I have changed a lot in the past 15 or so years. For instance, I’ve switched jobs a few times, added highlights to my naturally jet black hair, had a couple of boyfriends, amended my taste in men (partly because of said boyfriends), become aware of my strengths and weaknesses and more appreciative and forgiving of both respectively and, shockingly, I didn’t even know I wanted to be a writer 15 years ago! One thing that has not changed, however, is my love of books, specifically my addiction to reading “chick-lit”. Since the first books labeled chick-lit hit the stands in the mid-90s, I was hooked and swapped my earlier preference for legal suspense novels and thrillers to the lighthearted, fun books with, at least back then, pastel colored covers. I’ve been a goner ever since the scene in Marian Keye’s hilarious “Watermelon” when Claire Webster exercised on the stairmaster while three sheets to the wind. It doesn’t really matter to me if the plot is centered around a love story, friendship, career etc. as long as I can get lost in the pages and laugh out loud on occasion. What I love most about chick-lit is that for the most part, it is rooted in reality. Sure, it is an exaggerated reality but the conflict and added drama are what make it so much fun to read. I know some women who are in debt due to a shopping addiction but none of them have gotten themselves into the pickles of quite the magnitude of Becky Bloomwood in the “Shopaholic Series.” I also know some women who might have described themselves as “about average” on online dating profiles when “a few extra pounds” was probably more accurate, but as far as I know, none of them created an entirely fake online persona to impress a guy only to be invited to another continent to meet him in person and forced to become that “fake” person like Jemima in Jane Green’s classic novel “Jemima J.” I especially enjoy reading about relatable and sympathetic main characters but, honestly, even if the protagonist is in no way similar to me or my friends and I would likely not be friends with her in a million lifetimes, if she is written with humor and is carefully drawn to exude some vulnerability such that I care about her story and root for her happy ending, for example, Mattie Johns in Tallie Roland’s “The Hating Game”, I will probably enjoy it.
Throughout the years, some aspects of chick-lit have stood the test of time. There are trends in chick-lit that have not been broken, for instance, humor, fast paced and witty dialogue, occasional (or frequent) references to pop culture and, while it is often not the main focus, there is almost always some sort of romantic element. Additionally, in most cases, the heroine is a woman and while there have been a few distractions from that norm, for example, the recently published “The Wedding Beat” by Devan Sipher, “Beginner’s Greek” by James Collins and “Cancelled” by Elizabeth Anne West, it is the exception rather than the rule. Despite certain themes remaining static in the chick-lit genre, with the world constantly evolving, it is natural that the changes extend to what we see in books. I’ve leafed through my voluminous collection of chick-lit novels and noticed many interesting changes in chick-lit over the last 15 or so years:
1. Industry of heroine – In the past, you’d see a lot of main characters climbing the ladder in the world of public relations or publishing, for instance Andrea Sachs in Lauren Weisberger’s “The Devil Wear’s Prada”, Vig Morgan in Lynn Messina’s “Fashionistas”, Jane Rosenal in Melissa Bank’s “Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing” and Jane Greg in Melissa Senate’s “See Jane Date.” In the past few years, I’ve noticed much more variety in our protag’s career choices, for instance, Ellen Dempsey in Emily Giffin’s “Love the One You’re With” is a photographer, Jennifer Hunter in Jessica Brody’s “The Fidelity Files” is an undercover “fidelity” investigator, Cassandra Hanley in Wendy Chen’s “Liar’s Guide to True Love” is a wedding planner and Emily Haxby in Julie Buxbaum’s “The Opposite of Love” is a lawyer.
2. References and themes about reality television – The first wave of chick-lit books hit the market somewhat before reality television exploded. Chick lit books such as “Unscripted” by Natalie Aaron and Marla Schwartz and the aforementioned “The Hating Game” are a testament to the country’s fascination with reality tv.
