This is our Chick-Lit (or Romantic Comedy) Tasting Table and what a lot of fun it was to talk to three fabulous and insightful authors of this genre: Cassandra O’Leary, Renee Conoulty, and Monique McDonell.
What immediately strikes me about this sub-genre are the quirky and very cool covers. You know straight away you’re in for humour, wit, a great story, and happy ending before getting to the first page.
For the purpose of this blog I’m using the term Chick-lit, but Romantic Comedy perfectly sums up the genre. So, settle down with a cuppa or something stronger and join me at the Tasting Table with Cassandra, Renee, and Monique.
Q1. What is Chick-Lit and how does it differ from Contemporary Romance?
CASSANDRA: ‘Chick Lit’ is a term that might have had its day (in my humble opinion). It was coined in the 1990s and refers to a book with a female protagonist, funny or quirky voice often written in the 1st person point of view. Many of these books focus on urban settings, female friendships and workplace issues, often in glamorous fields such as fashion or journalism – think The Devil Wears Prada or Bridget Jones’s Diary. Chick Lit can and does feature romantic relationships, but the romance is not always the central plot or arc of the story.
I suppose in comparison, Contemporary Romance is concerned only with the central romantic relationship and conflicts arising from the interactions of a heroine and hero. Sometimes secondary characters get a look in. It’s more likely to be written in 3rd person and to feature both the heroine’s and hero’s POVs (but not always). And of course contemporary romances can include dramatic, angsty stories as well as light-hearted.
My stories could be considered part of either genre and I refer to my books as romantic comedies or romance with humour. Most people understand what that means.
I don’t object to being called a ‘chick’ since it makes me feel like a young chickadee, but some readers don’t like it. I’m not into offending potential readers!
RENEE: Chick-lit is the love child of romantic comedy and women’s fiction. It’s light and fun, easy to read, but doesn’t have to be all fluff. Like women’s fiction, it’s the heroine’s story. It’s usually set in contemporary times with characters in their twenties and often features romance but the romance has equal weight to the personal journey of the heroine. Like romance, chick-lit always has an uplifting happily ever after or happy for now ending.
MONIQUE: Contemporary romance is all about the romance, everything leads to the happy ending. Chick-lit differs in that it is funny and is more about the main female character’s journey which usually includes romance but the romance isn’t always the focus. Chick-lit is traditionally written in the first person from the point of view of the main character so the voice is very important. You can’t spend an entire story in the head of a character unless you connect with them.
Q2. Tell us about challenges you encounter when writing this genre?
CASSANDRA: Being funny is hard work. No, seriously. It’s hard to pull funny and entertaining dialogue from the sky, especially if you’re not feeling well, or your kids are playing ninjas/Harry Potter by ruthlessly kicking each other while casting killing spells and poking each other with toy swords. I wish I was joking.
Some people will tell you that Chick Lit no longer sells. I’d say it’s the label that doesn’t appeal to people as much as it once did. If I tell a reader I write modern RomCom books in the style of Bridget Jones with a dash of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but it’s also a little steamy, they get excited.
Character-wise, it can be hard to find the right balance between the laughs and the emotion. You want readers to identify with your heroine and feel connected to her – not just to wait for her to fall off her Louboutins and laugh.
RENEE: The term “chick-lit” has become quite unpopular due to it being perceived as “just fluff” and the derogatory overtones of the term “chick” to refer to women. Many chick-lit writers refer to their work as romantic comedy to avoid these perceptions. I’m personally proud to claim the title of chick-lit but tend to throw “light, fun, romantic comedy” into the mix if someone looks at me strangely.
MONIQUE: Chick-lit has pretty much been a dirty word in romance for the past decade. Writers of the genre are actively told not to use the heading but to call it women’s fiction or romantic comedy instead. That’s a big challenges. It’s part of why I’m an indie author. Every publisher I tried said “we love the book, but we can’t sell Chick-lit” what else do you have? Everything I had was Chick-lit so I went indie instead. Now people refer to it as RomCom but the challenge now is the RomCom category online is full of bare chested men not sweet funny female driven books so it makes being found a real challenge.
Q3. Is there an author or book (apart from your own), you particularly love in the genre?
CASSANDRA: Oh, there’s heaps! But again, some of the books I love might not be considered Chick Lit by everyone. For instance these are all fabulous romantic comedies:
- Watermelon by Marian Keyes
- Neanderthal Meets Human by Penny Reid
- Wallbanger by Alice Clayton
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
- Here Comes The Bridesmaid by RWAus author, Avril Tremayne.
