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Jodi Picoult: “It’s really hard to love America sometimes”

30 November 2014

From The Telegraph:

Before meeting Jodi Picoult, I had it in my mind that she wrote big, sweeping romance novels, guilty pleasures for hot beach holidays, and so set about my research with barely concealed glee.

This glee did not last long. The backdrop to Picture Perfect may be Hollywood, but only as the setting for a tale of horrific domestic violence. The Pact is billed as a teenage love story – only it is one that ends with a bullet in the girl’s head. My Sister’s Keeper, turned into a Cameron Diaz movie, is about childhood leukaemia and stem-cell research. Second Glance: eugenics. The Storyteller: the Holocaust. Nineteen Minutes: a high-school shooting. Lone Wolf: assisted dying. I felt quite bleak by the time I got round to reading her latest, Leaving Time, whose ending I have been banned from revealing, but suffice to say, it didn’t leave me feeling particularly cheery.

. . . .

Yet despite this success – 23 novels in 22 years, eight of which have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list – she struggles to be taken seriously. “I write women’s fiction,” she says, an ‘apparently’ hanging in the air. “And women’s fiction doesn’t mean that’s your audience. Unfortunately, it means you have lady parts.”

The 48-year-old orders a pot of tea and says goodbye to her husband, who is accompanying her on this leg of her three-month book tour. Picoult does this every year with every new novel – she has a rock-star schedule matched only by her following, nicknamed the #jodiverse on Twitter.

Struggling writers might think that this commercial success should negate any need for literary fanfare, but it sticks in her craw. “If a woman had written One Day [by David Nicholls], it would have been airport fiction. Look at The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. If I had written that, it would have had a pink, fluffy cover on it. If Jenny Eugenides had written it, it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it. What is it about? It’s about a woman choosing between two men. What is The Corrections about, by Jonathan Franzen? It’s about a family, right? And I’m attacking gun control and teen suicide and end-of-life care and the Holocaust, and I’m writing women’s fiction? I mean, I can’t tell you. When people call The Storyteller chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever.”

Has she ever thought of writing under a pen name?

“I did once,” she says. “So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man’s name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.” But anyway.

“I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, ‘Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy.” Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. “So there you go,” she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Books in General

82 Comments to “Jodi Picoult: “It’s really hard to love America sometimes””

  1. Two days, two rants in foreign media.
    What? The local media ain’t buying rants this week?

    Funny thing, I wasn’t aware genres have gender.

  2. “And that just made me crazy”

    Yeah, Romance writing is women’s work, and men shouldn’t do it. Just like business, teaching, medicine and anything important is men’s work. And women shouldn’t bother their delicate little heads with it.

    /sarcasm.

  3. Jodi’s next book will be about a school shooting carried out by a sexually abused gay teen with Tourette’s Syndrome, and takes place in a concentration camp. Let the bidding wars begin!

  4. “It’s really hard to love America sometimes…”

    Jodi Picolt meet Dinesh D’Souza.

    Dan

  5. Hmm. Woman writes serious fiction but is, by gender definition, automatically stuffed into the “chick-lit” box with pink, fluffy covers and shelved accordingly. Some men come along, write some “love stories” and are instantly heralded as genre defying genius’s and rewarded as such. I feel for Picoult. Sounda really aggravating. But it also sounds like a problem caused by narrow mindedness of Legacy Pub corporate marketing and its decades old culture.

    And I can think of one quick solution off the top of my head.

  6. I’m not a huge fan of Picoult, but she has a point about men writing romance but it’s called literature when they do it. There is a real gender bias and maybe self-publishing would help her clarify to readers what her books are about since she can choose the covers, categories, etc. I’ve read Nicholas Sparks and his books are no different from a LaVyrle Spencer novel from the 90s. Seriously, same kind of book, only I thought her’s were better written.

    I write thrillers and switched to my initials, as many women writers do. I think at least half of the emails I get from readers address me as Mr. McDonald and I’m fine with it personally, as I’m just grateful when they write, just pointing it out that readers assume a man would write a thriller with a male protagonist.

