by Anna Bell
There has been a lot of talk on social media and blogs recently about the need to redefine the terms used for modern women’s fiction. It has made me question how I define my own work, and I’ve realised that I use derogatory terms to dismiss my writing when I’m embarrassed and talking to people in the real world.
It’s funny as, up until recently, I hadn’t considered ‘chick lit’ to be a dirty term. But the more that’s been written on the topic, the more I’ve started to look at my own use of it. I’ve realised that I use it because it’s an easy term to use – people largely know that I’m talking about light-hearted, easy-to-read novels about women. Now, people have better explained why this label is so wrong. Marian Keyes has been vocal on the need to change the the terminology, and literary agent Lizzy Kremer has talked about how commercial women’s fiction should be celebrated. But the reason I’m cross with myself is not the label I use, but the way I’m using it.
Whenever I meet new people I’m proud to say I’m an author as it sounds pretty cool, but then they ask me what I write, and I go all shy and embarrassment and fear kicks in. I tell them that I write trashy chick lit romance, novels. I don’t know why I say it like that, but I always do. It’s almost like I’m scared that if I describe it normally without making it sound trashy they’ll want to read it, and the thought of people that I know (or people I’m getting to know) picking up one of my books really scares me. It’s crazy because I love readers reading my book and it fills me with joy when I get emails and tweets from people I don’t know that tell me they’ve enjoyed my books. So why do I get so embarrassed in the real world?
I can’t imagine that when Dan Brown tells people what he does he says that he writes trashy thrillers. His books are adored by millions (including me) and they might be a bit formulaic and they might not be the grittiest novels you’ll ever read, but it doesn’t dismiss the amount of hard work and research that has gone into craft them. It’s the same with the novels I write. It’s hard work writing, editing and perfecting them to come across as an easy read but, believe me, it’s not an easy write. Yet, the way that I talk about my books when I’m dismissing them makes it seem like it is. I almost give the impression that my novels are the kind of thing that I can knock out in an afternoon – as they’re not some literary fiction offer.
So whilst the community of modern women’s fiction readers and writers try to embrace or discover a new term that best describes our beloved genre, I’ve decided to embrace the thought that I deserve to be proud of my books, no matter whether I’m talking to my target audience or to someone I meet at a dinner party. My novels have strong, feisty females at their heart, they’re all about empowering women and it’s time I remembered that I’m just like one of those heroines and started to empower myself.
Am I the only one that talks their work down rather than talk it up?