Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I guess I wrote a Chick-Lit novel...

Who knew?

I read my Publishers Weekly review today for Plum Blossoms in Paris. Every ABNA semifinalist received one, and here's mine:

Daisy’s high school boyfriend breaks up with her via email and she’s devastated, so, like any reasonable chick lit heroine, she decides to take a break from her university’s neuroscience program so she can flee to Paris to find herself, and pick up a new hunky boyfriend along the way. Daisy meets a charming, French stranger on a train who she later runs into at a museum. Soon enough Mathieu, who has mother issues, offers to take Daisy on an insider’s tour of Paris. He wants to "live freely" with her, he explains, which is French bachelor code for "let’s just fool around." The author’s witty banter and solid prose are a match for Sophie Kinsella or Cecilia Ahearn, and Daisy is more familiar and accessible than their protagonists. She’s certainly smarter too. But then again, isn’t everyone equally dumb when it comes to love?

I have never read a chick-lit novel. But I guess I'm good at writing them.

I recognize that this is mostly a favorable review, and yet it feels so different from the book in my heart. My Mathieu isn't "hunky." And he doesn't want to fool around.

Anyway, I'm bewildered, but...


HERE is something to be really happy about!

Jaye Wells, a fantastic writer and friend, just announced a 3-book deal with Orbit US for her urban fantasy series. Yay, Jaye! So get on over to her blog and congratulate her. She deserves it.

ETA: I suck at taking vacations.


Anonymous said...

Chick lit?

I don't think so.

Yes, before someone throws me a look, I have read a couple chick lit books, so back off. ;)

Chick lit is lighter. Human struggles are in there, but never in clear focus. Daisy's conflicts appear to run deeper, more internal than external.

Any review is a gift, so I don't mean this in a bad way, but I do wonder if this reaction was more about what the reviewer's expectations were. That would come out more starkly if the reviewer wasn't reading especially closely and carefully. Reviewing all those entries must be exhausting. I know how it feels to read a mere 250 words 70 or 80 times and comment.

Try not to be bewildered.

Jaye Wells said...

I don't think it's chick lit, but hey, it's a good review. This is good practice for when you're published and a reviewer doesn't get you.

Thanks for the shout out, btw.

Now, go lay on the beach or something!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I guess it depends on how you look at it. You got a review that didn't say, "This sucked!". He/She categorized you, and then compared you to a couple of good authors.

Is "chick-lit" like Harlequin?

Maybe if you had killed someone in the book they would have thrown in Stephen King?

I see it as a good if you are trying to write a romance book. Not so much if you were writing a technical manual.


Anonymous said...

I don't think chick-lit fits what you've written. I fear your reviewer hasn't taken the time to properly digest the story, or it's being spun to draw in a wider audience. Just my thoughts but it's still a very positive review.

You should be so proud!

Billy said...

I detest labels to begin with. Regardless, the plot doesn't seem to fit the genre.

quill said...

Nice review you must be ecstatic, as for classification of your new book. It could be borderline chick lit, although I'm not one to judge, I don't read chick lit. Congrats tho!


Sarah Hina said...

Jason, I think you're right on all accounts. Chick lit is purposefully fluffy and light-hearted in tone. While the skeleton of my plot is similar to chick lit plots of a young woman "finding herself" with the aid of a (hunky!) man, I don't think the execution is all that comparable.

This was my original concept in writing this novel: how would a modern-day Daisy Miller be received by Europeans in this Iraq War era? Daisy and Mathieu fall in love, but is that enough to overcome their cultural intransigences?

Don't get me wrong: it's mostly about the love. ;) And Daisy's increasing self-awareness. But I hoped, in some small way, to demonstrate the necessity of two people--or yes, nations--discussing their differences in order to reach real understanding.

Anyway, that's a really long and self-important way of saying "thank you." ;)

Jaye, you're also right. It is remarkable to see that switch in perspectives. And to realize how little control you have over it. And I am grateful for the nice things the PW reviewer mentioned. It's not so bad to be compared favorably to two best-selling authors.

And you're welcome! I'm still busting for you. :)

Jef, I think that chick lit has a lighter voice than Harlequins. It's less about the sex than the shopping. ;) Thanks for your input!

Ruth, thanks. :) A lot of the Amazon contestants are upset about their PW reviews, not just because they're unfavorable, but also because there were so many factual errors involved.

I think you're correct about their being overwhelmed. I imagine many of our novels received a cursory look. Which is a little frustrating, even though I made off better than most!

Me too, Billy! Me, too. It's all too simplistic.