    • And how many romance books from the past 50 years came from men writing under pen names? Would she rather the Sparks tearjerkers be marketted as by “Nikki Blue”?

      The industry and media bias is historical and global, not purely American. The buying public has, for the most part, moved on (as evidenced by Sparks). If the Manhattan syndicate hasn’t… well, America doesn’t end at the hudson.

      And neither does publishing.

      • Her point was that her books should receive the same kind of treatment as Sparks if they are similar genre, which they are. She has a comparable fan base and sales, and if his are given more prestige simply because he is a man, that is wrong. That doesn’t mean there’s anything she can do about it since it’s a complicated problem. It’s not just the publishers, readers also have preconceived notions. I have some preconceived notions about authors as well.

        Also, it goes beyond books/authors in that a man can change the oil in his car and people would just shrug, but if a woman does it, it’s applause worthy. A woman can stay at home with her child doing childcare and it’s not seen as anything special but when a man does it, it’s a huge and noble sacrifice of his career.

        Attitudes are changing, but it takes time.

        • if his are given more prestige simply because he is a man, that is wrong.

          Are they though? I don’t think I’ve ever thought of Sparks’ novels as having anything like “prestige,” and I don’t think I’m alone.

          • I never saw anybody credible describe Sparks’ books as anything other than shameless tearjerkers. Nicely crafted tearjerkers that make solid B movies, but designed to sell, not dazzle critics.

            If she wants to sell like him, she needs to write like him.
            And hope her book doesn’t get released while S&S is staring down B&N. Again.

            • I think she’s a better writer when it comes to both style and weaving together a story. She’s more literary though, but frankly, in the circles she’s talking about that should make her MORE acclaimed not less.

              • Ah, but that’s the rub: she wants it both ways–she wants the popularity of a skilled genre writer while peddling litfic.

                That’s not the way the market works: if you have literary aspirations (or should that be aspersions? 😉 ) you can’t be comparing yourself to heartstring-pullers skillfully targetting Hollywood producers. No literary awards down that road. If she ever manages to match his sales for even one book, it’ll be the kiss of death to her literary credibility. 🙂

                • She actually didn’t compare her work with Sparks. She said many good romance writers while rightfully not including herself. It’s the issue that bothers her, not just her own situation.

  7. Is “America” her euphemism for the Big Five?

    Who is she blaming again?

    (She’s been crabbing about this for a long time – why isn’t her publisher listening?)

  8. Writing about violence against women or around women doesn’t necessarily produce serious literature. Neither does it produce books that appeal to men as much as they do women.
    Maybe she really is a romance or chicklit author. Given her income, she shouldn’t let it trouble her too much.

    • She doesn’t write romance or chicklit. She writes serious issues fiction focused on characters and is squarely literary genre. As a fan of her books who buys them pretty much any time a mass market passes my grocery store and I have extra cash, she’s exactly the kind of serious writer this article makes her out to be and calling her work women’s fiction is a disservice to people actually wanting to read women’s fiction. She doesn’t write it.

      • I wonder if the problem isn’t her publisher (looks like HarperCollins). Her covers and blurbs (so far as I can see, browsing Amazon) don’t really telegraph either “serious issues fiction” or “literary genre,” though after reading some of the samples available, I’m inclined to agree with you, Liana. She’s definitely a better writer than Sparks. Maybe she just needs better marketing behind her — less in the way of promotion (she’s selling way enough books) and more in the way of branding.

