Now, moving on with our month's events, we'll hear from a wonderful bestselling author. Our first amazing interview, dear ladies, is with Jodi Picoult!
Picoult is the bestselling author of seventeen novels, the last three of which debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, including her latest novel, House Rules. Her next novel, Sing You Home, will be released in March 2011, and she's already researching another one that should be released in 2012! She was kind enough to answer some questions about the women's fiction label and the recognition (or lack thereof) women writers get. Here is what she said.
Gabriela: Do you like the "women's fiction writer" label? Do you think of yourself as a women's fiction writer?
Jodi Picoult: Since 48% of my fan mail comes from men, I have a hard time thinking I write only for women. I am a WOMAN fiction writer - but why would that matter?
G: Do you think there are more advantages or disadvantages to wearing that label?
JP: I don't like labels. I don't think my books fit easily into genres - whether that's legal fiction or chick lit or mystery or romance. They're a little bit of everything, grounded in a moral or ethical dilemma. I guess for me the real question is, how come no one ever calls Philip Roth a men's fiction writer? Because there is an assumption that women will read male authors, but the opposite doesn't always hold true. To me, that assumption is far more dangerous than any label!
G: What do you think makes women's fiction different from other kinds of fiction? Or isn't it different at all?
JP: It's not different. If a female writer writes about the bonds of family, emotional life, and the American experience, it's called women's fiction. If a man does it, it's called great literature. I think the distinction is arbitrary and has more to do with the genitalia of the author than anything else. Granted, there is a wide swath of so-called "women's fiction" - it encompasses Harlequin Romance AND Anne Tyler and Anita Shreve. But there's a difference between "pulp" women's fiction and "literary" women's fiction - just like there's a difference between Nicholas Sparks and John Irving.
"Is the description of emotion, which so many female authors write beautifully, really something detrimental?"
G: Are there any of your books that you think fit more tightly into what people would consider a "typical" women's fiction? And are there any novels of yours that you don't think fit into that category at all?
JP: I could argue any book of mine either way. My first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale, is about the relationship between a mom and a daughter so it would fall squarely into the traditional definition of women's fiction. But it's also written in five narrative voices and plays with time and distance in structure, and that makes it a little more ambitious. I have a really hard time reading something like The Tenth Circle, which has a graphic novel embedded in it and has a male main character, and believing that it qualifies as women's fiction exclusively.
G: What future do you see for women's fiction? What do you hope for?
JP: Equality. Stop labeling. Call a good book a good book and recognize that good writing gets read, period - by both men and women. I'd hope that reviewers would be able to look past the gender of an author and ask themselves what's really so different between a female author's take on a given situation, and a male author's take on it. Is the description of emotion, which so many female authors write beautifully, really something detrimental? If so, why? These are the questions we need to be asking more carefully.
Thank you, Jodi!
Now, what do you think? Do you agree with Jodi Picoult? Are you weary of labels? And what is, after all, women's fiction? Share your thoughts on the subject and discuss it with our great commenters. And stay tuned! There are more interviews and guest posts coming up soon!