Venus Envy

A trio of female authors reading their novels at an event called the First Fiction "Diva" Tour must be a chick-lit thing, right? Wrong.

Not one of the debut novelists featured on the tour writes about weight-obsessed women with lamentable love lives and penchants for Jimmy Choos. All three authors have written books in which the protagonists are men.

Lisa Selin Davis' Belly tells the story of an ex-bookie who struggles to deal with life after a stint in prison. Karen Olsson's Waterloo follows a reporter named Nick Lasseter into the dawn of middle age in Austin, Texas. Victoria Vinton's The Jungle Law imagines Rudyard Kipling's first year in Vermont, where the author wrote what became The Jungle Books series.

"Our books are unusual, I guess, in that we've created characters who are very different from ourselves," says Davis. The 33-year-old says she was inspired to write about a chauvinistic member of the opposite sex after hanging out with "drunken male poets" while she was getting her MFA at Arizona State University a few years ago.

"I had access to some male minds like I had never had before, and I found it fascinating," Davis tells New Times from her current home in Brooklyn, New York. Davis returns to Tempe for one of the seven stops on the 2005 First Fiction Tour (a concept that inspired the competing Fictionista Chick Lit Tour).

Cindy Dach of Tempe's Changing Hands Bookstore says she dreamed up the First Fiction concept as a way to get more people to come to readings by new authors. She figured if unknown authors read from their books at a bar instead of a bookstore, liquor would compensate for the lack of star power. Let's face it: If you can't get Oprah to help you sell your book, 5-cent drinks are the next best thing.

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Leanne Potts