        I’ve been working for a few years with an author named Nick Earls who’s encountered some branding/marketing challenges. Sometimes people filed his fiction as “lad lit” (or, more crudely, “d#^% lit”), but his stuff is a little more complicated than the usual single-guy-failing-through-dating-mishaps (perhaps because there’s plenty of that, too). His novel Perfect Skin, for example, focuses more on the relationship a recent widower had with his wife and now has with his newborn daughter than the almost-relationships he quasi has on a couple of dates. It’s tough to telegraph that a book could be both commercial and literary at the same time — or (to be less pretentious about it), that a book can both seek to entertain and maybe even do a little more than just entertain at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with purely entertaining fiction, obviously, but neither is there anything wrong with fiction that sets out to do a little more than that (enlighten, effect, inspire discussion, etc.).

        Anyway. I’m not sure the problem with Picoult is necessarily one of gender, if only because I think immediately of authors like Tartt, Fitch, Niffenegger, and Sebold. It’s not impossible for fiction by a female author to be taken seriously or regarded as “literary.” I’m thinking too of Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood. In fact, reading more of the samples of Picoult’s books, I think she’s got a far stronger case to make regarding the quality of her writing and the attention (and sort of attention) it deserves than Jennifer Weiner tried.

  9. This is also the author who denounced self-publishing in 2012.

    http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/jodi-picoult-and-the-myth-of-the-segregated-marketplace/

    Sorry – I shed no tears for her new dilemma.

  10. An author spouting off about politics has never made me want to read his or her books. It has, however, made me not want to read them. Keep it to yourself. Put it in your work if you must. Talking about how very difficult it is to love America ensures I will not be inclined to read anything you write for I will assume your writing is as ill-conceived as your verbal diarrhea when being interviewed.

  11. The whine is very strong this season.

    • But the cheese is abundant.

      • Hey now, Felix … all Jodi wants is to make more, cheddar. [grin]

      • Yeah. I’m not working up a lot of sympathy for someone who’s had eight (according to the Torygraph — nine, according to Amazon) NYT #1 Bestsellers.

        Nor do I think that throwing in a few deaths, or some stuff about whatever the burning issue of the day might be, automatically entitles your book to be counted as Serious Literature (actually I don’t even believe in that category, but arguendo).

  12. To me, there are two distinct themes in the Telegraph article. One is that there is a gender bias in publishing, and male authors are treated differently from female authors. The other is that many (most?) Americans would benefit from seeing how things are done in other parts of the world.

    I can’t speak with any authority to the first one, though it’s a theme I’ve seen from a number of female authors, particularly those who write in the science fiction genre. I do observe, however, that not a single book by Jodi Picoult has been given a pink fluffy cover, or even one in the style of books that really are “chick lit.” The covers on her full-length novels always employ a non-nonsense font in all caps, oriented perfectly horizontal. Chick lit novels usually employ a cartoonish style of artwork and whimsical fonts — often with the words written at a slight upward angle. Nobody could say her books are being marketed as “chick lit.” It’s not clear who these “people” are that have called The Storyteller chick lit. If she’s conflating the term “women’s fiction” with “chick lit,” that’s an error on her part. It’s probably not fair, though, that her books are called “women’s fiction” rather than literary fiction, so I think she has a legitimate reason to be annoyed.

    Regarding the second, I wholeheartedly agree that travel can be an eye-opening experience… but I wonder if it’s the people who are already open minded that tend to travel more than those who are content in their insular communities, never venturing far from the known and comfortable. Yes, money is a factor, but it’s not true that only rich people can afford to travel. I know a divorced woman (no alimony or child support) who earns rather low pay as a teacher at a private school who has nevertheless managed to travel to a couple dozen countries on five continents over the past 20 years. It’s all in the priorities.

    But even if travel did succeed in making people more aware of how things are done elsewhere, the problem with guns and school shootings isn’t something that can be solved with gun legislation. America was populated and its government founded in a manner far different from any other country on the planet. Given the starting principle of guns being required to maintain freedom from government tyranny and the subsequent arming of the populace, there’s no way to get the number of guns per capita in America down to the same levels as in Europe and Asia without a massive confiscation effort–which would only serve to prove that the “gun nuts” were right all along and entrench the idea that gun ownership is absolutely necessary.

