Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Sexy Mamas: Moms Who Write About Sex by Shelly Gitlow

Posted by May 9th, 2014

DISPATCHES FROM PARADISENo daughter ever wants to think about her mother having sex or even fantasizing about it. So what happens to the poor kid whose mother is a writer who writes racy books and films? My new book DISPATCHES FROM PARADISE is an erotic comedy about three generations of women living together in Miami – where sex IS the city. Inquiring minds have asked me if my daughter cringes when she reads the spicy parts in my books or sees the sexy scenes in my movies. I’ve never asked her, but I’m pretty sure she’s okay with it because we have always spoken frankly about everything, including sex.

There are some parts that are so steamy I’m kind of amazed that I wrote them. But I have an out. Since the book is written in the distinct voices of the three women, grandmother, mother and daughter, I tried to inhabit each character and put her innermost thoughts and feelings on the page. So you see, they weren’t really my words. They just passed through me. Liz’s sexual awakening, Claudette’s hypersexuality, and Darcy’s confusion about her sexual identity are the issues my gals are dealing with, and they don’t pull any punches. Continue reading

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Jane Green on Writing and Motherhood: “Don’t Feel Guilty”

Posted by May 8th, 2014

I’m such a fan of Jane Green. In fact, the one time I met this Women’s Fiction author in person, it was one of the few times in my life where I have really been starstruck by an author. Jane’s bestselling books have been my faithful companions since I discovered them in college. As Jane’s characters are often British, it was from her that I learned essential vocabulary like “naff” and “spot of shopping.” We chatted about how she’s grown and changed as a writer over the years, how she accommodates the busy dual roles of mothering and writing, and what’s changed for her since she’s lived in the US.

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Lucy Silag: You must hear from a lot of readers like me: people who’ve been reading you for a long time, and who’ve grown into adulthood with you. In that time, how have you changed as a writer?

Jane Green: I’ve changed enormously as a person – ageing, motherhood, divorce, etc., etc. – all have softened and changed me, and subsequently, of course, my writing. I think I am rather more circumspect as a writer these days, and definitely more accepting. My earlier books are filled with a judgment that now makes me shudder in horror.

LS: Chick lit is supposed to be such a fluffy genre—and yet it seems like books in this subgenre of women’s fiction talk about subjects that a lot of other writers are afraid to address.For example, your book BOOKENDS was the first mainstream book I ever read that talked frankly about HIV testing. That meant a lot to me as a reader. Do you feel like you get to explore a lot of social taboos by writing “women’s fiction”—or is it something that you’d be doing no matter what genre you wrote?

JG: I write about the things that matter to me, issues that have personally touched me (often), or things I am trying to work out in my own life. The recurring themes in my book are no coincidence – I do think it is the most spectacular opportunity to work out the issues of my childhood, getting closer and closer to healing with every book!

LS: What are the biggest differences about publishing in the US and the UK?

JG: I don’t really remember anymore, having lived here for 13 years. I think perhaps there is more focus on the craft of writing over here, and certainly on editing – I rarely edited in England, and now I have had to practically rewrite entire books. It is something I have come to value above all else, despite the drudgery of having to go over it again and again; there is no question I am writing the best books of my career because of the work my US editor requires of me.

TemptingFateHCcoverLS: Tell us about your most recent main character, Gabby, from TEMPTING FATE. What was the first detail you knew about her? How did you grow that into a full character?

JG: I knew she was English, and knew she had a crazy, over-dramatic, glamorous, bohemian mother, who paid her no attention whatsoever as a child. I had a very clear picture of their house in Belsize Park, London, and it all grew from there.

LS: If I remember correctly from your Facebook posts, you have four children. How on earth have you written 15 novels with so much activity in your house?

JG: It requires a huge amount of discipline. And energy. The energy bit has been harder the last few years as I’m living with Lyme Disease, or rather, more specifically, Post-Lyme Auto-Immune Disease, and Hashimoto’s Disease, so I spend a lot more time in bed than I used to. Continue reading

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Bestselling Romance Author Julie James on Remembering the Big Picture

Posted by May 6th, 2014

It happened one wedding coverHappy Book Birthday to today’s blog guest, bestselling author Julie James! IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING is Julie’s seventh novel. We caught up with this beloved Berkley Romance author to find out more about her writing process, how she manages to balance writing and motherhood, and her plans for the RT Booklovers Convention next week.

