Friday, January 23, 2009

um, it's chick lit, but you'll like it

I have a cousin who loves to tease me about the fact that I write chick lit (that, and that I'm a chocolate addict). Oddly enough, when someone asks me about the genre of my novel, I typically answer "women's fiction" or "romantic comedy." Then I cave in, apologetically: "um, it's chick lit." And I find myself following up with, "but I think you'll like it." I am also very quick to point out how many heterosexual men have read and enjoyed Faking It as well as my other work.

I wonder why I'm ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I write chick lit. I seem to be afraid that I won't be taken seriously as a result. I am even more quick to admit that I don't necessarily read a lot of chick lit except to get a feel for the market that my work apparently fits into. And that's true, too.

So how is this possible? How, or why, is it that I'm writing for a genre I'm not particularly invested in otherwise?

It's not that I think chick lit is bad. I find some of it fun. But I also find much of it lacking a je ne sais quoi -- I just can't put my finger on it. If I had to try to distinguish it in my own fiction, I might be so bold as to say depth of character, but I can't be sure. I might also say wit, but I think that might be insulting chick lit writers. There's definitnely a light-heartedness to chick lit. But, aside from Bridget Jones (both Diary and the Edge of Reason), I haven't really laughed out loud during any chick lit book I've read (and I listened to the latter BJ on audiobook -- it was so superbly that that lended to my enjoyment).

Then again, maybe my own book is lacking. I'm not exactly objective.

What bothers me more than my own haste to defend (or deny?) the notion of me as a chick lit writer is why I feel the need to do so in the first place. I've thought about attending a chick lit writers conference (I'd like to attend *any* conference, really, but they're so damn expensive...) or finding some kind of chick lit writers network, but I worry about the stigma it carries.

And just what is that stigma?

I suppose chick lit is not considered very "literary" compared w/ other genres. Then again, I might not characterize fantasy fiction as such either, although I'm sure a hovercraft full of fantasy writers would pelt me with enchanted flummoxsticks smuggled from the Divo-one forest planet. (As you can see, I suck as a fantasy writer. They'd beat me senseless for that bit o' writing, too.)

Really, I don't think any author is in a position to legitimize or deligitimize any genre of work, or to set an unrealistic definition of literature to begin with. The bottom line is that I write books that I would want to read, and thus I work w/ what I know. I write about Long Islanders and West Wing fans and writing geeks and relationship fiascos (I'm sorry to say I know about the last one) and I stylistically steal from those writers I love to create a world and cast of characters that don't always quite get it. Maybe this just makes me incredibly self-centered. And these days, I also like to read stories that make me laugh out loud, especially when I'm reading in a public place. And so I do just that -- I try to get myself to laugh out loud as I write.

And of course, like any other reader, no matter what I'm reading, I want to be riveted. And, like many readers, I never know which book is gonna do that to me until I start turning the pages.

When I worked in the salon as a manicurist, I insisted on calling myself a "nail technician," as did the nail technology profession. Nowadays I just plain like the word "manicurist," and the sound of it, better. But to pinpoint myself as a chick lit writer, stigma aside, is too limiting for me, I think. I think I'm a writer, plain and simple. Fiction, non-fiction, blogger, sometimes academic, sometimes technical, sometimes private.

And definitely published.

But I think you'll like it. My writing, that is. In the end, that's what I really care about.


Sarah said...

in a nutshell: i think that chicklit is assumed to be brainless/superficial (like most romantic comedies) but people like good chicklit (and good romantic comedies) when it actually has substance.

your chicklit has some definite umph. it's chicklit with a brain, and a heart.

Elisa said...

I like that characterization. And I agree ;)