recent controversy about women's fiction, this post is especially relevant (although it was written before the whole thing started). Please join me in welcoming Kim Wright, author of Love in Mid Air (my review) today!
"I do consider Love in Mid Air to be "women's fiction" in the most basic sense of the term. It's written by a woman, it has a female POV character, and it deals with a lot of the issues that matter most to women - marriage, family, love, sex, independence, friends, etc.
But there's no doubt that women's fiction gets a bad rap. I always hated the term "chick lit" until I heard that women's fiction aimed at women 35 and older is sometimes called "hen lit" or even "matron lit." That's worse!!
Here, in no particular order, are the things that bug me about being labeled a "chick lit" writer.
1. When men write about love, sex, and marriage it's considered literary or mainstream, not "dude lit."
2. A lot of male readers really liked Love in Mid Air, including my agent David who has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the book. If a book is marketed exclusively toward one gender it can become a self-fullfilling prophecy. Men don't read books they don't hear about, i.e., books that are marketed toward women.
3. Calling it "chick lit" trivializes a book, no matter how well written it is....especially when men use the term. One of the most painful moments of this whole publication process has been having a male cousin of mine - who is also a good friend - simply refuse to read the book. He actually used the words "chick lit" and left it lying on his kitchen counter for weeks until I finally came and retrieved the copy. Which maybe doesn't sound like much, but it changed our whole relationship.
It works like this. If I had a Honda dealership and my friend Melly, who is also a novelist in my home town, owned a Toyota dealership beside it then yeah, we'd be in competition. People only buy one car at a time so if they bought her Toyota, that would mean they weren't buying my Honda. But people who read tend to read lots of books - they'll buy several at a time when they visit an online bookseller or their neighborhood bookstore. So it's not only possible for us to have a win-win situation in which people buy both of our books, it's likely. We work hard to recommend each other to book clubs, readers, store owners, etc. Melly's husband doesn't get this. He keeps saying "Why are you promoting Kim's book for her? You've got your own book to sell."
That's a very male way to think, And that's why male writers tend to be more isolated and wary of each other with all these well known literary rivalries. It's so silly. Being initiated into this circle of women writers - who are marvelously helpful and encouraging to each other through the whole process - has been one of the great blessings of the last two years for me.
So....it's irksome, yeah, to work on something so long and so hard and to take it very seriously and to them have people be a little flippant or dismissive of it. I'm still ticked at my cousin! But on the flip side, being a "women's writer" has this huge payoff in the form of meeting so many other women's writers.
I guess it comes down to "Call us what you want, but give our books a fair chance.""
A huge thank-you to Kim for stopping by and sharing her views about "women's fiction"! If you haven't had a chance to do so yet, I highly recommend checking out her debut novel Love in Mid Air. It's thought-provoking and an enjoyable read about one woman and the consequences of her choices.