Tired of Trends?

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Whoever said variety is the spice of life obviously knew nothing about the publishing industry.  For women’s fiction (that infuriating term) it seems the pendulum has swung wildly to the opposite extreme from the nineties Chick Lit obsession, to a dark and disturbing landscape of Grip Lit, full of domestic violence, rape, child abuse and murder.  It seems writers (or is it publishers?) are going for the most controversial themes and pushing them to their limits, with stark covers and blurbs that will grab you by the throat.  And it would appear that the demand is limitless, as was seen at the recent London Book Fair.

Many publishers were less happy with the continued demand for psychological thrillers, or “grip-lit” in the mould of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard. Across LBF’s packed halls, editors and agents were agreed that the genre has peaked.

One agent, who did not want to be named for fear of upsetting lucrative clients, said: “We really needs to move on, but no one has come up with anything to replace it.”

But agent Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown was pessimistic about the prospect of readers becoming bored of grip-lit any time soon. Working 18 months ahead of what book buyers see on shelves means publishers are always first to call the end of a trend, he said: “Readers still want psychological thrillers, even though we’re all really tired of them.”

The Guardian

But what is the attraction?  And why does it feel as though someone has lifted a stone and millions of psychological thriller writers have emerged, blinking and dazed, into the daylight?

Let’s start with the readers.  “If you cry, you buy” is another trite dictum used by Geller to explain the demand for the ‘weepfest novel’, the only other game in town, equating tears with cash.  He has me there though, I love a good old cry.  The emotional release is oddly pleasing and I imagine it’s similar for fans of crime fiction and the disturbingly titled ‘domestic noir’.   It’s clear that we love a bit of a scare every now and again.  Horror movies, ghost trains at the funfair, European politics – they all serve to give us the feeling of fear, but in a controlled environment.  It’s okay to read a scary book because if it gets too much, you can just close the covers and throw it under the bed (or stick it in the freezer like Joey with The Shining).  Fiction gives us the means to explore the things that scare us… but only as far as our imaginations and our experiences allow.  I’m not sure what current trends say about society, or readers, or women (if anything), but perhaps it’s a way of confronting what are very real issues (violence against women in our culture), but at a safe distance.

It’s all a far cry from the young women we were all addicted to reading about when Chick Lit was at its height.  These were bright-eyed career women, making the most of the opportunities and freedoms that the previous generation were denied and we couldn’t get enough of it.  It was all about girl power and finding an equal footing with our male counterparts, although the plots tended to disintegrate into a search for Mr. Right. But, as it turns out, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.  Once again the insatiable appetite of the reader and the publisher’s determination to keep them fed flooded the market with inferior, copycat books that ultimately sounded the death knell for the genre’s popularity.  Which is a pity because people still want to read contemporary romance with humour, and writers still want to write them, but they no longer fit the trend which is more towards violence than Valentino.

So what about the authors?  What’s their excuse?  Were they secretly grip lit authors all along?

There will always be people who attempt writing to trends.  The success of 50 Shades of Grey unleashed a plethora of writers who, in their desperation to be signed to a publisher, tried their hand a bit of slap and tickle.  I’m not judging (much).  I mean, why not?  It’s worth a punt.  No-one was more surprised to find out that women enjoy reading erotica than the publishers and they struggled to keep pace (ahem).  The irony of all this is that it is the publishers and agents themselves who advise writers not to write to trends.  I see this all the time on submission pages and yet the majority of new authors signing to the Big Five are grip lit.  Hypocritical much?  There are also suggestions that new authors are being shoe-horned into the genre, demonstrating once again that publishers simply want the same thing, only different.

Another reason why some female writers choose a darker subject matter could be that they don’t want to risk their book being wrapped in pink paper (the dreaded swirly font) and in order to be taken seriously.  Kate Harding wrote a fantastic article all the way back in 2010 entitled “Women’s fiction:  All misery and martinis”  While this article refers to Misery Lit, which was probably a bigger trend in America, it follows the same reasoning for the switch from Chick Lit to Grip Lit here and in the UK.

If an unusual number of female novelists “have resorted to the tactic of choosing themes that are as dark and miserable as possible,” it’s probably because “[w]e are sick to death of the assumption that because we are women we must be writing CHICKLIT.”

Jessica Duchen, author

“American writers in particular are often anxious to be perceived as ‘serious,’ which they tend to equate with a mournful solemnity. Like most attempts to appear grown-up, it just makes you look childish. Comedy is as essential a lens on the human experience as tragedy, and furthermore it is an excellent ward against pretension.”

