGRATULATIONS!

Elisabeth : it’s really funny to be talking  about Instagram while my phone lights up with instagram/bookstagram

Cynthia: How are you not celebrating!? Champagne and cake!

Lisa: I’m honored you are here!

Ivy: I love bookstagram

Elisabeth: Thanks, everyone! I’m just saying, I feel like the whole time I’m writing or thinking or talking about the book, it’s art.

Amy: Yes I feel the glow conferred by your presence benefits us all! :heart:

Ivy: That’s an awesome community

Elisabeth: and then there’s this part.

Lisa: Elisabeth wrote one of the best books about rape culture in the last few years, The Devil You Know.

Elisabeth : Lisa, that’s very kind!

Cynthia: Oh wow!

Amy: <ordering>

Cynthia: Same!

Lisa: I don’t play.

Elisabeth: Bookstagram is the most amazing community.

Ivy: Saved my ass during the pandemic

Amy: But yes Elisabeth it’s art when it’s on the laptop and commerce when it’s out in the world.

Amy: Ivy I am always trying to get more hooked into bookstagram and honestly a little baffled by it at times!

___________________________________

“Aren’t we all ambitious here? We all write, and we write hard.”

___________________________________

Lisa: Ok we should wrap up soon. Time flies etc

Cynthia: Time flies when talking about murderous women!

Amy: yes–again, it staggers me how easy it is for many to relate to men who are not likable

Lisa: Indeed, Cynthia.

Elisabeth: I wish we could connect on something more specific — vulnerabilty, fear, ambition, etc.

Cynthia: I just don’t like the perception that women should only be violent if violence was inflicted on them.

Ivy  : Exactly. Because when they are violent they are “strong” and that’s conventionally acceptable for men.

Lisa: Ambition is a really interesting concept right now.

Lisa: I feel like women are still being punished for reaching up.

Amy  : Yes—my BAD HABITS protag is ambitious. In fact she’s a villain! But I had to write a lot of backstory about why.

Cynthia: I think let’s flip it, let’s allow women characters to be violent. At least in horror properties, many major horror villains are men. Give me a bad bitch.

Amy: She’s escaping poverty, etc. And I’m all for that, but…

Lisa: What I like about Bad Habits is everyone is ambitious in a slightly different way.

Elisabeth: I think ambition is very interesting, but we tend to call it something else when it’s women — backstabbing, gossiping, etc, might all fall into that category.

Ivy: We still require women to justify their behavior

Lisa: Or arrogance

Lisa: Exactly! Justification via backstory

Amy: Yeah, precisely. Like, aren’t we all ambitious here? We all write, and we write hard.

Ivy: Fucking backstory

Lisa: We talk a lot about empowering girls but not so much about what they are supposed to do with that power.

Elisabeth: Be Ambitious is a good mantra.

Cynthia: Fuck backstory. Just give me a violent woman. Don’t justify her behavior. Men aren’t justified.

Lisa: Go Cynthia!

Ivy  : We ask them to have the power but don’t let them use it’

Lisa: Exactly Ivy

Elisabeth: We ask them to defer using it, because that is good.

Cynthia : I just want to see more women in art challenge conventions. Push against societal constructs.

Lisa: Or we tell them to achieve and then make excuses as to why they can’t get as far as men.

Lisa: It’s the patriarchy and you are soaking in it.

Ivy: Or we beat them up and then punish them for fighting back

Amy: I love it Cynthia. A friend once observed that in children’s cartoons, both girls and boys are now shown “achieving.” But girls are shown mastering a difficult skill, doing the work to master it. Whereas boys are shown just kicking ass

Lisa: Being a girl is so rough.

Elisabeth: that’s insidious.

Amy: The girls never actually get to use the skill–and the boys never have to see the hard work of learning it

Ivy: I told my 6-year-old to kick ass when I dropped her at tennis camp yesterday. Got a few lifted eyebrows

Amy: It really is insidious, and I notice it more and more

Lisa: I’m still angry about the indignities of being a girl.

Amy: Anyway, YES to more unrepentant violent women.

Cynthia: Interesting, Amy!

Lisa: Strong agree!

Cynthia: And yes! Unrepentant violent women. Because .we can. We are capable of anger. We are capable of violence. We don’t need a reason, and as a horror writer, that really frightens some people – an unrepentant violent women. Give me all of ’em.

Amy: Though now I want to write that cottagecore book! lol

Ivy: AWESOME

Lisa: Thanks so much to all of you! I hope the Slack learning curve was worth it.

Ivy: Unrepentant cottagecore. Like super fucking violent

Cynthia: Love it Ivy 

Ivy: Thank you!!!!

Cynthia: Thank you all! Great time was had!

Ivy: Congrats Elisabeth

Amy: let’s all connect on IG and momfluence eachother

Elisabeth: ^^^^^^

Lisa: Yes, hearty congrats to Elisabeth. And thank you all–these roundtables have been giving me life.

Elisabeth: :kissing_heart:

View the full article

Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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