    Even in a world without guns, there’s plenty of room for large-scale tragedy: Upwards of half a million Tutsis were massacred in Rwanda with machetes and clubs.

    I don’t have the solution to preventing shootings in schools, local malls, and the workplace. I just know “gun control” isn’t the answer. Legislation was unable to prevent the sale and consumption of alcohol during Prohibition; legislation has been unable to prevent the sale and consumption of marijuana and other drugs; legislation has been unable to prevent murder, rape, robbery, embezzlement, fraud, drunk driving, or even speeding.

    If we want to stop mass killings–and I’m not convinced we can–then we need to address the “people” part of the equation rather than focusing on the “weapon” part of the equation.

  13. Lots of “beach books” and “romances” deal with serious subjects and horrible things happening. Lots and lots. I seem to recall that Jackie Collins had terminal illnesses and abuse in her books too.

    Tone and literary quality may differ, but generally books written at about the same time will tend to deal with many of the same topics of interest. The only genres which have any separation of topic are mysteries, sf, and fantasy, and yet you still see the same topics showing up in many of them, too.

    Admittedly the cover issue is disturbing, because Jodi Picoult novels are always in those Barbie-colored chick lit covers. One wishes some forewarning of particularly dark contents.

    • I seem to recall that Jackie Collins had terminal illnesses and abuse in her books too.

      Right. As did Erich Segal, Jacqueline Susann, Grace Metalious…

    • I haven’t seen those colors on her books, myself, but her books don’t INCLUDE this stuff; they’re ABOUT it and she basically writes books that really get down and wrestle with what is right or wrong in this situation that has so many grey areas.

      She writes serious literary fiction. It’s her genre, and she’s treated like she’s writing a different genre. It’s a valid complaint that she’s been talking about for several years on behalf of many women writers because as a bestseller, she has more of a voice than most who are shunted aside as “women’s fiction” when they’re writing anything but.

      • @ Liana

        “She writes serious literary fiction. It’s her genre, and she’s treated like she’s writing a different genre.”

        No doubt (to a great degree) because her publisher is pushing her as a genre writer in order to sell more books. Lots more books. NYT bestseller books…

        Poor Picoult, crying all the way to the bank. 🙁 My hankie is drenched.

        • Actually, she hired a publicist and got herself on the bestseller list herself because her publisher initially refused to market her until she built her own success. She’s not crying about selling books or even crying. She’s someone who’s gone out of her way to talk about women authors getting critically sidelined when they shouldn’t. It happens. Empirical data has shown it happens.

          Being called a women’s fiction writer is not a secret of her sucess; it’s a condescension on the part of the publishing industry.

  14. “It’s really hard to love America sometimes”

    Then leave. You have enough money to live anywhere.

    All this whining, and only once did she suggest that she tried to do something about it. “I used a pen name once.” Yeah, and you couldn’t sell it. Huh, strange. Why didn’t she argue that men also love her books? DO men also love her books? If not, why wouldn’t it be women’s fiction?

    Also funny how she’s mad at Sparks for coming into “her” genre. I thought she didn’t want to be labeled as women’s fiction? Because Sparks definitely is. Make up your mind.

    The entitlement and self-importance here is unbelievable. “I’m writing serious, important, Nobel-worthy stuff here and they’re not giving me the recognition I deserve.” Grow up. Do something about it, or be content.

  15. What Jim said.^^^

    • She could buy a villa in Spain, Tuscany, or a cute cottage in Ireland.

      America is not North Korea. You can leave any time without it becoming an international incident.

      • C’mon folks, let’s cool it with the ‘America, love it or leave’ jingoism. I’m not a fan of Picoult, but we’re all grown-ups here and should realize that one can be depressed about aspects of America and yet love it enough, warts and all, to still want to call it home. Loving your country doesn’t mean you can’t be critical of it, even fiercely critical. My God, if every American writer depressed/critical about his or her country was supposed to leave, we wouldn’t have very many left here.

        • As someone who is often told to leave this country if I don’t like the way things are done here, I thank you for this, Bruce.