Laura Miller, critic

Obviously, not all writers are contriving to write something dark in order to be taken seriously.  For some writers (thankfully) this is their natural home and they have made the genre what it is today.  But before you purchase a Grip Lit for dummies guide, in an effort to jump on this over-crowded band wagon, just remember, for every trend that sweeps through the publishing landscape, there are  readers seeking out an alternative for when blockbuster fatigue sets in.  I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard people say they need something different to read, after an onslaught of mind-bending, plot-twisting, gruesome and violent grip lit reads.  Most readers enjoy variety and look for something that will appeal to all of their emotions.  Not that being trendy is a crime (ha-ha, oh).  It’s popular for a reason, people like it.  But when a trend looms so large over the industry, it stifles diversity and makes it harder for any new voices coming through.  In fact, novels that don’t fit into either camp are almost considered ‘fringe’.  I find it hard to discover new books outside of the trendy genres because, well, they’re not being published in any great numbers and it’s interesting to hear that even publishers are growing weary of the sameness.

One thing these trends do highlight, however, is the narrow definition of the role of women in these books.  We’re either ditsy wannabes, ‘having a go’ at a career, sex objects to fulfill someone else’s desires, or victims of violence and abuse. Obviously, this is fiction and fiction is escapism, but wouldn’t you wonder about the kind of world we’re choosing to escape to?  If the writing is good, I don’t care what genre I’m reading.  It takes a talented writer to tell you a story you didn’t think you wanted to hear, to make you laugh or cry against your better judgement.  Maybe they don’t always have to find Mr. Right, or even look for him, or end up being choked to death by him either!

 

The Wacky World Of Genres

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Following on from my piece about Book Snobs, I’ve decided to wade into the murky pool that is ‘Genre’.  Genre is what keeps us innocent readers from picking up the wrong kind of book by accident (God forbid), but do we really trust the ‘genre police’ to get it right?

 

Some genres are easily determined, like taking a novel’s length for example or if the content is fiction or non-fiction.  However, some categories and sub-categories are more loosely defined and end up creating a very vague grouping of books with tenuous links.  If you are a female author writing about a contemporary female character, chances are you will be shoved into the ‘Women’s Fiction’ genre.  It has taken quite a few years to appreciate how the term Chick Lit really devalues what is a popular and entertaining genre.  These books are contemporary fiction and should have been labelled as such.  Why was there a need to create a separate category for ‘Chicks’?  Ah, well that’s all down to the marketing department.  It’s a label that says ‘don’t take this author too seriously’, which trivialises the authors and the subject matter, giving the entire genre a bad reputation.  Nowadays, calling a book ‘Chick Lit’ is like the ultimate put-down, which is such a pity because so many talented female authors have found themselves quarantined in that sub-category, never to escape.  I can see the same thing happening now with Grip Lit – it seems to be losing its originality as the publishing houses churn out more and more imitations.  The marketing is simple: they want the same thing, but different.

So Women’s Fiction is the new pigeon hole for female authors.  But did you ever stop to wonder why we have Women’s Fiction but not Men’s Fiction?  Booksellers might say it’s simply a marketing tool, a way to help readers find what they want, but why make women a sub-category?  Women’s fiction includes books that have absolutely no relation to each other and span a dizzying array of styles and subject matter.  The only common denominator is that they are written by women.  In an article by Alison Flood in The Guardian, she questions the relevance of the genre:

I’m bewildered by how titles make it into these categories. The mix of books is so broad as to be meaningless, united only by the authors’ gender. But the fact remains the categories are there, and there are no equivalent “Men’s writers and fiction”, “Men’s literary fiction”, and “Men’s popular fiction” sections. They are just “fiction”, I guess.

Regular readers will know that I love a good scientific study to back up my claims, and this week is no different.  So I went to the great trouble of looking up some of my favourite contemporary reads on Amazon to see what genre ‘the genre police’ have put them in.

David Nicholls – One Day  ‘Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY.’

Genre – Fiction

(A contemporary romance, by any other name…)


Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Effect  ‘Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman’

Genre – Fiction > Humour

(eh… a contemporary romance?!)


Jojo Moyes – Me Before You  ‘Neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time’ 

Genre – Women’s Fiction > Romance

(Contemporary romance.  Hang on, why’s this listed under a different genre?)


