Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

This Is Not Chick Lit

Marian Keyes is considered a chick lit writer, but I don’t think that’s right.  I’ve been reading Rachel’s Holiday and it’s not my idea of chick lit.  It is witty and not deeply gritty, but it’s not the light-hearted easy-reading I associate with the term.  The heroine, Rachel, isn’t addicted to chocolate and shoes; with her it’s cocaine and valium.  The book is about her being packed off to rehab by her family, after nearly dying of an overdose.  Hardly what you’d describe as ‘fluffy’.

I wrote a little while ago about what chick lit is (and isn’t).  There’s mass misuse of the term, sometimes applying it to any fiction written by a woman.  You see books by Jodi Picoult in ‘chick lit bestseller’ lists.  They don’t belong there.  I had to ban myself from reading them because they got me too upset.  Chick lit doesn’t do that.

Chick lit should make you smile more than it makes you frown and should leave you feeling happy and positive about life, because that’s the whole point of its existence.  I tweeted once that chick lit is like Rescue Remedy – it comforts and reassures.  It’s a hug, a fluffy pillow, a fleecy jumper, a hot bubble bath – just in book form.

That said, Rachel’s Holiday is a terrific book.  Keyes used her own experience as an alcoholic and it provides a fascinating insight into the mind of an addict.  And it manages to keep a positive tone while dealing with a serious subject.  Which is why I read it – it was research for my current project, which is about the experience of having a premature baby.  I very much recommend it (the book that is, not the premature birth!).  I do find Keyes a little long-winded at times, but it’s an interesting and educational read.

Of hers, I’ve only read that, Watermelon (which is much more chick lit like) and Under the Duvet.  What are her other books like?  Do you think she deserves her billing as a chick lit writer?

 

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What I’m Working On Now

At the beginning of December, I decided to try and write 1,000 words every day for a month.  I managed it up until Christmas and then things went downhill, but nevertheless my current draft has reached 36,000 words!  I think this work will be a novella rather than a novel, probably around half the length of The Dr Pepper Prophecies and After Wimbledon.  So hopefully I will finish the first draft this month, although a lot of time will be taken up getting our house ready to sell.

So what have I been writing about?  Well, it’s a somewhat more serious piece – I may have to class it as women’s fiction rather than chick lit – and based partly on my own experience.  In January 2012 I became a mother for the first time, to a baby girl who wasn’t due until April.  Cue three months in hospital for her and a whole new world for me.  When I was thinking about what to write next, it kept coming to me that I should write about that.

It may not be my most popular work – although I’ll still endeavour to leave you feeling good – but I want to get it out there.  I’m tempted to liken it to Marian Keyes’ Rachel’s Holiday, in which she used her own experience as an alcoholic to help “normal” people understand what it’s like to be an addict.  I’m reading it at the moment and it’s certainly an education, as well as very enjoyable.  I’d like this work to give people an insight into what it’s like to have a premature baby.  Because – without wishing to scare anyone – it might just happen to someone you know.

Ffion and Tristan Christmas 2013

In case it does: my daughter is now two and, despite being born three months early, there is nothing wrong with her at all (that’s chocolate round her mouth).  And she is by no means exceptional in this.

Here she is at Christmas with her little cousin T, who she was not at all sure about sitting next to.  Very difficult to take a photo of them together, because she kept moving away and when she did he fell over!

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The Chick Lit Classics

Jody at Jennifer Joyce Writes has rounded up the chick lit classics.  She reckons they are:

  • The Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella
  • P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
  • I Heart series by Lindsey Kelk
  • Meet Me At the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan
  • The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Of these, I must confess I’ve only read the first and the last.  Bridget Jones definitely deserves its place.  The Shopaholic series I’m less keen on.  Although I know it’s wildly popular, I actually prefer Sophie Kinsella’s stand-alone novels.  My favourites are Can You Keep a Secret? (the book that inspired me to write The Dr Pepper Prophecies) and the more recent Wedding Night.  I think a lot of it is just character-bonding, or lack thereof.  Becky Bloomwood just frustrates me.  I never even finished Mini Shopaholic.

I’m surprised not to see Marian Keyes on the list.  Who else do you reckon is missing?

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