Sunday, 31 July 2016

Guest Post - The Changing Face of Women's Fiction by Victoria Fox - Blog Tour

Women’s fiction is changing. ‘Chick-lit’, a provocative tag, used to be about high heels, handbags and heartbreak – but not any more. Over recent years, women’s fiction has seen a surge in psychological thrillers, blockbuster action and exotic time-slip. Cosy armchair romances, thanks to what I call the ‘Great Vintage Revival’, have found a new fan base, incorporating baking, teashops and beach houses. There is a whole host of women’s literature, a huge variety with potential to appeal between ages and sexes. Why, then, are women writing for women seen as light, frothy or inconsequential?

The chick-lit hangover is one we’ve got to get past. Often, my books are referred to as chick-lit – I don’t mind, after all the chick-lit stable is one I’m happy to join, peopled as it is with the groundbreaking likes of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes – but undoubtedly it is a reductive term. Men do not have an equivalent. Novels about fast cars, great battles, agents and spies, subjects deemed (absurdly) to be male pursuits, are not labelled ‘lad-lit’. So why us? It’s the emotional content, maybe, the loves and losses and heartbreak, the secrets, the sex and the below-surface, that classify these books as women’s. It’s diminutive to men, too: it’s not seen as masculine to be interested in these things. Books are life experience, everyone’s experience. It’s not as cut and dried as a pink cover or a blue cover.

Are my books populated by ‘chicks’? No, more often cocks, hee hee. Because mine is a bonkbuster, loud and proud. It’s got the emotion but it’s also got the action, the helicopters, the assassins and the scandal. It’s a story led by women but they’re not sitting at home with their knitting needles: they’re running the show. Read a ‘chick-lit’ book and you’ll find the protagonists are much more than your Jimmy-Choo-wearing, Sex-and-the-City-watching, Cosmopolitan-drinking stereotype. Frankly, you couldn’t write a book about anyone at all if those were their limits. But if these female characters express emotion or thought or analysis, they instantly become ‘chicks’. It’s a tricky word to navigate, but we’re managing it.

I think the key is in giving a protagonist more to think about than a man. For too long, chick-lit has been associated with the single twenty-something looking for marriage and babies, as if that is all a woman can and should aspire to in life. Do we see her male counterpart sitting cross-legged in a nearby bar, nursing a glass of Pinot Grigio and worrying about whether he’s too fat for a girlfriend, or his calves are too big for Tinder? 

Now, thankfully, we’re seeing a great spectrum of women heroes leading their stories, and they’re nothing to do with Getting the Guy. It’s about getting the job, or getting the house, or getting the truth, or getting the dream. It’s about taking control and taking charge. Pour the wine down the sink and put some trainers on instead of those heels. Better to run in. 

The covers have long been a problem – it’s not just men who don’t want to be seen reading a pink, glittery book; it’s me, and many other women – but they’re changing too. Packaging is catching up with content. And soon, hopefully, it won’t need to be called women’s fiction at all – just as ‘men’s fiction’ has no place on the bookshelf. Fiction, one and all, from a vast, shared pool of imagination.

Victoria Fox’s The Santiago Sisters is published 28th July (MIRA, £7.99)

Thank you so much Victoria Fox for your thoughts on Women's fiction and Chick Lit, and I must say I do love a good bonkbuster!

About Victoria Fox

Victoria Fox divides her time between Bristol and London. She used to work in publishing and is
now the author of 6 novels.

@Mira_BooksUK   @VFoxWrites   #TheSantiagoSisters

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