Marian Keyes – Rachel’s Holiday ‘They said I was a drug addict. But my occasional drug use was strictly recreational. And, hey, surely drug addicts are skinny?’

Genre – Women’s Fiction > Humour

(So here’s a darkly funny look at addiction.  What genre should that be in?  Is it written by a woman?  Just stick it in women’s fiction)


Wikipedia describes Women’s Fiction as:

an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women’s life experience that are marketed to female readers

Which begs the question: Why don’t we have an umbrella term for men-centered books that focus on men’s life experience that are marketed to men?  Oh no, hang on.  We do.  It’s called fiction.  Shouldn’t we be moving beyond this?  An author is an author, regardless of their gender, and a book is a book.  Why do readers need warning signs that the book might be about women’s issues or written by a woman?  Is all this marketing and categorising just limiting people in their reading lists?  Understandably, some readers might prefer a book with a male or a female protagonist, but is that not what a blurb is for?  To inform the reader of what lies between the pages?

So who created the category of women’s fiction anyway and how did that conversation go?

*A boardroom clad in mahogany, somewhere posh*

Head of marketing: “Hate to be the bearer of bad news old chaps, but it would appear that the women are trying their hand at writing books.”

*One board member faints.  Another hurls himself out of a window.*

Second in command: “Say it isn’t so!”

Head: “I’m afraid it is so.  Now brace yourselves; it looks like we might have to publish them.”

*Two more exit via the window.*

Head: “Pull yourselves together men!”

Second: “But how will we know which books to read?  I mean, isn’t there a danger that we might mistakenly buy a book written by a woman?”

Head: “Ah, yes, now I’ve considered this frightening consequence and come up with an idea.  We will label their books ‘Women’s Fiction’, so there will be absolutely no confusion.”

Second: “Splendid idea!  Proper fiction will still be written by men and we can funnel the ‘ladies’ into their specialised sub-category.  For women.  Who read about other women.  Who write about women’s things.  Which have no bearing on our world.  The end.”

*All characters are fictional, any resemblance to the real people behind the women’s fiction label is purely coincidental *

new heirloom1+1 Amazon (Paperback)Kindle

 

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue de Paris (7) - Copy Amazon (Paperback) ~Kindle ~Nook ~ iTunes ~ Kobo 

Photo credit: Victoria Nevland <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79379319@N07/12486228674″>3/52</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

Ye Olde Kindle Countdown Deal

Cross collage - Copy

It’s summer.  You all want a good read.  Something you can really get your teeth into, historical fiction with a modern twist?  I’m only too happy to oblige!  Get your peepers over to Amazon UK and Amazon US where you can download a copy of my novel, The Cross Of Santiago for only 99p/c until June 7th.  It’s got it all – Spanish knights, battles at sea, mystery, family ties, heirlooms and a love story that spans four centuries.  

Adopted as a baby, Amanda Morrison knows nothing of her biological family. But when a lawyer reveals that she has been bequeathed a mysterious heirloom from a long lost aunt, she unlocks the door to a distant past and a secret love. Can her past life really be haunting her present and what can she do to put things right?

The Cross Of Santiago is a tale of two women living in different centuries, whose lives seem to be entwined by fate. A perfect read for Outlander fans.

But don’t just take my word for it!  Readers have left the following reviews….

5 stars

Very good read and also an interesting change of times

Published 2 months ago by christine gaster

4 stars

An epic romance across the centuries!  This book has two settings and I loved both.
If you know nothing about the Spanish Armada and how so many of the ships were shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland and Scotland; then worry not, this book will fill you in. I had forgotten so much of this part of history that it was fantastic to revisit it and I ended up having great discussions about the battle and their mission with my husband who is a history fiend.

Trish @ Between My Lines


5 stars

Really enjoyed. Kept my interest.

Published 12 months ago by Martha Smith

“The Cross of Santiago” is an intelligent and well written historical romance book. I love historical fiction with a bit of romantic story-line thrown in and this book sure fits the bill.

OnlineBookClub.org full review here.

4 stars

This book has a lot of mystery. I was adopted and so I can relate to Amanda as a character. She wants to know about her past, about her birth family, and her family’s history. I have been there and so this book was a good read for me because I could REALLY relate to her. I think books that the reader can relate too are the best kind. They help you feel that the story is more REAL, rather than it just being a story that is being read.

