~ By Melina Kantor
As you may remember from Friday, our blog just had its first anniversary.
So, to celebrate, I thought we’d benefit from revisiting some of the words of wisdom given to us over the past year by some of the published authors who have been kind enough to visit us.
Read on to find out what these authors have to say about the state of and the term chick lit:
I touched on this a little before, and I know y’all are going to throw things at me, but here’s the thing: chick lit isn’t chick lit. It’s a marketing label slapped on funny, first-person women’s fiction. It’s just what you call it. You can’t call yourself chick lit anymore, because people who don’t understand what it means will turn up their noses, but it doesn’t matter. Pardon my cynicism, but when you send it to an agent or an editor, just call it something else.There will always be space on the shelf (or, as it’s going, in the e-reader) for great stories, and you can write great stories in funny, first person style and find a market for them. So, yes, you can’t call it chick lit anymore because the people who market will shy away from that. But funny, smart women’s fiction will never be “dead.” Great stories will always be relevant, and will always have a place in the market. Write great stories in whatever style you want to write them, and don’t ever let anyone tell you that what you’re writing is “dead,” because anyone who says that about any genre is just wrong. Great stories in any style will always prevail. Naysayers are people who don’t understand that in the end, it’s always about story. Tell a great one, and you’ve got no worries.
I personally don’t mind the term “chick lit” at all when used by anyone who enjoys light contemporary stories about women. I find myself getting a bit irritated with people, though, who use it dismissively, as in, “Well, that’s not worth reading—it’s just chick lit,” because I’m never certain where their disdain originated. Do they object to the focus of the story being on women? To the lightness of the tone? I don’t know what term for this style of book would make everyone happy, though. The problem, in my opinion, is far less about the genre’s name than about people who pass a judgment on a novel of any genre without reading it.
Ooh, the great “chick lit” controversy! The way I see it, my job is to write the best books I possibly can, and my primary responsibility is to my readers. My novels have been categorized as “chick lit”, “women’s fiction”, and “romance”, and honestly, all those labels do apply. But they’re also kind of pointless, arbitrary distinctions. Good stories with compelling characters encompass all those elements and more.
I think readers are savvy enough to know what they want, regardless of media/marketing labels. I write books with a strong females protagonists, supportive female communities, and happy (or at least, hopeful) endings, and I’m very proud of that.
I find the whole debate so inane. Seriously. I don’t get it at all. “Chick lit” is a title that was given to books a decade ago because someone, somewhere needed to have a neat little category for a type of book that was being written at the time. I don’t think it has much to do with anything that is being written now. All I know is that I have dozens of female writer friends who write kick-ass, amazing work, and I don’t give a flying fig whether they’re called “chick lit” or “women’s fiction” or “commercial fiction.” What I do care about is that they explore real issues and real problems and offer compelling, moving characters and stories. If someone wants to call that chick lit, then it’s a compliment. If someone wants to be small minded and ignore a book because it’s written by someone with boobs, well, then, I’m probably not going to like him or her so much in the first place.
I tend to think that genre labels can be a bit artificial in some situations. Of course, part of the reason I say this is that my own books have been difficult to pigeonhole.
Are my books romance (they are very concerned with romance and also very romantic) or are they women’s fiction (they are also a bit challenging in terms of unusual plots and a strong narrative voices)? Part of me wishes there were no genres in bookstores and that all books were just mixed up into one big potpourri. I think many people would find themselves taking risks and reading outside of their genres that way.
You know, there are so many definitions of “chick lit.” See Jane Date was classic chick lit. The Love Goddess’ Cooking School might be considered more a hybrid between chick lit and women’s fiction, but only because chick lit has been defined so narrowly, whereas women’s fiction seems a new (not really new) label to describe novels aimed at women and that have a bigger focus, a bigger story to tell, perhaps. Everyone says Jennifer Weiner is chick lit, but her latest novels all have big focuses and explore so many facets of life, in fact, her very first book ran very deep. So who the heck knows what these labels truly mean? I always liked the term chick lit and I love chick lit books, but I don’t like how narrowly the books are viewed. Books that explore issues near and dear to women will always be front and center in bookstores (and e-readers).
I am very saddened to hear “chick-lit is dead” because that attitude is keeping books from being bought by the publishers right now, which is keeping them off the shelves, which means no one can buy them. I do think the market got inundated for a while there, but the pendulum has swung too much the other way. If you ask me what I write in front of my editor, I will say I write “women’s fiction”. At a party, I say I write chick-lit. The term was originally coined as an insult: a teeny bit of gum that has no significance. I believe we need to own the term: I write comical fiction for women and gay men. It’s what I do. I adore Jonathan Franzen, but I will never be him. If you want to laugh out loud on vacation or on the subway, I’m your gal. Will it be thought provoking 20 years from now? Not sure, but hopefully you can relate to something now.
Pay it no mind. There will always be a market for great, funny books about women. Our job is to write the best books we can, and let other people worry about how to market them.
Their interpretations of the term chick lit may vary, but clearly all of these authors agree on one thing – no matter how you define it or what you call it, the genre we all know and love is very much alive and growing, even if it’s evolving.
So what’s stopping you? Open those WIP’s and keep writing!
Melina writes contemporary women’s fiction with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She just returned from a two month trip to Crete and Israel, where she visited family and friends did her best to turn her travels into research and inspiration for her writing. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.