Therese here. Please welcome Margo Candela, author of the novel Good-Bye to All That, as our guest today at Writer Unboxed. She’s with us today to share some insights into–and perspective about–a genre that she loves, chick lit. Enjoy!
The Evolution of Chick Lit
I was introduced to chick lit, along with most of the world, when I picked up a copy of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. For a while, my chick lit was exclusively of British extraction. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it (though I still have trouble wrapping my mind around wine gum), but was happy when American publishers unleashed a slew of similarly themed novels where wine was wine and gum was gum.
I read one after another, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I considered writing one myself. Plenty of drafts, plus more than a little luck and patience, eventually led to my first novel, Underneath It All (Kensington, Jan. ’07) being published. I’m up to my fourth, Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July ‘10), which I think is my most chick lit to date.
For a while, though, you couldn’t say chick lit above a whisper, even though plenty of us were still reading, if not writing, it. Those supposedly in the know said the market was glutted, that the genre was played out. What we should be writing, they said, was erotica about vampires, or paranormal romances. Anything but chick lit.
There was no surer way to doom a manuscript than to employ the “gal wants better job and wants to lose weight, but gain boyfriend while finding her bearings in the big city” plot device.
Writer friends of mine started to refer to their books as women’s fiction to avoid the chick lit kiss of death. I took the easy way out—I kept typing and decided to let someone else sort it out.
I write women’s fiction while never denying my novels fit nicely into the chick lit genre. I look to my editor’s notes for guidance because she knows way more about publishing than I do. “This could be funnier” is our code for “let’s go chick lit”. “Too ha-ha when it doesn’t need to be” tells me to think (and type) women’s fiction.
When the Sex and the City movie came out in 2008 I had high hopes we could start calling chick lit chick lit again. The movie’s box office worldwide gross of $400 million made it obvious that women were not only interested in stories about other women having complicated and funny lives, but they’re willing to put their considerable buying power behind it. Trends come and go, but a genre is much harder to kill even if some people try to ignore it to death.
To be honest, I’m not sure where things are going (and SATC 2 really didn’t help the cause), but chick lit and women’s fiction will continue to be published. Great story telling, no matter what anyone wants to call it, will endure and that’s what gives me hope both as a reader and a writer.
Thanks for a great post, Margo.
Readers, you can learn more about Margo and her new novel, Good-Bye to All That, on her website . Write on!