Boundless Book Reviews

4 stars

The historical parts based around the Spanish Armada seem particularly well researched and it was interesting to hear the story of the Armada crashing around the coast of Ireland. The characters all feel fleshed out and interesting enough to want to read about and the story doesn’t get bogged down by too much history, there is a nice balance.

The Bearded Bookworm

While you’re at it, you may as well pick up a copy of The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris, also at the delectable price of 99p! 

Happy Easter Book Sale!

Easter sale

Fancy a good read while you’re stuffing your face with chocolate?  You’ve come to the right place!  Both of my books are on sale for Easter at the cracking price of €0.99/£0.99/$0.99/.  But what are they about?  Will I like them?  I hear you cry.  Hold on to your cream egg – here’s a little preview to help you decide.

 

The Mysterious Bakery On The Rue de Paris (6)

THE MYSTERIOUS BAKERY ON RUE DE PARIS

 

A charming bakery in a picturesque French town sounds like the idyllic place to escape her life, but Edith Lane soon discovers that some ghosts are harder to escape than others. A magical, heart-warming story that is sure to appeal to all of the senses, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is a mouth-watering journey of love, liberty and la vie en rose.

 

*****  A wonderful, captivating story    *****  Terrifically written and researched

*****  Heartwarming story     *****  Magical read!

The Cross of Santiago-Amazon

THE CROSS OF SANTIAGO

A second chance to meet your first love’

Adopted as a baby, Amanda Morrison knows nothing of her biological family.  But when she receives a mysterious heirloom from a long lost aunt, she unlocks the door to a distant past and a secret love. Can her past life really be haunting her present and what can she do to put things right?

The Cross Of Santiago is an intriguing novel that tells the tales of women in two different eras and how their lives seem to be entwined by fate.

***** Epic romance across the centuries    *****  Intriguing story    

*****  Interesting mix of genres    *****  Unusual but enjoyable!

Betwixt short

And don’t forget, you can always download my short story Betwixt anytime of the year for free!

‘Catherine returns to Hollowbrook Cottage on a cold November night, looking to escape her present life and lose herself in the past. However, her journey crosses the path of a mysterious stranger who will change her life forever.’

 

 

 

 

 

Special Offer!

 

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris

Most Recent Customer Reviews

A wonderful novel about the books heroine Edith and her life changing adventure set in magical Compiègne . Read more

Published 5 months ago by John O’Malley

I finished this in two sittings. I enjoyed it, it is a nice gentle read but without the typical romance of many of the genre. Read more

Published 9 months ago by Lorna Sixsmith

Wonderful heartwarming story. It has been described as chiclit but I think it a great read for men too. Read more

Summer read must gives a lovely warm cosy feeling, just finished it highly recommend intelligent chick lit download now and support indie writers, I’m glad I did :).

Published 18 months ago by Lorna Dooley

A lovely, engaging read with some surprising twists. I’ve never been to Paris but the author really evoked a feel for the city with all its wonderful sights, smells and tastes. Read more

Published 18 months ago by Heather Hill

I chose this rating because this is a great book. Interesting, entertaining, engaging with a little bit of romance and magic thrown in and all from a very fine writer. Read more

The Cross Of Santiago

Most Recent Customer Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoy books that combine a modern story with.one that takes place in the past.

Really enjoyed. Kept my interest.

Published 7 months ago by Martha Smith

The best thing about this love story, is that it doesn’t start off as a love story. Read more

This book had a lot of mystery. I was adopted and so I can relate to Amanda as a character. She wants to know about her past, about her birth family, and her family’s history. I have been there and so this book was a good read for me because I could REALLY relate to her. I think books that the reader can relate too are the best kind. They help you feel that the story is more REAL, rather than it just being a story that is being read.

Published on December 14, 2013 by Amazon Customer

I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.
The Cross of Santiago belongs in several different genres which makes it interesting. 

*Cover Reveal* The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris

 Here it is folks – my new novel set for release on 9th June, 2014!

Image

 

This is the magical tale of Edith Lane, who sets off to find her fortune in the beautiful city of Paris.  Fortune, however, is a fickle thing and Edith ends up working in a vintage bakery in the positively antique town of Compiègne.  Escaping heartache and singledom in Ireland, Edith discovers that the bakery on Rue De Paris is not exactly what it seems and that some ghosts from the past are harder to escape than others.  A heart-warming story that is sure to appeal to all of the senses, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is a mouth-watering journey of love, liberty and la vie en rose.

 

Check out my author page on Amazon for updates!