3. Age of heroine – Years ago, it seemed almost every heroine was in the realm of her 30th year. For example, all three main characters in Lauren Weisberger’s “Chasing Harry Winston” and Marian Keye’s “Last Chance Saloon” , Charlize Edwards in Kim Gruenenfelder’s “A Total Waste of Makeup” and Bridget Jone’s in Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jone’s Diary.” Although there is still no shortage of main characters flirting with 30, over the last five years, we’ve also seen older, although not necessarily more mature heroines, for example, Zoe Tisdale in Erik Atwell’s “Thank you for Flying Air Zoe” is 41, Julia in Sarah Pekkanan’s “Skipping a Beat” is 35, Genie Michaels in Sarah Strohmeyer’s “Sleeping Beauty Proposal” is 36, Pat Keegan in Kathleen Kole’s “Favorable Conditions” is 45 and June Parker in Jill Smolinksi’s “The Next Thing on My List” is 34.
4.Common themes – It used to be that all chick-lit novels incorporated certain themes for example, evil bosses, losing weight, designer shoes and gay male best friends. These days, not so much. The genre of chick-lit has evolved beyond these themes such that the humor and lightheartedness are still there but the motivations of the characters have changed. You tend to see more “laid-back heroines” – for instance there are few designer names dropped by Abby Edwards in the aforementioned “Unscripted”, Savannah Leone in Allie Larkin’s “Stay”, Sydney Shephard in Dina Silver’s “One Pink Line” or Stephanie Cohen, the heroine in my novel, “Just Friends With Benefits.” And there is more focus on the bonds of friendships than over-extended credit cards, for instance “Second Time Around” by Beth Kendrick, “Best Friends Forever” by Jennifer Weiner, “Hope in a Jar” by Beth Harbison and “These Girls” by Sarah Pekkanan.”
5 Technology – Years ago, chick-lit books might have made mention of “the worldwide web” or the “internet” but without major developments in technology, books such as “Save as Draft” by Cavanaugh Lee, “Click-an Online Love Story” by Lisa Becker, “I’ve Got Your Number” by Sophie Kinsella and “Goodnight Tweetheart” by Teresa Medeiros would likely never have been published.
6. Paranormal – Society’s fascination with all things “paranormal” has had an influence on the chick-lit genre with such as novels as Sophie Kinsella’s “Twenties Girls”, Adena Halpern’s “Pinch Me” and “29″ and Susan McBride’s, “Little Black Dress.”
As you can see, the past decade and a half has brought with it many changes in the way authors write chick-lit. As a new writer of chick-lit, I am pleased that the road has been paved for fresh material and as an avid reader, I love the variety in the books available to me within the genre. The changes have not swayed me one bit from my favorite genre and I am anxious to see what the next 15 years will bring (with the exception of pesky wrinkles on my face and sprouting grey hairs on my head, of course)!
DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE A COMMENT WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A FREE E-COPY OF JUST FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS!
Welcome to the inaugural Chick Lit Author Blog Hop! The blog hop will run between May 14th-20th and features 34 amazing writers who have donated their time, talent, and some very special prizes to make this inaugural event a huge success!
Here’s how the blog hop works . . .
Each of the 34 participating authors has written a special Chick Lit-centric piece. At each blog hop stop, you will have the opportunity to enter to win a FREE Chick Lit e-book from that particular blog’s owner/author. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog post, including your name and e-mail address, and you’re automatically entered to win. If you visit each blog hop stop, that means you have the chance to win 34 different e-books! Please see the list of all of the stops below.
In each of the author’s blog posts, there will be a “secret word.” This word will be italicized, so it will be easy to find. All you have to do is make note of this secret word at each blog hop stop. Collect all 34 secret words and submit your list to CLABlogHop@aol.com before midnight on Sunday, May 20th and you will be entered into the Grand Prize Drawing! The winner of this drawing will receive a $150 Sephora gift card! $150 to spend on make-up, fragrance, bath and body goodies, skin care, and hair products! This gift card can be redeemed online, or at any Sephora store in the US.
Winners of each of the participating author’s e-books, as well as the Grand Prize winner of the $150 Sephora gift card will be announced on Monday, May 21st.
Contests are open to citizens of the United States only.
Click here to see the list of other authors participating in the blog hop!