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Lucy Silag: Your previous books are workplace romances, but IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING takes place in a firmly personal realm. What was different about writing in this setting?

Julie James: That was a deliberate choice—before I knew anything else about the story or the characters, I told my editor that I wanted to write a book where the hero and heroine did not meet through work. As you mentioned, my previous books all had been set up that way, and I wanted to do something different this time. Main characters Sidney and Vaughn meet when her sister gets engaged to his brother and are  then thrown together repeatedly as the maid of honor and best man in the wedding. This idea came to me pretty quickly, but the specifics of the story beyond that took a bit more time to develop. Continue reading

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The Extroverted Writer: An Interview with Ayelet Waldman

Posted by May 1st, 2014

Today’s blog guest is one of my absolute favorite writers: Ayelet Waldman. Ayelet and I have crossed paths many times over the years. An author of acclaimed fiction, memoir, and cozy mysteries, I’ve been following her exciting body of work for the last decade, always eager to see what she’ll do next. Her new book is LOVE & TREASURE, a heady mix of Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Mystery, and Historical Fiction set partially in Hungary, a place I love to read about. Read on for Ayelet’s singular take on the writer’s life.ayelet-waldman-love-and-treasure-2501

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LS: LOVE & TREASURE is a novel in 3 parts, each functioning almost like a novella. Why did you structure the story the way you did?

AW: You said the dreaded word, “Novella!” No! No! No!

Kidding.

Sort of.

Not really.

The truth was that I had the structure before I had the novel. I fell in love with three-story structure first when reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham, then in Three Junes by Julia Glass. I read them when I first started taking the project of writing seriously, when I had emerged from my apprenticeship writing light-hearted mysteries, and had started to imagine trying something more ambitious. Those two books gave me a deep appreciation both of structure, and of the importance of theme in creating the world of a novel. They taught me that what is true and real about a story can transcend even characters. That’s a terrifying thing to contemplate, in a way. That what we care about in a novel can be something deeper even than the people in it, that our commitment to the story can survive the disappearance of characters we are invested in and care about. Continue reading

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On My Way to the Heart of Wuthering Heights by Susan M. Wyler

Posted by April 30th, 2014

SOLSBURY HILL coverToday our blog guest is Riverhead author Susan M. Wyler, whose new book SOLSBURY HILL is one of the books I am most looking forward to reading this spring. She dove deep into Emily Brontë’s classic romance Wuthering Heights to extract a passionate, satisfying resolution to this story loved by millions.

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It’s easy to imagine oneself the Creator when one seems to wring human beings and landscapes from mere pen and ink, but I wonder if writers aren’t tapping into something that already exists, like our dream world seems to exist. At any rate, that’s what writing for me has always been like. And when I began writing SOLSBURY HILL, when I sat down to that first empty page, Eleanor Abbott (the heroine of the novel) was already there, sitting in a Manhattan cafe sipping coffee. Continue reading

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Elizabeth Loupas: Six and a Half Ways to be a Writer Even When You’re Not Writing

Posted by April 1st, 2014

Writers write. That’s true. We’ve all been admonished a million times to park our behinds in our chairs and just write. Sometimes—maybe even most of the time—that’s what we need to do.

But nobody can write all the time, unless you want to end up like Jack Torrance in The Shining, typing pages and pages of madness and hacking down doors with axes. In order to define our writing as writing and hang on to our sanity in the process, we have to have non-writing to surround it. The rich shadowy darkness of creativity is only visible when it’s contrasted with the light of everyday life.

The trick to this is to have an arsenal of non-writing things you can depend on to refresh your spirit. The list will be different for everyone. Here are six things from my list:

Walking. Not power walking for exercise, but just ambling through the neighborhood, picking a different route every time. Sure, the exercise gets my blood circulating, but the solitude, the fresh air, the sunshine (or the rain)—it’s a great way to get away from the computer, but at the same time a terrific incubator for new ideas. I like to recite dialog as I walk, to hear what it sounds like. Yes, the neighbors wonder about me.