          • Add another thank you from me too Bruce. And just to add my half cent I am also not a fan of Picoult or Sparks and would rather have a root canal than read either of them but she is a far better writer than Sparks so I can sympathize with her some.

        • Thank you.

        • So very true. Isn’t being able to speak your mind kind of the point of being American?

          • So why not do it to their “faces”?
            Go on Today or CNN? Or any of the endless talk shows in syndication.

            Instead she unloads to a “friendly” media where the readers who pay her freight aren’t likely to see her putting them down.

            • If you really want people to change sonething, you tell it to their faces. If you’re just looking to puff yourself up, you tell it to strangers behind their backs.
              This is mean girl gossip, not an attempt at intervention.
              It is all about her, so why not call her on it?

            • She talks about whenever it comes up in her interviews and started talking about it in her own column in an American writers magazine, so it’s just one of her personal causes, not something she whines about to foreign media.

  16. What I read was that she’s utterly depressed, not by America, but by those ug people of the “other” party as well as those ug people who belong to religions that have any effect on a person outside of their church or home.

    One of her most recent novels, Sing You Home, focused on gay rights. Her next will be about racism in America. She is no patriot patsy. She says she often despairs of her country. “Oh, very often. It’s sad sometimes. It is really hard, sometimes, to love there. It’s a very polarised country. I still remember waking up after an election and being in a fog for a couple of days and just going: ‘Uh, I don’t know if I can handle the next four years.’” She is a Democrat, no question.

    “There’s this image of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave, and there are so many wonderful things about it that we take for granted,” she says. “But on the other hand it is a country with a large, deep schism running through the middle of it, an ideological schism, and it’s often a fault line that’s caused by religion. Whether it’s abortion or gun control or gay rights or the death penalty, where you fall on those issues tends to align with what your personal beliefs are in terms of religion. For a country that was founded on the separation of church and state, that sometimes is incredibly depressing.”

    It sounds like she wants a state that bans religion. Or religious views. Or religious views that have anything to do with behavior.

    That’s the kind of religion I want. One that has us pondering whether angels wear underwear or accumulate navel lint with their robes. A religion that doesn’t impinge on daily living!

    And that’s the kind of state I want too. One like the old USSR or communist China where they have so much political, religious, and economic freedom.

    Hey, Picoult, the issue with the divide isn’t religion. Because if it wasn’t religion, it would be something else. The issue is how you view the person on the other side. It’s about group dynamics.

    One way we can reduce, instead of exacerbate, inter-group issues is to have a government that actually works for most of us instead of just half: http://johndbrown.com/2014/11/no-you-did-not-get-a-mandate/

    In the meantime, I’m happy I live in a place that allows deep divides. Huzzah for America!

  17. There is certainly a boy’s club in the publishing world, and there are countless women writing outside the romance genre who encounter sexist behaviour all the time.

    Personally though, I found the guys in the indie splatterpunk world to be fantastic and really supportive of a female who wrote in the horror genre, so no complaints here.

    As a Brit though, I’ve always wondered what ‘Women’s Fiction’ means. I first saw the category on Amazon, and I wondered if it contained books about menstruation and giving birth since those are the only possible subjects I can think of that would be classed as ‘women only’.

    I was quite surprised to discover that Women’s Fiction means any fiction. It did make me wonder why it was segregated into a little ‘women’s area’, as if it didn’t belong in the main area. It’s not proper fiction. It’s ‘women’s fiction’…

    Still, it’s a lesser used category, so I threw my splatterpunk into it. It’s got blood and guts in it, close enough to menstruation I guess.

    • As a Brit though, I’ve always wondered what ‘Women’s Fiction’ means.

      I don’t know. But I bet Amazon does. They know who buys the books. I’d love to see the consumer gender breakdown for various books. It might be very different from what people think it is. But if I did have the data, I doubt I’d share it.

