I’ll admit, that’s not a question I often thought about when I first started writing, because the answer was most likely going to be: well, ME, of course. What a silly question!
I’ve tried in the past to write for a specific audience, and it never quite panned out the way I wanted it to. Love Like Blood was me trying to write to the urban fantasy crowd. Two Thousand was me trying to write for the litfic crowd. True Faith was me trying to write for the sf/virtual reality crowd of the mid 90s. All three projects have since been trunked, as I found them to be some of my worst work. Paved with good intentions, but let’s face it: I was pandering. I was trying to write for an easy buck.
Recently I’ve been thinking about who I’m writing for, and each time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m still writing for who I want to write for: just your regular blue-collar joe who likes to read. Yes, I’m still writing for me, but I’ve noticed the biggest response I get from readers is not always the avid science fiction/fantasy reader, but those I know who like to read a little (or a lot) of everything. Someone who might read the latest George RR Martin but follow it up with, say, a history of 60s counterculture. Or maybe not even that: someone who just likes reading what they like reading, and don’t necessarily fit into the definition of ‘avid fan’.
That’s not to say I find avid genre fans beneath my stature, far from it. I just know that I’m not a hard sf writer or a military sf writer or even a high fantasy writer. I just write what comes to mind, and I try to fill my created worlds with people and ideas that my readers will connect with.
The Mendaihu Universe might be chock full of spirituality, but I try not to write religious/spiritual fiction, which is its own genre. The characters in this universe of mine have the same issues as readers: frustration, fear, indecision, confusion, irritation. I put the characters into an everyday situation that just happens to have a supernatual/spiritual setting. And for the most part, I think I pull it off, because nearly all my readers so far have commented on that as a definite plus to the worldbuilding.
I’ve been thinking about this in part because I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell my trilogy now that two-thirds of it is already out there. It’s one thing to self-publish and release it, but it’s quite another to get it out there and advertise it. As much as I dislike sales, I do need to think about who my target audience would be. I know, I should probably think of this WHILE I’m writing the stories, but that can’t always happen. Again: if I write to order, I write horribly. I can only write what I know I can write.
But what about my other projects? The non-MU stories? Who am I writing for then? I probably won’t know until the project starts. I have some non-genre stories in mind that could easily be quirky litfic. I have some genre stories that would fit nicely in the urban fantasy mold.
For me, I guess the only way I’ll know is when I start writing the damned things!