Showers. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but water does a lot more for me than get me clean. The solitude again, the sound, the primitive rushing feel of the water—when a particular plot point is blocking my progress, it’s amazing how often I figure it out in the shower. I keep a notepad in the bathroom so I can get things written down before I forget them. I tried one of those waterproof-notepad gadgets but I kept dropping the special underwater pen. If I get a really good idea I just scramble out of the shower and drip all over everything while I write.

9780451418876_large_The_Red_Lily_CrownStargazing. I learned the constellations as a child, but you don’t have to know Ursa Major from Cassiopeia to appreciate the enormity of the night sky. After a while it makes writing-related problems seem much less important. You can muse on what your characters would see and think at night—the stars will be pretty much the same (well, in the northern hemisphere…and a star map will show you constellations in the southern hemisphere) to anyone in any time and place. I thought of this when I wrote a scene for THE RED LILY CROWN in which my heroine awakens from being drugged and abducted and looks up at the sky to orient herself:

There, that was the North Star, just as Ruan had taught her. Her own stars, the curling tail and spread claws of the Scorpion, were on the opposite horizon, so that was south…

I felt that scene because I knew what the sky would have looked like, deep in the darkness. Continue reading

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Writing the Dark Stuff by Jenn Crowell

Posted by March 28th, 2014

ETCHED ON MEMy latest novel, ETCHED ON ME, is an at-times-gruelingly intense story of a young woman’s recovery from self-harm and fight for her right to be a mother. The book didn’t start out that way, though.

It began as a touching but mild-mannered tale of a couple navigating their relationship along with an international adoption. Then I read about a real-life custody battle in the UK, and thought it might make a small, poignant subplot. When my fictional young mother upstaged the couple, I decided to rewrite the book using multiple POVs, giving each situation equal weight.

All the while, I knew deep down that the book had the potential to go frightening places that I didn’t want to visit. What I wanted was a tidy ending in which the heavily pregnant young mom escaped in the nick of time. I wanted to feel safe in my literary choices. The thought of writing a scene in which a mother has her newborn taken away by a social worker gutted me as a mother. “I can’t do that,” I kept protesting to my writer friends. “No way could I handle it.”

But then my mentor in my MFA program, Leonard Chang, leveled with me. “This is extremely professional work,” he told me, “but you’re ducking the heart of the real story.” He suggested I try writing Lesley, my young mom, in first person. Let her talk simply but honestly about the prospect of losing her daughter. Continue reading

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Book Dedications: Dedicated to the Ones We Love by Julia Fierro

Posted by February 14th, 2014

Julia Fierro bio photoWho knows the importance of community to a writer better than Julia Fierro? In 2002, she founded The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, one of New York’s most important literary institutions. Over 2000 writers have passed through Sackett Street’s writing classes to date. Julia’s debut novel, CUTTING TEETH, comes out May 13th, 2014 from St. Martin’s Press. Take a look at Julia’s social network channels (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest) and you’ll see that she’s at the center of a thriving group of some of the most gifted writers of our time, sharing news, advice, and pithy humor on everything from doing copyedits with a sleeping child in your lap to a rave review in a national magazine. With the same dedication to community that Sackett Street is known for, Julia came up with a lovely collection of enigmatic book dedications, and some thoughts on to whom writers bestow this high honor. Her post also functions as an excellent mid-winter “To-read” list, which is why we’ve linked to each book on Goodreads below.

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Love is sacrifice.

What is more sacred to a writer than that stretch of white space at the start of their published book, otherwise known as The Dedication?

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I asked writers about the people, places and pets they chose to honor in that sacred spot. Their speedy and enthusiastic responses were surprising. Unlike the dreaded acknowledgments (dreaded by me, in any case—what if I leave someone out?), for most, the dedication is a no-brainer. They simply know who is most deserving. We won’t mention the handful of books dedicated to partners, lovers and friends, who may have proved unworthy of the dedication later. That is another story.

The type of love and gratitude that motivates most writers’ dedications falls into three major categories: partner, friendship, and familial.

Precious are the words worthy of a writer’s partner—wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, soulmate—who may be responsible for convincing us to take that dusty manuscript out of the drawer. They are our constant companions who put up with our ever-growing piles of books, our scraps of notes, as well as the stratospheric highs and lows of our writing process and publishing experience. Our partners tolerate being passed over for the company of imaginary people who exist solely in our minds; they put up with our doubt and anxiety, with us waking them in the wee hours of the night to ask—do you think character X is believable? Do you think the book has enough narrative momentum? Do you think anyone will want to represent it, publish it, read it, love it?