      • I suspect you’re right about the reason behind the name. It’s probably a keyword. Either that or it’s a BISAC/BIC code.

        Mind you, if the ‘N’ word was a popular keyword, I don’t think Amazon should target it.

        Women’s Fiction is either excluding men or segregating women. No matter how you look at it, it’s not a phrase that screams equality. I think they can find a better keyword, but maybe that’s just me.

        • Agree completely. But reading preferences are in fact set by men and women. Apparently, women like to read about women’s problems, whether it be menstruation and childbirth or trouble with a man or a child.
          Men prefer action, preferably without women, or if women are included, then only as a casual partner in bed.

          These are extremes that govern a good deal of genre literature and ensure top sales in the category. They also tell us something about human psychology.

          But of course there are books that appeal to men and women equally. Bravo for them!

          • Beware over-generalization. Especially in SF&F.:)

            Note that one of genre’s top series is about the life and times of the top military genius of the age, one Honor Harrington. Who kicks butt and takes names with the best heroes in space opera.
            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorverse

            And she is not alone.
            Female protagonists have never been unheard of in SF&F, a field often described as male-oriented, even in the most “male” of sub-genres (sword&sorcery’s JIREL OF JOIRY goes back to the 30’s).

            SF&F Readers of both genders are more interested in a good story than in gender politics.

          • Apparently, women like to read about women’s problems, whether it be menstruation and childbirth or trouble with a man or a child.
            Men prefer action, preferably without women, or if women are included, then only as a casual partner in bed.

            Says who? Where does that assumption come from? It sounds like an archaic stereotype to me. I know lots of men who read romance. I also know lots of women who enjoy political mysteries and hardcore horror. That isn’t a rare event either. It seems to be the norm for most readers.

            People enjoy what they enjoy. I don’t think it really matters if they have girl or boy parts. It’s more about what they are interested in as a human being.

            I guess I don’t see a major difference between men and women on an emotional or psychological level. We’re all human, we’re all the same, and yet we’re all unique. I don’t think gender makes a lick of difference to what we choose to read.

            Personally, I hit my teen years reading Richard Laymon, Stephen King and James Herbert… I didn’t read it because I was a girl. I read it because it was exciting to read… Oh wait, that’s a boy genre, right? Well, it wasn’t in the 90s. It was just a book. If we live in a world where genre depends on gender, then has equality de-evolved?

            I don’t know any women who want to read about child birth or menstruation.

  18. I never cared for her because in every interview, no matter how well she was doing compared to the rest of the world, she somehow came off as a victim. Now I like her even less. I would donate to pay for her departure if she declared her intention to move to a more “lovable” country.

  19. Picoult should spend a day around a US embassy in Asia, Latin America, etc., watching the line of hopeful visa applicants, and listening to their stories, before she runs her mouth.

  20. The backdrop to Picture Perfect may be Hollywood, but only as the setting for a tale of horrific domestic violence. The Pact is billed as a teenage love story – only it is one that ends with a bullet in the girl’s head. My Sister’s Keeper, turned into a Cameron Diaz movie, is about childhood leukaemia and stem-cell research. Second Glance: eugenics. The Storyteller: the Holocaust. Nineteen Minutes: a high-school shooting. Lone Wolf: assisted dying.

    So, not so much “chick lit” as “depressing lit”. Sounds like it’s a genre of it’s own. No wonder she feels bad about things, about everything, even about America. Downer Lit is what she writes, and she wouldn’t be able to churn it out if it wasn’t what she has inside her. Like any other genre it isn’t necessarily good or bad or better or worse – it depends on your preferences.

    My preference? No thanks.

    • As someone who devours her books, no. She rarely if ever ends on a down note and she manages satisfying endings when I’d swear one doesn’t exist. But the journey… she writes about grappling with controversial issues and shades of grey and what is right or wrong when it’s not always so clear. It’s neither lighthearted nor depressing.

    • I write Downer Lit. I have all of those things in me: rape, alcoholism, murder, domestic violence, child abuse, trauma. It’s all in there.

