‘So what do you write?’
‘But what sort of books?’
‘Er… well…. erm…’
That’s a conversation I have at least a couple of times most weeks. I usually end up saying I write ‘Romantic Comedy,’ but usually follow the claim with a rambling disclaimer about the consistency of the funny and the frequent absence of hearts and flowers, and because of those disclaimers it’s not a terribly satisfactory description. So what might be my better options?
Wikipedia describes chick lit as ‘genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.’ That’s probably as good a description of what I write as any, although I’m quite interested in issue of modern manhood (oo-er missus) as well, so why aren’t I 100% comfortable with the term?
I think it is simply the mental association that I have between between the term chick lit and ideas of pink, glittery covers with pictures of shoes on them. And having just typed that sentence I now feel an overwhelming need to add a disclaimer making clear that there’s nothing wrong with a pink sparkly cover – but somehow they don’t quite float my boat anymore. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that assumption though. It does seem clear that pink, sparkly, shoe covers are somewhat out of vogue. I quick skim of the chick lit bestsellers list on Amazon shoes that there’s still a fair amount of pink, but substantially less sparkle and hardly any pictures of shoes, so maybe I need to update my assumptions, woman-up and come out as a proud Chick Lit Author.
Or I could tell people that I write…
Women’s Fiction or Commercial Women’s Fiction (for those writers who want to make clear that they’d like to get paid at some point) are popular terms in the publishing industry, and encompass rather broad church of stories and authors. They’re terms to which I have only one objection. It’s the word ‘Women’s’. And actually it’s two objections. That is to say that my objections to that one word are twofold. Firstly, why on earth are books about love and family and emotion only for women? Men deal with all those things and it seems plausible that quite a few of them might be interested in reading about that stuff too. Why on earth would we want to create a banner across the top of our books that says ‘Men not allowed’? And secondly, I get the sense of an sneaky little implication that this isn’t quite Proper Fiction. It’s just for women, bless their sparkly pink stilettos. It saves their fluffy little brains from the effort of trying to read the Real Books. It irritates me in the same way that the Women’s section in Sunday newspapers irritate me. I feel like I’m being shepherded away from the real news to look at some nice soothing pictures of dresses. Again, that might say more about my tendency to make assumptions that anything else.
So Chick Lit/Romantic Comedy/Women’s Fiction writers of the interweb help me out! What sort of books do you write?
And if you fancy finding out what I actually do write, you can buy ebooks and actual paper short stories here.