Gillian Flynn, in her darkly thrilling novel, DARK PLACES:

What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?

F. Scott Fitzgerald in THE GREAT GATSBY (Therese Anne Fowler echoed this dedication in her 2013 book Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald):

ONCE AGAIN

TO

ZELDA

Emma Straub’s pitch perfect dedication in her Hollywood-themed novel, LAURA LAMONT’S LIFE IN PICTURES:

FOR MY HUSBAND,

A GOLDEN STATUE

IF EVER THERE WAS ONE

And love tongue-in-cheek style—David Rosen’s dedication to his wife in his novel, I JUST WANT MY PANTS BACK:

For Rachel, Damn It Continue reading

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How to Write About Love Like a Man: Dan Rhodes and Flash Fiction

Posted by February 13th, 2014

I read Women’s Fiction more ardently than almost any genre, but even I sometimes get tired of the pink frilly covers that come with it. That’s what makes the cover of Dan Rhodes’s story collection MARRY ME feel fun and a little subversive: It plays on a lot of the Women’s Fiction (or chick lit) tropes and turns them on their head.

Spend an evening–perhaps tomorrow evening, if you don’t have other plans–with this book, and you’ll be delighted to read about marriage and domestic coupling from a fresh–if often rather cynical–perspective. Dan writes “short shorts” or “flash fiction”–extremely brief stories not much longer than a page, even just a paragraph. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Dan shares my favorite of his stories with the Book Country community, and stays for a chat about how to write about love like a man. Read his story “Science,” and try writing your own short short to share on this Book Country Discussion Board or in the comment section below.

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Science

I was delighted when my scientist girlfriend agreed to become my fiancée. “This is the happiest moment of my life,” I said.

“Mine too,” she replied. “I’m experiencing an unprecedented rush of dopamine and norepinephrine. Of course the production of these particular neurotransmitters will decrease over time, but I have a pretty good feeling that our vasopressin levels will remain adequate, and we’ll be fine for the long haul. But never mind all that,” she said, taking off her goggles and unbuttoning her lab coat. “What do you say we release a bit of the old oxytocin?”

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Dan RhodesLS: MARRY ME is a collection of short shorts about marriage—and almost all of them (spoiler alert!) have unhappy endings. Anyone going through a breakup this Valentine’s Day will gladly embrace the book, but give us your best pitch why the romantics among us might want to read your book, too.

DR: Even the most happily coupled people tend to have excruciating romantic histories, so even if you live in a world of hearts and flowers it won’t do you any harm to be reminded of what might have been. But quite honestly, this book is more likely to be appreciated by those who find Valentine’s Day to be a crushing ordeal. Thwarted romantics, in other words. I was one for years, and I still harbor a residual dislike for February 14th – a day when incredibly fortunate people are further rewarded with pink treats. Continue reading

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Upload Your Erotic Fiction to Book Country

Posted by January 29th, 2014

Welcome Writers of Erotic Fiction!

Things have been heating up on Book Country lately, with lots of discussions about writing about sex. Sex is, of course, a constant in contemporary fiction, whether you are trying to write like Philip Roth or E.L. James or somewhere in between. Learning techniques for writing about intimacy, and then having the chutzpah to try these out in your prose, is an important development in many writers’ growth.

That’s why we’ve been inviting erotic fiction authors who we admire to write on our blog, and that’s why we’ve been working hard to introduce writers of erotic fiction to one another via Book Country’s connection features. We’ve been learning a lot about the concerns that come up for writers who write about sex, and we’ve been having a lot of fun reading these steamy genres!

We invite writers of Erotica, Erotic Romance, and all the Romance subgenres to join Book Country and upload your work to share with our community. Book Country is a place where you can get feedback on your steamy manuscript, participate in discussions about how to write in erotic fiction genres with like-minded writers, and best of all, build a community through connecting with those writers, reading their work, and finding your writing voice as erotic fiction continues to grow in popularity with readers around the world. We also have Erotica and Romance shelves in our online Bookstore for when you are ready to publish your erotic fiction. Continue reading

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