First things first. I have a new novel out called Love Literary Style. Want to know the story behind it? Read on, dear blog readers!
Writer Daniel Boorstin said, “I write to discover what I think. After all, the bars aren’t open that early.” I tend to agree with him. Not necessarily about the bars but about writing to illuminate unsettled issues.
Over the years, I’ve gotten my share of grief for writing lightweight fiction. More than once I’ve received reviews that were prickly pats. Here’s a paraphrased example: “The read was enjoyable and accomplished for a guilty pleasure, but make no mistake, this isn’t great literature.”
Man, did I bristle. I wanted to say, “My goal is to entertain, not to write the great American novel!” Sometimes I was defensive, other times I was more apologetic. More than once when asked what kind of fiction I wrote, I’d sheepishly say, “Fluffy and lighthearted.” In my mind I was thinking “inconsequential.”
After my fifth commercial novel, I decided to get my MFA and during the first workshop, I had my worst encounter with literary snobbery ever. One of my instructors hated genre fiction and, because I wrote it, he was determined to make me feel as small as possible.
During the two-year program, my primary emotion was shame. I felt like a fraud who’d only gotten published because of a few lucky breaks. I tried very hard to write more “serious” fiction, and I was terrible at it. For the first time ever, I seriously questioned whether or not I had what it took to be a novelist. After I graduated, I ended up writing about my experiences in a New York Times essay called “Masters in Chick Lit”
At the end of the essay I imply that I made peace with myself about what kind of writer I was, but truthfully, I was still struggling. I felt as if I had my feet in two worlds, genre and literary fiction. I didn’t feel comfortable in either.
That’s when I decided to explore the divide between the two types of fiction via a novel. Love Literary Style, a romantic comedy, is about a stuffy literary writer who falls in love with a vivacious, indie, romance writer. Their happiness is threatened when she becomes more successful than he.
I assumed I’d sympathize more with Laurie, the romance writer, but with every revision I found myself empathizing just as equally with Aaron, the literary writer. I went deeper with these characters than I have with past characters. As a result, I came away with a much more nuanced and enlarged world view of the divide between literary and genre fiction.
I also learned a lot about myself as a writer. The reason I was so hurt by literary snobbery was because I recognized a germ of truth in it. My aim, now and always, will be to write entertaining fiction. It helps people through hard times and makes them smile and there’s not a speck of shame in that. But now, beyond creating moments of levity, I find myself pushing for a little bit more depth and authenticity, and hopefully my readers will benefit.
Want to know what people are saying about Love Literary Style? Here’s the skinny.