I pulled Suzanne's comment from over the weekend and brought it to the main board because I thought it was good discussion fodder. Here's what she asked:
After reading a review of Emily Griffin's latest book and then thinking of yours, I have a question. How would you define the genre of 'chick lit?' When I think of chick lit, I think of happy-go-lucky twenty-something romances. But when I think of your books, I would classify them as post-chick-lit, something more grown-up and mature. What are your thoughts? Do you consider yourself writing for a specific genre when you are writing your novels?
My books are generally classified as "women's fiction" or "commercial fiction," while, you're right, Emily Giffin is generally classified as "chick lit." These are fluid categories, however, and some books don't fall into one easily. I think, in general, "chick lit" is thought of as less literary (whether or not this is the case - I'm just passing along the stereotypes), and generally tackles less weighty subjects than "women's fiction," which, obviously, is targeted at women (as is chick lit - the markets aren't too different, though CL might skew younger) but maybe at women who like their prose to be meatier. (Again, I'm not passing judgments - Emily Giffin, for example, is a great writer who knows her audience, and yes, our new books cover remarkably similar themes!)
These days, as you can see from all of my caveats above, "chick lit" often has a derogatory connotation, and I don't mean it to be so by my comments. CL has a HUGE market - I guess I think of CL books as classic "beach reads," but after an enormous push for CL books on the heels of the success of books like The Devil Wears Prada (actually, the push started long before this, I think), the quality of these reads deteriorated faster than you can say "single girl in her twenties looking for love in a fab pair of shoes," and now, many authors don't wear the CL badge with much pride. Which is silly. Because if you do it well, as Giffin proves you can, you can crank out a book that's both smart and relatively easy-to-read. No shame in that as all.
As far as all of these categories, well, I'm not the one who categorizes my book in the first place. That's up to the publicists and marketers at my publishers, and they were the ones who deemed me "women's fiction," or "commercial fiction." I try to write the best book I know how, one that I'd pick up in a store, one that I wouldn't roll my eyes at or, conversely, find too dense (and I mean weighty, not dumb) to really get into. I do constantly go back and fiddle with sentence that I think are overly simplistic or amateurish, and I don't think that will ever stop, regardless of how many books I write or what catagory I fall into. I want to be proud of every word that goes onto my pages.
In the end, do these labels matter? Maybe when the sales team is shopping around the book to stores whose buyers are wary of buying "chick lit," but really, I'm not so sure that readers care all that much about the categorization, as long as the book appeals to their personal sensibilities. I know if I pick up a book that is waaaaay too chick lit-y for me, I'll put it back down, but not because the cover or whatever says it's "chick lit," but because I read 1000000 of those books in my 20s and just don't enjoy most of them as much anymore. (Generally speaking, of course, as I buy Giffin and others with frequency.) But on the other end, I'll do the same with a heavily literary book or any book that doesn't appeal to me: CL is just an easy classification that doesn't mean too much to me as a buyer.
But what about you guys: do you agree with these classifications and will you buy/not buy a book based on them? And who do you think of as classic (and good!) chick lit?