Open Mouth, Insert Chick Lit High Heeled Foot

Thanks to Jamie, who forwarded me this link that set my blood pressure up another notch. I’m home sick today and utterly cranky, so the less I say about this one the better.

From an interview with author Polly Williams on Yahoo! about her book,  Yummy Mummy:

Q: Are the heroines in your three books similar?

A: “They are all the same age, 34, but at different stages of life. I wanted to make the books relevant to those issues that women really face today, otherwise they would be romances.”

Nice. Thanks, Polly. So my romances aren’t relevant to issues I’m currently facing? I’m currently facing an urge to journey to Australia and tell you to bite me. I should read a romance, huh?

 

What really burns my toast – and that’s all I’m eating so don’t burn it, dammit – is that Williams then faces a question about the ever-awful term “Chick Lit.”

Q: Is it possible to get rid of the “chick lit” tab?

A: “Maybe if you write in such a way that is really difficult to read or you’re a woman author not writing about those kinds of issues. But this is not just the way we are perceived by readers, but the way you are marketed. It is not always a bad thing. At first I thought “yuk, chick lit” but as time goes past, if it sells a book and attracts certain readers, it’s not a bad thing.”

I abhor the term ‘chick lit.’ I think it’s pejorative and utterly stupid, and I’m glad I’m seeing less of it. But I’m not so pleased to see yet another author taking a swipe at romance as irrelevant and weightless. You’d think that someone who faces a genre label that dismisses the quality of the writing within it wouldn’t be so quick to toss judgment against another genre.

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  1. 1

    I wanted to make the books relevant to those issues that women really face today, otherwise they would be romances.

    I. AM. SPEECHLESS.

    Utterly.

  2. 2
    Annmarie says:

    Somehow, I am not surprised.

  3. 3
    Denni says:

    Just confirms my impression that Chicklit is written by snobs. 

    Way to go girl…be offensive to potential readers.

  4. 4
    snarkhunter says:

    In my experience, I’ve found that chick lit is often a hell of a lot less relevant than romance. (With a few notable exceptions—Marian Keyes self-identifies as a chick lit author, but her books are deep and thoughtful and absolutely relevant.)

    Well, I suppose getting yourself into deep debt and then hiding from it is relevant, but Confessions of a Shopaholic made me ill. Not sure if that’s actually a recommendation.

  5. 5
    KatieO says:

    Clearly, she hasn’t spread the word to all the romance writers out there that their books shouldn’t have any relevance regarding issues in their characters’, and by extension, their readers’ lives. All these years, all those issues that the characters have faced have just been getting in the way of all the sexy times and the happily ever afters.

    Quick, give me irrelevance! I can’t stand all of this relevance I’ve been given.

  6. 6
    Flo says:

    Maybe if the “chick lit” writers said “I don’t’ want my mother fucking cover in pink with a stupid skinny cut out girl in high heels on it!” then we wouldn’t be dismissive of THEIR writing like they are of romance writing.

    Either way in the end they are just biting the hands that buy them.

  7. 7
    ec says:

    I’m not surprised, either.  We get a lot of this in the fantasy genre, too.  Consider this excerpt from an interview with best-selling fantasy author Terry Goodkind:

    First of all, I don’t write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes. They have elements of romance, history, adventure, mystery and philosophy. Most fantasy is one-dimensional. It’s either about magic or a world-building. I don’t do either.

    And in most fantasy magic is a mystical element. In my books fantasy is a metaphysical reality that behaves according to its own laws of identity.

    Because most fantasy is about world-building and magic, a lot of it is plotless and has no story. My primary interest is in telling stories that are fun to read and make people think. That puts my books in a genre all their own.

    Uh . . . okay.

    People are egocentric.  Some moreso than others.  Ever met a pregnant woman or young parents who act as if they are they first human beings who ever reproduced?  I’ve run into writers who act pretty much the same way about their books.  It’s unfortunate.

  8. 8
    little_alys says:

    I really despise that term “chick lit.”  It’s demeaning and lame.  It’s especially stupid when people seem to elevate “chick lit” above romance and also disregarding romance novels.  I find quite a lot of romance novels with better/relevant themes and higher quality of writing than those chick lit crap.

    Nothing against Polly Williams, but thanks for predicating the continual misgivens of romance novels and chick lit.

    Seriously, what am I-a chicken? A baby bird?

  9. 9
    ec says:

    Flo, for the record, very few authors have much say about the cover design.  Covers are frequenly designed to evoke one of the opular writers in that subgenre.  Trends occur:  skinny cutouts with stilletos becomes a signifier of chick lit;  women in tight pants photographed from behind means urban fantasy.

  10. 10

    Well, at least I now know who not to buy or search out. The title didn’t really do it for me, but I don’t usually let titles stop me from a potentially funny/enjoyable book. However, I’ll be putting this title in the NTBR pile. And boy, am I relieved I disliked Goodkind’s books so very much. It always sucks when an author I already like says something so egocentric and—dare I say it, why yes I do—asshated.

