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?


Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

I believe 9/11 is a to-write. I've seen a few other authors (not chicklit) address it and I believe it can be addressed well in chick-lit a la a young woman moving on from the loss of her mother or husband...I can see totally see a book coming out by Lolly Winston, Eileen Rehndahl or several of our other authors who have discussed serious issues before talk about 9/11.

Maureen McGowan said...

I think it can be touched on in a lighter novel... But then, I'm one of those readers who likes a few serious issues in a book. It does depend on the tone, though... I mean there's a light tone and then there's super light... I'm reading a book right now by a bestselling author that's a murder mystery and I have to say I don't think the tone fits the book... It's one think to be funny, but it's another to be flip and I don't think a flip tone fits certain topics... But I think writers with edgier, more sarcastic humor in their tone can tackle heavier topics without it turning into an Oprah book.