I secretly enjoy reading . . .
oh, I can’t say . . .
Well, I’ve got to admit it . . .
I refuse to be ashamed of the fact that of all the genres I read, of all the authors I respect and sometimes try to emulate, of all the literary, historical, suspense and contemporary fiction I read, what I most enjoy is . . .
I fought this knowledge for a long time.
Even when I, myself, published two books that can be categorized as “women’s fiction.”
Instead, I call the genre of my novels “romantic suspense,” both words being true.
But basically, I write women’s fiction.
Why should that be embarrassing or shameful? How horrible, that I have been sucked into the male-dominated literary power structure of believing that books written for, by, and about women are somehow… LESS.
A close friend recently attended a luncheon for the celebrated author Kristen Hannah, author of the bestselling book The Nightingale. I’d read several of Hannah’s books over the years, fun easy reads like Comfort and Joy, Home Again, Between Sisters. Even though she attracted a tremendous amount of readers and several of her books became bestsellers, I never treated her books, or her writing, seriously.
After all, she “just” wrote women’s fiction.
The first book I read by Hannah, Firefly Lane, sold over 1.2 million copies. Yet a Publishers Weekly review noted: “Hannah goes a little too far into Lifetime movie territory in her latest, an epic exploration of the complicated terrain between best friends. . . . Hannah takes the easy way out with an over-the-top tear-jerker ending, though her upbeat message of the power of friendship and family will, for some readers, trump even the most contrived plot twists.”
Ouch. Not a lot of praise for this writer of “women’s fiction.”
I read these types of reviews in the past, and my distain for the genre heightened (even though I enjoyed reading the genre!).
Then, Hannah published The Nightingale in 2015, which immediately shot off the book charts. Men, women, reviewers (kind of) loved this book. Amazon made the book a “Spotlight Pick for February, 2015.” Amazon’s reviewer noted that the book is a “weeper and a thriller,” a “melodrama that combines historical accuracy . . . and social/political activism,” and is “fast-paced, detailed, and full of romance.”
Many, many literary classics can be described the same way, but with much more gravitas.
My friend reported back to me after he attended the luncheon for Hannah at a well-renowned California indie bookstore . After the chicken and rice, the author spoke to the crowd, proclaiming proudly, “I am an author of women’s fiction.”
In a published interview, Hannah notes that “Interestingly enough, (The Nightingale) is both part and parcel of what I do . . . women’s stories are so often overlooked, forgotten or overshadowed by men’s stories, and we as women have just as many heroic, courageous stories to tell. Sometimes it’s more courageous to stay at home and try to keep your children safe, and to make the choices that need to be made in pursuit of that. It’s important that we remember the contributions that women make.”
I get it now.
Women’s fiction is a genre to be proud of.
So, I break my own ground here by announcing: I write Women’s Fiction.
Pamela S. Wight is the author of two romantic suspense novels. Her first book, The Right Wrong Man, has rave reviews for taking readers “on an exciting adventure with lots of intrigue, unexpected plot twists, and romance.” A year later, Wight published her second novel, Twin Desires. A reviewer notes: “Another page-turner by Pamela Wight! She has a knack for creating fleshed-out characters the reader develops a true affection for, nice people with vulnerabilities that not-so-nice people exploit. While, this definitely falls into the category of romance, it is much more than that. It is also a murder mystery. The characters we most care for are in real peril, and the action never stops. I lost myself in an engaging story and sighed when I flipped the final page. Read it!”
Pamela earned her Master’s in English and continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing. She teaches creative writing classes in the Boston and San Francisco Bay areas.
Many readers enjoy her “weekly blog on daily living” called Roughwighting
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