Picture the scene. You’re lying on a sun bed beside a glistening pool. Factor fifty on your face, because you’re clever like that. There’s no one else around. Alright, go on, sketch in a honey-skinned, toned Mediterranean god snoozing on the other side of the water. Only if you won’t find him too distracting.
You have a refreshing drink by your side. A mojito, or perhaps a cold beer. A breeze brushes delicately against your skin, providing delicious relief from the pounding heat. You have nowhere to be; nowhere to go. It’s just you and your book. You adjust your sunglasses, let out a little sigh of happy anticipation and open up your copy of… Ulysses.
Ha. Way to kill a dream.
You adjust your sunglasses, let out a little sigh of happy anticipation and open up your new chick lit novel to find yourself in the middle of some significant event. A wedding? A death? A break up? A big move? The writing grabs you. It’s conversational, upbeat; the quick-witted style reels you in. It makes you laugh. Very soon you’ve arrived at chapter two. You take a sip of your mojito and savour this moment of bliss. You’re embarking on a journey and you sense you’re in safe hands. Your character is going to face difficulties and disappointments, but she’ll also discover things about herself and grow before your eyes. When you finish those pages, you’ll have a smile on your face. You’ll feel uplifted and renewed.
This is my experience of Chick Lit, so WHY THE HELL DID I STOP READING IT?
Why did I get stuck when Chick Lit Uncovered asked me to write a piece for International Chick Lit month?
My novel, The Temp, is classic chick lit. A romantic comedy set in London with a scatty heroine you might want to slap a few times, but who is more gutsy than I am. Armed with spray painted bananas, she sets out to prove you can be famous for anything. The cast includes her witty Irish best friend and a very posh and handsome Art curator. There’s mix-ups and heartache, but in the end you know it’s going to be alright.
The truth is, I started to believe the stereotype. In my head chick lit had become exclusively about cupcakes and cocktails, designer heels and shopping. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what helps you ‘escape’ your commute to work (we can’t always be chilling out by the pool unfortunately), but being more salty than sugary and a reluctant shopper, I felt put off.
Now I’m recalling the books and authors that inspired me to write my first romantic comedy. Sophie Kinsella and Remember Me?, Lisa Jewell with Ralph’s Party and Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees’s The Boy Next Door. How could I have forgotten all the fun I’d had reading these books? How could I have let the critics dismiss a whole genre?
Like every other literary genre, great chick lit doesn’t settle for anything less than brilliant writing, keen observation, challenging topics and engaging characters. The best chick lit delivers on story and moves you to laughter, and to tears.
So I’m sorry I forgot that for a while. But I’m ready now. Ready for that feeling of not wanting to put a book down. I’m looking forward to discovering new chick lit authors and laughing and crying my way through a brilliant story. Because in the end, that’s what it’s all about, telling a good story, and a good chick lit author knows exactly how to do that.