    The temp is getting up 110F (43C) here and my blood pressure isn’t hight but my blood is boiling so, SBSara, you have my sympathy. And my thanks. Now I can be angry at this silliness rather than my AC. =)

  11. 11
    SandyW says:

    So, let me see if I’ve got this straight:
    Chick-Lit (the label on her book) = relevant, about the real world.
    Romance (the label on those other books) = irrelevant, yucky escapist fantasy.

    Gotcha. So glad Ms. Williams has cleared this up for us.

  12. 12
    phadem says:

    ec wrote:

    I’m not surprised, either.  We get a lot of this in the fantasy genre, too.  Consider this excerpt from an interview with best-selling fantasy author Terry Goodkind:

    First of all, I don’t write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes. They have elements of romance, history, adventure, mystery and philosophy. Most fantasy is one-dimensional. It’s either about magic or a world-building. I don’t do either.

    And in most fantasy magic is a mystical element. In my books fantasy is a metaphysical reality that behaves according to its own laws of identity.

    Because most fantasy is about world-building and magic, a lot of it is plotless and has no story. My primary interest is in telling stories that are fun to read and make people think. That puts my books in a genre all their own.

    Oh dear.

    And I used to think so much of him. And that he wrote fantasy to boot.

    As for Ms. Williams, never heard of her before, but what a way for potential new readers to find out about her.

    manner25: Their manners stopped developing at 25?

  13. 13
    SonomaLass says:

    Wow, ec, I hadn’t seen that Terry Goodkind quote before.  What an ego!  Although I’d agree that his primary interest probably isn’t world-building, and perhaps that’s why I don’t like his stuff much.  But “my books [are] in a genre all their own”?  WTF???

    I wish we had a less demeaning label for “chick lit” if we must have labels.  And I REALLY wish that authors could manage to promote their work without bashing that of others, either individually or by sweeping “genre-lizations.”  The classy authors can do that, and can even be grateful to the genre that has given them their readership.

  14. 14
    Aubrey says:

    What’s weird about her statement is that most chick lit writers I know (myself included) also write and/or read romance. Most of us started out reading romance, but because we have snarky voices were labeled chick lit (that’s pretty much what happened to me). Williams is biting the hand that feeds her, really, considering the cross over appeal between the two genres.

  15. 15
    Alice says:

    Perhaps I’m alone in this. I love romance with all my heart and dislike when folk demean it. I also recognize that there are many authors whose writing is indeed relevant, challenging, interesting, etc. That said, most of what I’ve read is very fluffy. The same can be said for fantasy and sci-fi or any other genre writing—most is not very good and there are a few gems. Why get riled when some of what people say is true?

    On the other hand, maybe I’m missing something.

  16. 16
    Silver James says:

    I am way beyond those “issues” allegedly so eloquently covered by chick lit books. I hate the term. I hate the demeaning tone and the thrust of the marketing. I’m not a libber but dang, this type of tripe could make me burn my bra. And trust me, at my age, that would be an ugly sight!

    *growls* Now my blood pressure is up, I’m all pissed off and wanting to go mug a cheerleader. Maybe I’ll plug in “Clueless” and just throw spitballs at the screen instead.

    Go Romance and those of us who love it!

  17. 17
    Marta Acosta says:

    Not the chick lit debate again!  Okay, let’s try this one more time.  Chick lit was a title that the MARKETERS came up with, not to demean books, but to sell them.  Putting a label on things helps sell them.

    However, the marketing term gets used by critics as a generic term of dismissal.  Therein lies the confusion.  One group is marketing just like they’d market anything (cereal, cars, furniture) and the other group is assuming that the marketing is 1) accurate, 2) connotes something of a lesser quality.

    Authors have no or very little say on our covers.  We often don’t have control over our titles, our marketing, or even where our books are categorized.

    When a woman writes humor, she’s frequently thrown in the chick lit category.  There is no “this bitch is hilarious!” category.

    Sophie Kinsella has said that she wishes there was a “romantic comedy” category.  She writes the Shopaholic series, which are comedies and I think they succeed as comedies.  No, they’re not relevant to anyone’s life, but that bitch is hilarious.

  18. 18
    gemiwing says:

    “Maybe if you write in such a way that is really difficult to read or you’re a woman author not writing about those kinds of issues.”
    ****

    So not only is she insulting romance, she’s insulting HER OWN genre. Gosh those pesky readers of chick lit just couldn’t handle a well crafted deep story about something other than shoes and the E channel! Oh woes!

    Way to go genius, way. to. go.

    Somebody give this girl’s brain a sammich.

  19. 19
    Brandi says:

    Oh dear.

    And I used to think so much of [Goodkind].

    Er, why? From the excerpts of his writing I’ve seen, he’s pretty appalling.

  20. 20
    Jenns says:

    There does seem to be a very large group of chick lit authors who feel that they’re in a special clique – err, club, that is quite above the likes of romance. 
    And I’ve noticed that they object to non-readers of their genre who ‘stereotype’ them.
    Ironic, isn’t it?

  21. 21
    phadem says:

    Oh dear.

