The “What?!” Moment: When a Book Jumps the Shark

We’ve all been there. You’re reading a book and then boom! Out of nowhere comes something totally jarring that makes you stop and exclaim, “What?!” You reread it several times because it’s so confusing and/or because it’s so ridiculous that you can’t believe it’s there. But no matter how many times you read it, it doesn’t change. Can you get past it? Does it annoy you so much that you can’t continue reading the book? In television, when a show reaches the point of no return and becomes so outlandish that it should probably be canceled, it’s referred to as “jumping the shark.” This phrase stems from an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing during a trip to California. See what I mean?

Sadly, a “what?!” moment happened while I was reading Sophie Kinsella’s new novel, Wedding Night. Let me preface what I’m about to say by making it clear that I’m a fan of her stand-alone novels. Twenties Girl is one of my favorite books of all-time, and I've Got Your Number is brilliant. I’ve never read the Shopaholic series. (I know, I know.) I saw the movie and loved it, though. But from what I hear, the movie is very different from the books.

Anyway, I was all revved up to read Wedding Night, had been counting down for months, pre-ordered it, and tweeted and posted on Facebook with glee when it finally arrived. To my utter disappointment, it didn't take long for me to become really frustrated. While at her son’s school, Fliss must make a hot air balloon project with him because her forgetful ex-husband failed to do so. She searches for something to make it with, and well, let’s just say that her choice is incredibly inappropriate. It’s ironic because she’s so upset with her ex and constantly trying to prove what a negligent parent he is and in general what a bad person he is, and then she does this. What a way to show how much better you are…humiliate yourself and your young son. When something is too idiotic and too unrealistic, it loses the comedy. I know Kinsella was going for funny with this scene, but comedy is grounded in reality. Ninety nine percent of parents wouldn’t do what Fliss did. That’s the problem. Unrealistic = unfunny. And that was all it took. I was out of the story. I had a lot of trouble getting past that, but I pushed on…and then boom! Fliss is having drinks with Lorcan and more “balloons” fly out of her purse for a repeat appearance. Please. Again, unrealistic. A contrived attempt at getting a laugh from readers.

I was also turned off by how over-the-top flaky Lottie is, and by how late into the book her marriage to Ben happens…I think 160 pages in or so. The book’s description already tells us that they get married and her sister tries to stop the honeymoon, so the build up to something we already know will happen is incredibly long. By page 300, I skipped to the end to confirm my prediction for the outcome, which was right. I can forgive a predictable story and actually quite enjoy them if they’re engaging. Unfortunately, this is not Kinsella’s best work. But that’s just my opinion. I’m still a fan of hers, and I’ll buy her next book, but my hopes won’t be quite as high. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ll have to wait and see…

Note: This post isn’t meant to be hurtful or disrespectful toward Kinsella at all. Please don’t misinterpret it. I respect her and have said many times that she is one of the best chick lit writers out there. I know how much time, effort, and hard work goes into writing and publishing a book, so I know this was no small feat. I appreciate her dedication to the genre we all love so much. However, chick lit has evolved and moved past the bumbling heroines, or at least I want it to, and I know she can write a much better story with much better characters than Wedding Night. I look forward to what she comes up with next.
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Did you read Wedding Night? What did you think of it? Can you continue reading a book after it jumps the shark? Which books have you read that have a "what?!" moment?

Where Are the Romantic Comedies?


The last romantic comedy I saw in a movie theater was To Rome With Love last summer. And I’m pretty sure it was the only new rom-com I saw in a theater last year. I waited to rent The Five-Year Engagement because it looked awful, and I was right. I finally sat through a couple excruciating hours of that movie in October last year. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. However, I absolutely loved This Means War, but it isn’t exactly a classic rom-com since it’s also a spy-thriller-action type movie. The real romantic comedy genre is practically nonexistent in film right now. Browsing through Moviefone’s list of movies coming soon, I see that there is only one romantic comedy being released this year, The Big Wedding. Only one. This is an outrage. Why do we have to suffer through countless sci-fi, thriller, vampire, and action movies, but we only get one decent romantic comedy per year? The biggest problem is that the genre as a whole has been branded as stupid. People seem to think that these movies are so formulaic and predictable that they aren’t worth anything. Well, guess what? The big blockbuster action movies are totally obvious as well. I wouldn’t exactly classify them as original. There’s a quest to conquer evil, lots of action and violence, then the good guys prevail over the bad guys. The end. So, why isn’t that stupid? Why, why, why is the romantic comedy genre the one that people love to hate the most? 

