Somehow we are ‘supposed’ to feel it is our dirty little secret. My book has a pink cover (and I’ve had a bright blue cover, a turquoise cover and a purple cover) and it has an illustration of a very fashionable young woman on the front. In some circles I’m supposed to be ashamed of that. I’m supposed to justify it, because the market dictates that readers of Chick Lit like these covers but I’m not supposed to actually like them.
I’m supposed - some would have me believe - to shrug my shoulders and say “Well, hey, what do I know? I’m only the author!” and not even think - even for one moment - that what I am writing is actually a valuable contribution to the arts. “Sure it’s only women’s stuff” - some say, but then again, “women’s stuff” is damned important. And writing in a way that is accessible to all women, which resonates with them, which makes them think, and laugh, and cry and escape the monotony of day to life is important to me.
It is also a great misnomer to think that we Chick Lit authors (and for the purposes of today, I am wearing my Chick Lit badge with pride) don’t write stuff that challenges or has literary merit. Kate Long’s description of the loss of a child in ‘Queen Mum’ is perhaps the most touching depiction of loss I have ever read - second only to the loss and pain of Marian Keyes’ depiction of a woman recovering from a miscarriage in Angels. Likewise Marian Keyes’ depiction of depression in ‘Last Chance Saloon’ hits the nail on the head in so many ways while in ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ Dorothy Koomson tackles not only loss, but betrayal and inter-racial relationships beautifully.
Chick Lit doesn’t have to be about issues - but where it is, it is often done with a sense of empathy and emotion which is unparalleled. I pride myself that while writing about drinking Pinot Grigio and wearing nice shoes and dressing in the latest fashions my characters also have real problems - real issues which make them, well, real. Yes, books are meant to inspire and delight but you don’t need to use fanciful language to achieve those goals. You don’t need to create a world so removed from the norm that while the reader can escape to it, they cannot recognise even an ounce of themselves in the words you have written.
Great literature does not necessarily equate with a use of flowery language and sweeping descriptive prose. We shouldn’t like things just because we are supposed to, or because we feel intellectual and scholarly to have read weighty tomes with grey/black covers and bold, sans serif, fonts on the cover. For me, being a writer is about connecting with the reader. My ultimate reward is getting an email from someone who cried while reading my depiction of domestic abuse, or someone who experienced the same kind of Post Natal Depression as Grace in ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’.
It is about surprising the reader that beneath my brightly coloured covers; with their gorgeous swirly writing and funky illustrations lie raw, real and passionate words about life, love, longing and loss. For me, writing is about embracing the fact I am a woman and as such have experiences unique to being a woman. I don’t find the term Chick Lit pejorative - in fact I could be so bold as to say I find it empowering. To think of it as anything but empowering is to consider being a woman, and writing for women, as second rate. In that instance we would doing ourselves and our readers a great disservice. Oh, and for the record, I love my covers. Especially the pink one.
Claire Allan is a 33-year-old journalist and columnist living and working in Derry, Northern Ireland. She has a Masters Degree in Newspaper Journalism from the University of Ulster. Her first novel ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ was published by Poolbeg Press in 2007. Following the book’s success, Claire was asked to act as a spokesperson for Aware Defeat Depression on the issue of Post Natal Depression. Her second novel, ‘Feels Like Maybe’ followed to critical acclaim in 2008. Jumping In Puddles, released in September, is Claire's latest novel. Claire is married to Neil and they have two children, Joseph and Cara.
Visit Claire's websites - www.diaryofamadmammy.blogspot.com and www.claireallan.com.