Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Voices in YA Chick Lit

I attempted to set up my first booksigning this weekend. I’m not sure about this, but I may be planning a little too far ahead. I may have to start culling some of my sisters in writings’ expertise… it’s a bit a maze sometimes, all this promotion stuff. But the lovely thing about living in Cayman is that there are basically two bookstores, the owners of one, The Book Nook, are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. One day, shortly after I sold, I ordered Publicize Your Book by Jacqueline Deval from them. It being a family-run sort of place (like many businesses here), Barbara, half of the dynamo team that runs the shop, pulled the book from behind the counter when it arriveda week later and looked up at me, impressed. “You wrote a book?!”

It’s been love ever since. Every time I’m in the store, every single customer in there with me gets an introduction and, ever since I gave Barbara an ARC, a sales pitch as well though the book isn’t even out yet. They’ve suffered the long-drawn agony of waiting for Fashionably Late to hit the shelves along with me since they knew about the sale even before some of my relatives did. They still can’t believe it takes that long to publish a book (and they’re in the business!) but their enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed one bit. So naturally, The Book Nook on Grand Cayman Island is where I’ll be holding my first signing in June. Yay me!

Okay, now for some major news… one that I have already hinted about just after Christmas… two of my best writing friends EVER, two of the kindest, most supportive, considerate girls I’ve met on this journey… got the call!!!!! THE call.

Wendy Toliver is the proud author of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren (working title), a book about a band geek who turns into a Siren on her sixteenth birthday. It’s slated for publication by Simon Pulse in their romantic comedy line in fall of 2007. If you liked Venus Envy, you’ll love this YA take on mythology meets incredulous, reluctant heroines. Shannon’s Venus is alive and well in Roxy’s insanely beautiful (or just plain insane, depending on your point of view…) Grandma Perkins, who’s more of a Daryl Hannah in Splash! than Angela Lansbury. And Roxy herself is a younger, scarred by the Proud Crowd rather than embezzling ex-boyfriends, Rachel.

And as if that weren’t sweet enough, How To Salsa in a Sari by the lovely Dona Sarkar has been bought by Harlequin for their YA line (ask her where she got that snazzy title, he he)Dona has written lots before, like the wonderful Desi Divas – don't you love that title? – about three Indian-American girls and one wannabe Indian American girl juggling life, love, career, and crazy parents in Seattle… maybe now that Grey’s Anatomy put Seattle on the romantic drama/comedy map, we’ll see a demand for books based in Seattle? Who knows how this mysterious “demand” thing works? As far as I know, How To Salsa in a Sari is a Latino West meets Indian East tale where two families from these different backgrounds come together, forcing two very different girls to become stepsisters. Are you surprised it sold? I’m not.

What I find fascinating is that these two authors both started out as chick lit writers, weathered the ‘chick lit is SO not selling’ storm, and have now sold in YA. And they’re not alone… Just off the top of my head I can think of Alisa VR with her Haters, Beth Kendrick’ Life as a Poser who have branched out to Young Adult. And then there are authors I know who have gone the complete other way towards very sexy chick lit (not that anyone’s calling it chick lit, mind you).

Have any of these authors changed their tone? The feistyness of their leading chicas? Their label or pop-culture-references-dropping?


In fact, I’m willing to bet you these are the stylistic elements that made them rise above the pack and sell today. Because writing the gut wrenching, emotional, lay-it-on-the-line-and-make-me-FEEL-it style is tough, people. It’s what makes chick lit closer to mainstream than romance (like say, an Emily Giffin or Jennifer Weiner novel).

So perhaps it’s not authors and their so-called ‘formulaic writing’ that killed the chick lit phenomenon…but the publishers themselves? Maybe they just had one too many pastel pink stiletto-plastered covers designed for their (and our) own good.

The cover of Fashionably Late was almost one of those cartooney ones (which I liked very much actually, because let me tell something… that girl shown may have been a cartoon, but she was Arabic, the way you might see an Arab at the mall without really knowing that’s who she is, just knowing she has a not-from-here-maybe-Greek-maybe-Italian-maybe-Latina-but-not-really air about her, and it felt mighty good to represent and be represented. Positively. For once.). The cover Tor/Forge eventually went with was pretty much the polar opposite of this, and though I was confused by it at first, I’m absolutely thrilled with it now. Because no one will be able to “box” my writing because of it. Some readers might recognize the chick lit elements in it and pronounce it Chick Lit. Others will see the grappling-with-immigration struggle and see it as mainstream. Still others might appreciate it as an off-the-beaten-track travelogue, or an unconventional romance. It’s all of these things, which is why we should resist putting things in tightly confined boxes when they should free to become whatever the reader’s imagination wants them to become. Chick lit is in the eye of the beholder. And it’s certainly not dead.

1 comment:

Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

I got a shoutout on Nadine's blog. Yay!