Monday, January 21, 2008

Thank you Fay Weldon and Kathy Boswell

I'll come back to look at more about writing for Presents later but I just wanted to mention a couple of interesting things I found as soon as I logged one.

Firstly, there was a balanced, and reasoned comment on the Mills and Boon Centenary by novelist, playwright and screenplay writer Fay Weldon that was in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend

You can read the whole article here - but I'll quote three particular paragraphs that I feel are worth reading:

I daresay it is true of Mills & Boon tales that they perpetuate female folly by suggesting that love and marriage is the answer to a woman's problems, and not the beginning of them, but I hardly think it is any worse than that. Are we not entitled to a little wishful thinking? Is it not better anyway to read, than to sit in front of TV watching East Enders shout, snarl and rape?

As Chesterton put it in 1901, writing about the rise and fall of the Penny Dreadful, "The simple need for some kind of ideal world in which fictitious persons play an unhampered part is infinitely deeper and older than the rules of good art, and much more important. Every one of us in childhood has constructed such invisible dramatis personae, but it never occurred to our nurses to correct the composition by careful comparison with Balzac." Nor should we literary folk try comparing Come Back to Me with Atonement.

Any novel takes a certain slice of life and deals with that. No novel can take on the whole pie chart of our existence and deal with all human experience. The more "literary" the novel, the wider the slice that is attempted, and the more likely it is to fail - and bore. The genre novel contents itself with dealing with a certain slice: the thriller deals with that part of our experience that involves danger; the detective story with our curiosity; sci-fi echoes out alienation in space and time - and so on. The genre novel "takes us out of ourselves" while the literary novel keeps us firmly and sometimes painfully in our own lives, informing us as to our own natures - which is why it is taken seriously and gets reviewed. The Mills & Boon novel takes a peculiarly narrow slice of female life, and so tends to get despised. But it sells

I could argue with a couple of points in this comment - one is that (yet again) the title of a M&B book quote - Come Back to Me - is one that dates from 1990 - and so is over 15 years old. The other is that M&B books suggest that "love and marriage is the answer to a womna's problems" - because the books don't actually do that. What we do is write about a very specific and very narrow stretch of time in which a set of particular problems are faced by our heroines - emotional and very personal problems for which, for that woman and at that time, finding out that she is loved by the man that she loves and that he wants to commit himself to her is the answer to the set of problems she has been contending with through the story of the small slice of her life we show. - Remember the marriage/happy ever after ending is what the readers want not the one that we 'suggest' to them as the ideal. And that the 'happy ever after' is basically meant to be as happy as you can be through the years with a loving man by your side to share with whatever life throws at you.

We don't idealise marriage - I have never thought that any of my heroes and heroines are setting out on a road through life where there will never be a cross word or a problem they have to face. But they will face it together - as a partnership of equals. I hope I set my characters up for a good marriage - with all the ups and downs that that entails. But I suspect that those feelings about marriage as an institution come under the heading of the things that we bring to our reading of a book from our own life experiences and so some will see marriage as the beginning of a womna's problems rather than the start of a new pilot with a co-pilot alongside. (And as the brilliantly managed emergency landing at Heathrow last week showed a brave and competent co-pilot can be a wonderful partner in a time of crisis)

And Kathy Boswell?
Well, Kathy is a reviewer over on The Best Reviews and this morning I received a review from her for The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife.

Yes, I know it's a bit late - the book came out in November - but it's still around and when I read the review it brightened my day - in spite of the rain bucketing down outside again. The bit that made me smile was this:

I have never read a book by Kate Walker before but if this is an indication of her superb writing, I will have to find more of her books to read. I truly love reading about strong heroes and the women they decide to get involved with. I also enjoy books about other cultures and nationalities. I highly recommend this one.

You can find this review at The Best Reviews

It is such a great feeling to read that someone who has never opened one of my books before, read this one and says that she will have to find morew of them to read. Checking The Best Reviews site, it is obvious that Kathy reads so many books - not just series romance - and to know that The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife grabbed her like this and gave her such enjoyment is the reason I write at all - and it's far far better than and 'literary review'.

It also armours me againsy the critics and those snipers who demand to know why I, a woman with an MA, am not writing 'a proper book'.

I am - I'm writing books that readers enjoy - that make readers say 'I will have to find more of her books' - that's what I always hoped for. And it's wonderful to know that I've done it

So thank you to Fay Weldon and to Kathy Boswell for brightening a dark and gloomy January day and for getting my working week off to a great start.


Anne McAllister said...

Thank you for the mention of the Fay Weldon article. Like you, I think she pretty much hit the nail on the head. How nice to find reason in the press!

I do think, as you do, that we aren't promising 'happily ever after' so much as a partner to share whatever 'ever after' brings who will make it better by being there.

And Kathy Boswell is obviously a woman of discerning taste and wisdom. Congrats on a great review!

Passionate Dilettante said...

Good for you. As you know, I'm with Kathy Boswell on this. Fantastic, Kate!

Madeline said...

Kate, I'm so glad you got such a wonderful review. It's about time that reviewers sit up and take notice of romance writers (in a good way). You write stories that most of us average, every day readers love to read. Your stories take us places that we have never been, and we can escape all the stress of everyday living, for just a little while. Thank you for writing stories that we all love to read. Congratulations on the great review!

Ray-Anne said...

Fay Weldon has it spot on re the way genre fiction focuses on a specific slice of life and restores our faith in justice and order - and an HEA.
Thank you for the link.
And you must be thrilled with the review. Many congratulations.


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