Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Chick Lit and 9/11: To Write or Not to Write?

No I have not dropped off the face of the planet... I'm just drowning a little, in copyedits, in promo, at work, in thinking very very hard about the sequel to Fashionably Late (which thankfully, I've at least started), in the website, and... in planning something VERY exciting for you guys. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, one of my favorite Latina authors, Mary Castillo, raised the question on her blog of: is it time for chick lit to deal with September 11? Or issues like war (which, let's face it, we're having to deal with whether we're political junkies or smother-my-head-in-the-sand types.

I'm going to be very lazy (I prefer to think of it as productive since I'm using this time to work on that VERY EXCITING STUFF I have planned for you...) and post my reply to Mary's question below:

I think what makes chick lit different from literary women's fiction (like, say, the stuff the authors of This Is Not Chick Lit write) is a combination of voice, an up-to-the-minute feel, and optimism.

A forgettable chick lit novel would take an underdeveloped character, give her a superficial issue to deal with, and lots of comedy or fashion angst. Entertaining, but not memorable. I could see people getting tired of too much of this kind of writing.

Then again, a book like some of the Oprah picks of the olden days (think Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone), has very serious, very deep issues, but with none of the chick lit comedy or quirky voice to take the edge off. So you could take an
issue like chronic depression and have Marian Keyes write about it and then
have Wally Lamb write about it, and you'd have two books that deal with a
serious issue, one that's very clearly chick lit and one that's very clearly
NOT. Most people are miserable enough in their own lives that they don't
need more misery. Which is why, methinks, optimistic books like chick lit do
better commercially.

I think it's a lot harder and riskier to write about a tragic theme in a comedic, light tone and make it work, than write about something difficult in a drpressing tone. Which is why Marian Keyes is so amazingly popular (or at least some of her books are). That being said, there are some readers who don't like their chick lit mixed in
with serious topics.... so what's a writer chick to do?

As with most important matters, I don't think there's one answer. I
think it depends. On the quality of the writing, on the readers themselves, on
the political landscape... But if a writer feels she could make it work, I
think she NEEDS to go for it, that readers are ready and waiting
for a 9/11 chick lit that works, not fluff with some 9/11 stuff in it, or a
truly depressing literary piece about 9/11 posing as chick lit.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This is going to be a pretty light blogging week seeing as I have guests over (and it’s finally sunny again… whew!) and will be playing tour guide while holding down the day job until next Monday.

In fun news, I won myself a copy of Julie Let’s Dirty Little Lies on Diana's blog today (yaaaayyyy!!!), which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

Today is also the release date of Cathy Yardley’s highly anticipated (at least by me) Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel. Those of you familiar with my Cayman Islands’ lack of instant gratification rants will know that I’ll have to wait at least a week before I can get my hands on the book, but hey, I’ve been salivating after this one for ages now, so what’s another week?

I’m also three chapters away from the end of Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed which means I get to start Baby Proof soon, a novel I’m absolutely dying to read (among others… like Dirty Little Secrets by Julie Leto; Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps by Lara Rios; Cinderella Lopez by Berta Platas; In Between Men by Mary Castillo; Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes; How Nancy Drew Saved My Life, by Lauren LB… and that’s just the chick lit list!!!)

So, do any of you guys feel as guilty about reading when you should be writing as I do, or have you found a way to do a little bit of both without one activity taking over the other?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Exciting (and Stressful) Times in Newbie Novelist’s Life

Okay – the exciting stuff:

a) Got an AWSOME new blurb from Lara Rios, author of Becoming Latine in 10 Easy Steps, as well as her newest, Becoming Americana. I met Lara at both the Chica Lit conference in Miami organized by Alisa Valdes-Rodrigues (who may be going by Alisa Lynn Valdes now…) and again at the nationals in Atlanta where she gave a great presentation about how to take the cliché out of your Latin characters (Lara is Argentine herself so I was very, very nervous she’s find my portrayal of some of the characters in FL clichéd… which makes her glowing quote glow that much brighter). So without further ado, here’s what Lara had to say about Fashionably Late:

Girls just want to have fun! Especially Ali who is tired of pleasing everyone, but herself. This novel has it all: glimpses of Lebanese and Cuban culture, sexy men, fresh, sparkling storytelling, witty and fun dialogue; and a heroine who is so adorable, you want to give her a big hug and tell her everything is going to be okay. Don't miss this delightful novel!
-- Lara Rios, author of BECOMING LATINA IN 10 EASY STEPS

b) I received my copyedits in the mail today…Yawza (this is both exciting and stressful, in case you're wondering about the 'stressful' thing in the header). I think the whole ‘professional’ side of this professional writing thing is finally starting to sink in… lots and lots of strange-looking symbols sprinkled all over my manuscript… meaning I will have to go through this thing with a fine-toothed comb yet again. I knew it was coming, but still… it just feels like time to move on. Like we’re done with this. Sigh. This is actually a good thing as I’d like to come up with some really good discussion questions for the novel, so here’s my chance.

This morning Diana (of Secret Society Girl fame) posted a list of the top 100 romances of all time as asked us how many we’d read. As yours truly hasn’t touched a romance since she was twelve (unless Outlander counts, which I suppose it sort of does), she performed quite pathetically.

T0 make myself feel better, here’s the Guardian’s list of all time best fiction novel. Not romance, ladies and gentlemen, but what we call the Classics. Unfortunately, my performance is still quite pathetic:

Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen (of course)
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (I think I should get extra points for this since I read it in the original French…)
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
1984 – George Orwell
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
1,001 Arabian Nights (okay, didn’t make it through the whole thing but still…)
Edgar Allan Poe’s collected stories (see above…)

Now, I’d like to say that I’ve read a lot of fine fiction that didn’t make it up there, like say, The Plague by Albert Camus, or Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, or even Roots by Alex Haley. I even think that The Chronicles of Narnia and anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery should make it somewhere up there. Goes to show just how subjective these things are (or just how much great literature there is out there?…)