In recent years, the best romantic comedy released was The Proposal in 2009. Sandra Bullock has a knack for romantic comedies, and she’s my favorite actress. Two Weeks Notice is one of my all-time favorite movies. She gets rom-coms right. The Proposal is the type of rom-com we need more of now. It’s like the classics that came before: The Wedding Planner, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Sleepless in Seattle to name a few.  And I don’t mean similar in plot. I mean similar in how they make me feel. True fans of rom-coms know what I mean. As the credits roll, you get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside and can’t stop grinning and wishing that something funny and amazing and beautiful like what you just saw would happen in your own life.

Lately, I’ve turned to the Hallmark Channel for my romantic comedy fix. They’ve had a bunch of cute new made-for-TV rom-coms. So, maybe the answer to my question, “where are the romantic comedies?” is, “on TV.” Has this genre moved from the big screen to primarily the small screen now? People still want romantic comedies, even though the Hollywood big shots seem to think they can dictate what we want. Rom-com fans will go elsewhere to find the genre they love. Just like when the big publishers decided that people shouldn’t like chick lit anymore, declared it "dead," and stopped publishing it. We went elsewhere. We self-published. We went to indie publishers. We found a way around people telling us what to like and what not to like.  Maybe Hollywood should adapt more romantic comedy novels into movies. There are so many stories that are just waiting to be brought to life in movie form. Until then, I think I’ll watch When Harry Met Sally for the billionth time. 
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What do you think about the state of romantic comedies? Leave a comment and weigh in. 
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Letter from the Editor: Reviews

Hi everyone!

I'm writing this to let you know that The Chick Lit Bee will not post book reviews anymore. I've given this a lot of thought and decided that this is the best thing for our blog, for authors, and for readers. Instead of reviews, I'm going to post "Book of the Day" features with the synopsis and cover. This way, readers can decide for themselves if they are interested in reading a book or not. I think every book deserves a chance and deserves exposure, and every book has an audience. I still think book reviews are important, but they are no longer the focus of this blog. I want to help promote as much chick lit as I can here. I'm also going to post "Editor's Pick" and "Contributor's Pick" features where we will share what we loved about books we chose to read and why they are our favorites. 

Authors: If you have sent us your book for review, you will still be featured as a "Book of the Day," but please be patient. I have a huge list of review requests, but I will try my best to feature one of these books every day. 

The Chick Lit Bee will now focus on author interviews, short stories, guest posts, giveaways, contests, and other fun features. This site will continue to be a positive, encouraging, and uplifting place for authors and readers. 

Thank you for reading and supporting The Chick Lit Bee. I really appreciate your interest and all your lovely comments. I enjoy interacting with such a wonderful community of people who share my love for chick lit. 

Have a great weekend!

Nancy

An Author Undercover: Melissa Senate’s Secret Pseudonym

When I read the news that Melissa Senate, author of ten novels, will be releasing her eleventh novel under a secret pseudonym, I was disappointed. In her post where she reveals the news, she is optimistic about this decision (who in her shoes wouldn’t spin it to be something positive?), but I’m not as enthusiastic about it. I wish Melissa the best of luck and this post is in no way putting her down. While it might be the best decision for her and her career, I don’t agree with it. Melissa isn’t the only one who made the decision though. From her post, it seems like publisher Simon & Schuster gave her an ultimatum: either they publish her book under a new name or they don’t publish it all. Obviously, most authors would want to continue to use their own name that has been on all of their books and has become their brand. However, when faced with the you-do-what-we-tell-you-or-you-won’t-have-a-big-publisher-behind-you ultimatum, I can understand feeling as if this is the only route to take. What I don’t understand is Simon & Schuster’s reasons for doing this. Melissa’s last couple of books didn’t do as well as they hoped, but everyone has a slump once in a while, especially with the economic problems and the changes in the publishing industry. Plus, putting all of the blame for the low sales on the author’s name is unfair. It takes a team to publish, market, promote, and sell a book. 