I also love British Women’s Fiction authors such as Catherine Ferguson, Phillipa Ashley and Paige Toon.
Some more mainstream Chick Lit examples from a few years ago include Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, Cents and Sensibility by Maggie Alderson, and of course, my old mate Bridget Jones. 😉
RENEE: In the US, Liane Moriarty is classified as chick-lit, though in Australia we would call her writing commercial fiction, contemporary fiction or women’s fiction. I adore her books. If you’re looking for a new author to try, I love the Pastime Pursuits series by Tracy Krimmer.
MONIQUE: Most of the Chick-lit authors I read are American – I like Whitney Dineen, Rich Amooi, Meredith Schorr, Geralyn Corcillo and I love New Zealand author Kate O’Keefe.
Q4. Please share some advice to those interested in writing this genre.
CASSANDRA: I’d suggest reading recent examples of romantic comedies, humorous fiction and women’s fiction, because your preconceived ideas about what constitutes Chick Lit might be outdated. Try writing settings and characters that are out of the box – maybe not everyone in your fictional world needs to work in fashion in New York!
RENEE: Join the ChickLitChatHQ group on Facebook – they are a fabulous and supportive group of women (and a few men) who are proud to write chick-lit. https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChickLitChatHQ/
MONIQUE: If you write funny quirky characters then this is your genre – there’s a lot of overlap with the kinds of characters you find in cozy mysteries as well. The most important thing is to get the voice right because the whole book hangs on that voice being fun, believable and interesting enough to sustain the reader’s interest.
Q5. What inspires you to write Chick-Lit?
CASSANDRA: When I started writing romance, I tried writing in a more serious tone. It was kind of boring. Maybe I’ll give it a crack again one day, but I don’t want to feel depressed by my work, or wallow in pits of despair and drink whiskey to feel authentic pain. Who has time for that? Anyway I’d rather have a Japanese Slipper or a glass of champers.
So, I started writing something else. When I began, I didn’t know what it was. But I was told I had a humorous voice and I couldn’t stop putting in made up words like catastro-fab and using all the exclamation marks! There were none left for anyone else!!!
Once I started thinking a bit more rationally, I realised my love of funny books and romantic comedy movies was influencing me. Of course I want to write like screenwriter Nora Ephron in When Harry Met Sally. Who wouldn’t? I’ll have what she’s having!
RENEE: Chick-lit suits my natural writing voice and was the genre I was reading the most when I decided to begin writing.
MONIQUE: I like books that make me smile. The world can be a pretty crushing place sometimes and I often read to escape. I enjoy characters that are quirky but real and who ultimately have a happy ending. Those of the sorts of books I aim to provide for readers as well.
Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things.
In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. Her debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was published in 2016 and she has independently published novellas and short stories – Heart Note was a Christmas 2017 Humor Fiction bestseller on Amazon!
Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous.
Renee Conoulty is an Australian Air Force wife and mother of two. She writes stories of dance, romance, and military life including Don’t Mean a Thing, Catching Onix, Wife, Mother, Woman, and Best Friends for Now.
If you run into Renee at the shops, make sure you wave to get her attention because she’ll likely be listening to an audiobook or lost in a day dream.
Sign up for Renee’s monthly newsletter and receive her ebook collection, Dance, Romance & Military Life, for FREE! http://eepurl.com/bPay5r
I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women’s fiction including chick lit and romance.
I have written all my life especially as a child when I loved to write short stories and poetry. At University I studied Creative Writing as part of my Communication degree. Afterwards I was busy working in public relations I didn’t write for pleasure for quite a few years although I wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters. (And I still do in my day-job!)
When I began to write again I noticed a trend – writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.
I am the author of five standalone novels including Mr. Right and Other Mongrels and Hearts Afire and the Upper Crust Series and Jewel Sisters Series. Many of my novels focus on an Australian characters meeting and visiting US characters. In 2015 had a piece on writing Chick-lit featured in the successful Australian non-fiction book Copyfight.
I live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter.
To learn more about my writing, my caffeine obsession and my upcoming books please visit me on http://www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com/
Phillipa Nefri Clark
Phillipa grew up along lonely Australian beaches with wild seas and misty cliffs. From a young age she wrote stories and dreamed of being a writer.
These days she spends half her week running part of the family business and the other writing. Currently she is working on the third in her River’s End series.
Living in regional Australia on a small acreage close to a mountain range, Phillipa’s great loves – apart from writing – are her family of two young adult sons and husband, their Labrador, music, fine wine, and friends.