      And I used to think so much of [Goodkind].

    Er, why? From the excerpts of his writing I’ve seen, he’s pretty appalling.

    Maybe because at one time I enjoyed his writing? Which I did, though it’s been many years since reading it. What is appalling to one isn’t necessarily to the next.

    Why is it so hard to believe that someone can enjoy what another did not?

    Oh bother. Just a rhetorical Q. Pay no mind.

  22. 22
    Barb Ferrer says:

    *sigh*

    What a twit.  She’s dismissing an entire genre.  She’s dismissing her own genre at the same time she’s trying to elevate it by saying, “Well, if it’s going to be called anything… and at any rate, my stuff is relelvant and… and… meaningful and… and… you know, deep.” 

    Because that’s exactly what a title like Yummy Mummy is going to bring to mind.  (Although to be fair, I’m the type who’d at least pick it up and read the back cover copy and a page or two.)

    Wonder how Ms. Williams would react to S.E. Hinton who dismissed the entire Chick Lit genre as One fictional genre she knows enough about to despise: “chick lit.”

    “It’s just another version of `Mary Jane goes to the prom,’” she says. “It’s all about the boys.”

    Which, for the record, I found to be as ignorant and uninformed a comment as Ms. Williams’. 

    When the hell are people going to realize that in every genre there are great books, good books, meh books, and downright shitty books?  Say a genre’s not to your taste, that’s fine, but to dismiss an entire genre out of hand shows appalling ignorance and arrogance.

    < /soapbox>

  23. 23

    Hey, the only thing worse than writing romance is writing erotica.  I should know—I’ve written both (and, oddly enough, have heard both referred to as “smut”).  As long as the authors writing genre fiction insist on pretending their romance, chick lit, mystery, erotica, fantasy novel is not like those “other writers,” genre fiction will continue to be marginalized and socially unacceptable.

    I don’t think, however, that will keep anyone from buying it. :)

  24. 24
    JaneyD says:

    :snerk:

    It’s not often you see a writer making a complete moron of herself in public like that—I mean when it doesn’t include three quarts of Vodka, a cross-dressing Cher impersonator, an all-night Karaoke bar, and Homeland Security.

    Now someone needs to write a book with THOSE elements, which would make it more relevant to ME.

  25. 25
    Jennie says:

    long42—yes, this is a longass debate that’s taking up waaayyyy too much of my precious reading time.  TTFN!

  26. 26
    alia says:

    i think it’s time i admitted… i was dismissive of romance novels until i stumbled upon this website. (blush)

    but but but now i have them on my bookshelf (where any visitor can see them!) and am a georgette heyer fangirl.

    and am also, i hope, a little less of a snob.

    (can i still play with you guys?)

  27. 27
    Rebecca J says:

    The title is awful and so demeaning. Yummy Mummy? Blech.

    Here’s the description of the book from Amazon:

    “London-based journalist Williams writes for In Style, and her debut novel features flawlessly chic celebrity moms who go deep into Gwennie-and-Apple competitive territory. Thirty-one-year-old Amy Crane, six months postpartum, is stuck between two groups of mommy friends. On one side are the women from her childbirth class, dedicated mothers whose chubby figures and comfy clothes declare, “We now put someone else’s needs before our vanity.” On the other side is Amy’s new friend Alice, a so-called “yummy mummy,” who, with her similarly slim and elegant West London friends, takes Amy on as her newest project. Soon, Amy is caught up in a whirlwind of designer shoes, fad diets, Pilates classes (complete with a troublingly handsome instructor) and Botox injections, all of which alienate Joe, her longtime boyfriend and the father of her daughter. Amy’s misadventures are, for the most part, endearing, and her comic attempts to regain her pre-pregnancy lifestyle stay just this side of satire. Williams weighs in on nearly every maternal controversy (from extended breastfeeding to the return to paid employment), further prolonging Amy’s inevitable decision as to the kind of mummy she wants to be. Fortunately, Williams’s wit and Amy’s appealing foibles will make readers stick around for her occasionally laborious journey.” (Jan.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    She sounds really smug in that interview.

    The reader reviews seem to be all positive.

  28. 28
    Diane says:

    Whenever I see an author say something like

    I wanted to make the books relevant to those issues that women really face today

    or

    I write stories that have important human themes…. My primary interest is in telling stories that are fun to read and make people think. That puts my books in a genre all their own.

    my first thought always is: Boy howdy, had you better be right, or you have just opened a can of whoop-ass on yourself.

    And strangely enough, they’re usually wrong.

  29. 29
    Grace says:

    Alice, I agree. I don’t think of romance novels as being particularly relevant to real-life issues, but I don’t think that saying so is a bad thing. I don’t think fantasy or sci-fi are, either, nor do I think people read them for that reason.

  30. 30

    Terry Goodkind does not do world-building?  Has he forgotten his first 3 Shanarra books?  FFS, people just need to get over themselves.

    As for “chic lit”…isn’t that just the code word for romance for those who “wouldn’t touch romance with a six foot pole.”  Although, I must admit, it never has good sex scenes.

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