Today, Romance, She Wrote is pleased to host guest blogger Shelly Bell.
When I wrote my book, A Year to Remember, it never entered my mind to classify it as a particular genre. It was fiction. It was romance. It was a story about a young woman’s transformation. It was about friendship. It was about eating disorders. Parts of it made me laugh and parts of it made me cry. I didn’t write the novel with the intention of publication. I wrote it because it needed to be written.
I’ve been an avid reader since childhood and always fascinated with the publishing industry. In order to learn more about writing and the industry in general, I joined Romance Writers of America. I read their definition of romance and realized I hadn’t written one. It didn’t have a hero and a heroine. My book was written in the first person point-of-view because I wanted the reader to know all the crazy thoughts in the head of my protagonist, Sara. Plus, there isn’t really a hero in the book.
When people learn I’ve written a book, they want to know what genre it is. I answer that it’s commercial women’s fiction. They stare at me blankly. Chick-lit, I clarify. Their eyebrows arch in a silent question. It’s romance, I finally say and then they nod and smile.
While authors, agents and editors understand its definition, the average reader does not. In fact, most of them don’t care. Agents however, seem to abhor anything suggesting the chick-lit genre. I had plenty of agents tell me my book sounded “too chick-lit.” As if “chick lit” was a disease they were afraid to catch. Several agents expressed their fondness for my work but explained it was a tough sale in the marketplace. Sadly, it was the oversaturation of crap dressed as “chick-lit” with their Pepto-Bismol pink covers and unlikable, selfish protagonists which drove quality chick-lit out of the market. It was these same agents who sold these awful books to publishers in the first place and now, they look down on them.
It doesn’t bother me to have my book classified as commercial women’s fiction or chick lit. I’m proud of my book and I’m honored to be in the category of such greats as Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Jane Green and Emily Griffin. They write fantastic stories and are smart, opinionated individuals.
So call my book whatever you want. As Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
But if my story had been written by a man, what genre would it be?
When her younger brother marries on her twenty-ninth birthday, food addict Sara Friedman drunkenly vows to three hundred wedding guests to find and marry her soul mate within the year. After her humiliating toast becomes a YouTube sensation, she permits a national morning show to chronicle her search. With the help of best friend Missy, she plunges head first into the shallow end of the dating pool.
Her journey leads her to question the true meaning of soul mates, as she decides between fulfilling her vow to marry before her thirtieth birthday and following her heart’s desire. But before she can make the biggest decision of her life, Sara must begin to take her first steps towards recovery from her addiction to food.
About the author: Shelly Bell started reading at three years old. In elementary school, the librarian gave her books to test out for the school library. As a teenager, she spent her allowance each week on romance novels, enjoying both young adult category romance, young adult paranormal and single title books, and adult romance.
She received her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and a Certificate in Women Studies from Michigan State University in 1990, where she interned at both the Michigan State Sexual Assault Crisis Center as a counselor and the Michigan Women’s Historical Museum as a docent.
Wanting to leave the cold Michigan winters behind, she moved to Florida to attend law school at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center where she received her Juris Doctor degree. Practicing law since 1997, she specializes in corporate, environmental and employment law as In-House Legal Counsel for a scrap metal company in Detroit. On the side, she dabbles in horseracing and crematory law.
Married to Jason in 2003, they have two children and reside in the metro-Detroit area, where she reads on her Kindle each night when her family falls asleep.
A recovering compulsive overeater, she wrote A Year to Remember to share her strength and hope with compulsive overeaters and food addicts everywhere. A member of Romance Writers of America, she writes both women’s fiction and paranormal romance.