Thank you, quill. :) I appreciate your support!

Sarah Hina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Church Lady said...

I've never read chick lit either, so I can't say.

But congratulations on a great review!!!

You go, girl!!

Abhinav said...

I really think that the comparison with chick-lit ends with the plot. The execution isn't purely based on incident. There's a lot of observation that is visible in the excerpt. A very nice read. I hope I'm not yet late to post a review at Amazon. :-)

Cakespy said...

Creative types never take vacation, unfortunately. Never fully! PS--I don't think "chick lit" means a bad thing here.

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, CL! I've already shrugged off the "chick-lit" portion, and am enjoying the good parts of the review. :)

Go ahead and post one, Abhinav! I seem to have stalled on reviews. I think all of us contestants are sick of looking at them at this point, and we've already cajoled everyone we know into pumping up our scores. ;)

Thanks for your support!

You're right, Cakespy. In all honesty, I sometimes find vacations more exhausting than being at home.

Which I now am. :)

Beth said...

Chick lit? That's rather hard for me to swallow as well. I do think it's a favorable review though. A great one in fact so the biggest congratulations to you, Sarah!

Scott said...

It was a favorable review, but somehow I found it a bit insulting, as if it were trying to make the book sound typical in some fashion while ironically providing details that were anything but. I think you survived at least one brutal critic.

Shameless said...

I still haven't been able to read the excerpt - I'm not all that technical this week, but I will sort it out - but I doubt you are in the chick lit bunch. And mentioned along with Ahearn? Ahem. No comment. A review on an excerpt is always tricky, but at least it wasn't slating. :-)

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, Beth. :) I guess it's all a question of perspective.

Scott, that's an interesting way of putting it, and I think you're onto something. With such limited space to review a whole book, I'm sure that reviewers often fall back on stereotypical formulations. It's a shame to distort a writer's words and thoughts in this manner, yet the condensed space almost demands it, I suppose.

Thank you for your thoughts on this! I appreciate your support. :)

It's funny, Seamus, because I had no idea who Cecilia Ahearn was. The review *is* of the entire book, though. It just doesn't feel like *my* book. ;)

And please don't worry about checking out the excerpt! I really have no hope of winning this thing, so it's not terribly important. I'm more than happy that you stop at my blog. :)

Ello said...

Sheesh, chick lit? I would have said women's fiction - like has been said chick lit is so light and frothy and yours is substantial.

But then again, hurrah for a good review! Who cares if it is bewildering it was good! And I think it just makes clear that the reviewer themselves does not understand what chick lit really is.

Sarah Hina said...

So true, Ello. Classifying books makes things easy on potential readers, I guess, but not if the reviewer gets it wrong.

Thanks for the congrats! :)

Spirit said...

It sounds like a pretty good review but I fear I've never heard of that genre.

Shameless said...

Sarah, I finally got through the wall and into your excerpt! Of course I had to read it! :-) I'm very impressed. The writing crackles and pops and I really enjoyed the story. You have such a way with language ... it brings the story to life. I envy the fresh view you have of things. I would definitely say you have a big chance! :-)

Sarah Hina said...

Spirit, thanks for stopping by! :) I've heard of the genre, but am not very familiar with it, either.

Wow, thanks, Seamus! I'm so honored that you took the time to read through the excerpt, and am grateful for your kind words. :)

I don't know that I have much of a chance to even advance to the next level (some reviews for the other semifinalists were really glowing), but it was a fun contest, and I'm glad I had the chance to take part.

Thanks again!!

Hotwire said...

i don't see the chick lit aspect of your writing....

Abhinav said...

Well, well, well... After you it's me who's writing a chicklit... ;-)

I'm on top of the world... I've come to know that my book pitch at the Kala Ghoda Fest has invited the attention of Harpercollins India, Penguin India, Tranquebar Press, and Undercover Utopia - they are interested in publishing it - even while I'm writing the first few chapters... Check out all the successful pitches here:

I'm surprised and delighted at the response, especially since this is not the life that writers expect, certainly not the life I expect as a writer (Anita Desai is my ideal so that seals the matter) and our successes are often not measured in our lifetimes... I feel indecently privileged to be walking on paths whose thorns have already been cleared by somebody else's tread. Here's to the good spell while it lasts...

That's makes two of us chickliters.

Sarah Hina said...

Holy smoke, Abhinav! I am so profoundly happy for you! :)

What an amazing stroke of good fortune! But of course you deserve it. Does this mean that someone is definitely publishing the book? Or do you have to submit it for their approval as you go along?

I want details! Feel free to e-mail me with them. :)