      I also write fantasy adventure, children’s books, non-fiction, and paranormal humor. I have ghosts in me, too. Adventure and a fantastical imagination. And cats.

      I’m human. I have it all.

      Complaining doesn’t make me a complainer. I also praise. Whining doesn’t make me a whiner. I also appreciate. Hating doesn’t make me a hater. I also love. We’re all capable of dark and light.

  21. I walked past her book in a shop one day. Plucked the tome from the shelf, then I read about the first five pages. There was a fluidity to her writing, but the story didn’t make me want to continue. It read like she was using an issue and hanging a story on it. Like she wanted to throw an issue out into the world, by crafting a weird story about it. It was a depressing read. I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole and share headspace with an issue like that. So I’ve never gotten in to her stuff, and honestly, I can’t see the attraction at all, but that doesn’t mean her readers don’t deserve to enjoy her work.

    • I feel the same way about her writing. I’ve never been able to get into her books because she always seems like she’s milking some hot topic of the moment and over-dramatizing it. But I still think she has a point. Nicholas Sparks does much the same (and I think his books are terrible because of it it). But I don’t see why he’s more well-known and rewarded than Picoult. I don’t see why women get shunted into certain categories when men are writing pretty much the same kinds of books.

  22. I think she’s a lovely writer, but her books are total downers.

  23. Snark warning ahead. Having heard she gets 25K to do an appearance and talk, my sympathy level lowers for the special snowflake. At that price, seems like she’s taken VERY seriously. Not to say she might not have a grievance, but with her success, does come off as the Millionaire’s Whine Club. Those trying to keep their head above water are not likely to care much about the person on the yacht complaining it’s not stylish enough.

  24. I think anybody who is a woman and who writes rather “nondescript” (i.e. literary) fiction knows this is an issue.

    If I sell this one book I’m working on to my publisher, I’ll be very interested to see whether they try to promote it as women’s fiction. It’s about a 28-year-old man who, yearning for more “masculine” status and more of the right kind of attention from his girlfriend, but not finding it, drops everything and rides the rails to “find himself,” and along the way he has all kinds of man adventures and man thoughts and feelings and man epiphanies about what it means to be a man. There are no female characters “on screen” in the book.

    If they try to spin it as women’s fiction, I will laugh and laugh and laaaaaauuuuugh.

    (Lake Union seems smarter than that, though. Now, if I published with one of the Big Five, it’d be a different story.)

  25. Is womens fiction
    1) About women
    2) By women
    3) Predominantly consumed by women?
    4) ???

    I don’t know. I don’t use the term, but observe others do. What is it?

  26. Sometimes I wonder:

    if women who write thrillers/sci-fi would use their real feminine name instead of initials or a pen name

    and men who write romance and “chick lit” would use their real masculine name instead of initials or a pen name

    would this issue go away faster?

    My answer:

    In self-pub, yes.
    In tradpub, not sure. They’d have to fix the covers and marketing too, and that’s a lot to ask.

    Because I think the reality is that readers don’t care. Boys know Harry Potter was written by a woman. Has that stopped them from reading it?

  27. Al the Great and Powerful

    I never cared about the sex of the author, and it was a (minor) shock to find out that my wife consciously picks women authors.

    I guess my catholic taste is from growing up as a bibliovore in a small-town environment, where I read everything I could get. I’ll try anything, though I do skip more Lit Fic than I do other genres. Tell me a story, give me characters I can get interested in (I don’t have to like them).

    Fairy tales, gun porn (trashy action novels that linger over the minor details of caliber and muzzle velocity), picaresque tales from exotic locales, romance novels and other works of pornography, science fiction, mysteries, kids books, war stories real and fictional, aviation yarns, comics, whatever, I WANT TO READ, I don’t care if its written by a million asexual monkeys on typewriters, a man, a woman, anyone but James Patterson or Snooki (really… I’ve read all the wrestler autobiographies).

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