We all know that women’s fiction/chick lit isn’t doing as well as it has in previous years. Big publishers are trying to force trends and mostly publishing “serious women’s fiction” since they feel that the market was saturated with too much chick lit. However, chick lit is still very much in demand and authors of this genre are choosing to self-publish to get their books out there because elsewhere, they don’t have a chance. I wonder why Melissa didn’t decide to self- publish her eleventh book under her own name. I know it takes a lot of work to self-publish a book, but with the already established readership of her books in her own name, it seems worth it to take that leap. 

There are several reasons why Melissa’s switch to a secret pen name is problematic. She has a fan base of people who love books written by Melissa Senate with the name Melissa Senate on the cover. With this new secret name, her fans will have no idea that the “debut author” she presents herself as is really her, so people that would have bought a Melissa Senate book may not buy the new one under the pseudonym. In this scenario, the Melissa Senate fans are not considered at all. They won’t know when her eleventh book is released because it’s essentially a secret. The fans are left in the dust as Melissa pursues an unnecessary rebuild of her whole career and starts from scratch. But aren’t the purposes of writing and sharing stories to entertain people and give them an escape? If writing books becomes a completely selfish pursuit fueled by monetary gain, then motives should be reevaluated. 

It’s also really difficult for a debut author to sell a lot of books. Few debuts become runaway bestsellers, so the sales of the pseudonym book might wind up being less than the sales of a Melissa Senate book that would have been or would not have been a bestseller. It’s all about the brand. I don’t understand why a publisher that is clearly only concerned about money in this situation and is trying to make money off of a new, different name would throw away a well-established name. It sounds like more of a risk than self-publishing. Simon & Schuster wants to trick people into buying a Melissa Senate book by repackaging it as something else. Melissa said that the new book will be in the same genre as all of her other books, so the only difference is the fake name on the cover. It is a deceitful way to try to make more money and it probably won’t work for the reasons I already stated. 

I know this post might sound a little harsh, but I just don’t like the dishonest nature of the secret pseudonym after a brand has been established and readers have become invested. I also don’t like to see a publisher practically forcing an author to compromise their own identity in order to try to sell more books. It isn’t right. It also puts chick lit in a bad light like chick lit authors should hide and completely reinvent themselves to succeed in such a “dead” genre. Where is the respect for chick lit and chick lit authors? 

I commend Melissa for doing something daring for a fresh start, but it’s also disappointing that she wasn’t willing to stay true to herself and her readers, even if that meant giving up the big publisher to pursue other options. 
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What do you think?

Title Troubles: Naming That Novel

As you may or may not know, I'm working on my own chick lit novel. I'm almost finished with my first draft. Three chapters to go! I'm really excited that I'm getting closer and closer to writing "the end," which is really only the beginning. My manuscript has been untitled so far. I have a working title and some other titles that I have tossed around. Last week, I decided that I needed to finalize a title since I'm almost done with my first draft. Big mistake. Instead of actually writing, I became consumed with figuring out a title. I spent so much time scouring the Internet looking at titles of other books in the genre, reading song lyrics, looking through titles of TV show episodes, and even reading some poems. I was all over the place and what happened? I realized that a title is not going to jump out at me no matter how many love songs/break-up songs I listen to or no matter how much time I spend obsessing over this. I was trying so hard to think of something clever, but all I wound up with was a long list of mediocre titles that didn't really fit with my story. At one point, I was convinced that I had a great title. I thought it was "the one." I was so excited about it, but after a few hours, I wasn't so sure anymore. Needless to say, I've been on a roller coaster and I've been totally indecisive. All of this reminds me of when I first started writing my novel and I was choosing character names. I frequently visited Think Baby Names and tried several combinations of first names and last names until I liked all of the names together. At the time, I thought that was a long process, but it actually wasn't that difficult compared to coming up with a title.
 
So, what have I learned? I know now that I have to look within my own story for a title. I learned that I don't have to try so hard to be clever because when you try really hard, it never comes out as witty as you hoped. It just seems like you tried too hard. I also learned that sometimes I have to be less of a perfectionist, no matter how difficult that might be, because simplicity can actually be best. There aren't any right or wrong answers when it comes to creativity. My novel is still untitled, but that's okay... for now.
 
Have you had a similar experience? How did you come up with titles for your novels, short stories, poems, etc? I would love to hear about it!
 
Nancy