Guest Post: Would You Take Real Advice From A Fictional Character?

Can you actually learn something useful from fiction? Or does the responsibility for imparting knowledge sit solely in the arena of its non-fiction cousins?

A story’s purpose is to transport you to a different time and place, to inspire, to entertain, enlighten and challenge. But how do you feel about a novel where a character jumps off the page, gets in your face and is determined to teach you a thing or two? Do you dismiss it as the author taking creative license through the ramblings of an imaginary character with no discernible connection to reality or do you consider it as a potential source of useful advice? I guess what I’m asking is, “Would you take real advice from a fictional character?”

In the new novel, eloves me, eloves me not, the protagonist, Kayte Wexford, sets out on a journey to find Mr. Right, venturing into the unfamiliar world of online dating. At the urging of her happily married best friend Chloe, Kayte agrees to try it. Kayte also learns that her other dear friend Roman considers himself a bit of an online dating aficionado. He’s used it for years and is pretty familiar with the ins and outs – what works and what doesn’t. In fact, he might even be described as a serial online dater. So Roman quickly steps in to guide and mentor Kayte, providing her with tips, suggestions, and rules from his personal rule book (Roman’s Rules of Online Dating) to help her maximize her potential for her online dating success.

When writing this book, I went back and forth as to whether I would feature Roman and his rules so prominently.  I considered whether or not including them muddied the fiction waters. I did end up leaving them in because I thought that they added a dimension of authenticity to the story, to Roman as a character, and they provided the reader with some lasting advice that may well stick with them long after the details of the story are forgotten.

Here is just a small selection of the advice espoused through Roman’s Rules of Online Dating:
  • While the words you use to present yourself are important, there is nothing more critical in your profile than the photo. 
  • Have at least 2-3 chats with someone before meeting them.
  • Make sure a friend, colleague, neighbour, someone you trust knows the details of your meeting.
  • If you’ve been on the site for a few weeks (or months), you may need to refresh your profile to get noticed.
  • Once you’ve met and been on a date or two, or three, you need to be wary of the return to the cyber relationship. 
Roman shares 13 rules in total with Kayte throughout the novel, delivering them one at a time and only as she needs to learn them. Her experiences then help to contextualise them. You’ll find the full list and their detailed explanations scattered throughout the novel and in list form on the book’s websiteIf you’re curious about trying online dating or have actually done it, see if they resonate with you.
Regardless of your thoughts on online dating, how do you feel about an author taking this approach - injecting lessons, tips, and hints into their fictional stories? What other examples can you point to where you’ve actually been both entertained and informed by a novel? Would you like to see more or less of this in novels of the future?

In delivering real advice through a fictional character, is there a risk of challenging the definition of fiction and having it appear too real? Or do you feel it adds authenticity and depth to a story that helps to better engage the reader?

Giveaway! Please leave a comment to enter to win 1 of 2 eBook copies of eloves me, eloves me not. Winner will be chosen at random on Friday, May 3rd. Please include your email address or social networking account so we can get in touch if you win. Good luck! 

Author Interview: Anita Hughes

Tell us about your new novel, Market Street

Market Street is about the young wife of a UC Berkeley Ethics professor who discovers her husband is having an affair with his student. She must decide whether to give the marriage another chance or open a food emporium in Fenton's, her mother's exclusive San Francisco department store.

Why did you write this novel? What was your inspiration?

I love writing about San Francisco - especially high society San Francisco. It's a gorgeous setting and it is easy to fill it with interesting people. My inspiration was what does a woman do when she has devoted ten years to a marriage and discovers she can't trust her husband. Cassie wants to trust Aidan, but once trust has been shaken, it's hard to get it back.

Which of your characters do you identify with the most and why? 

I love Cassie and her best friend, Alexis. I have a particular soft spot for Alexis. Alexis looks like she has everything, but she's actually very vulnerable. And she is funny. I love humor in books.

Why did you choose San Francisco as the setting of your new novel?

I lived in the Bay Area for years and have a love affair with the city. It's a very livable city and the landmarks are recognizable to people all over the world. When I write, I feel like I am there - and San Francisco is a nice place to be!

What is the most challenging part about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?

The most challenging part about being a writer is not to write the whole book at once. I get an idea in my head and want to see the whole thing on paper - I want to read it - but it takes months to get the words and pages down. The most rewarding part of being a writer is creating characters and worlds that feel real. 

What are your favorite genres to read? 

I read mostly fiction, but within fiction just about anything. I don't read horror because I scare easily.

What was the last book you read that you loved? 

I really enjoyed The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. I love good historical fiction because I learn something when I read.

What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

I like to walk to the beach, and I like to eat frozen yoghurt with my children. We are big frozen yoghurt fans.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

My advice is to keep writing. When I wrote my first novel, I wrote just for me - and that's the most satisfying way to write. If I liked it, hopefully others would, too.

What are you working on now?

My next novel, Lake Como, comes out on August 13th, 2013. It is set in San Francisco and Lake Como, and it was a pleasure to write. Lake Como is gorgeous, and I felt like I was going there every day.

Thanks, Anita!

Author Guest Post: Most Romantic Places for Dates

A romantic place doesn’t have to be a city. It can be a beautiful spot where you have gone walking with your other half; the glens of western Scotland;  a location where you shared a special moment, perhaps your first kiss; outside the front door of your house - the memory of the day you moved into your first home together; in front of a log fire, with  your partner, dressed or undressed, at home or in a country lodge!

But for the most romantic country, it’s hard to beat Italy. I know France has Paris, but for me, Venice is more romantic, with the feeling that you’ve stepped back 200 years. After Venice, you have the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside. I have friends who got married there, and I can totally understand why, even if they did have to have their wedding translated! And let’s not forget Juliet’s balcony in Verona - it still oozes romance, even if it is a tad touristy.

I recall being on holiday in Goa in India and taking a 2-night trip away to a more southernly part of the island. As we were so far from civilisation, the sky was unpolluted and was littered with stars. I remember lying in a boat (on land) watching the stars. Idyllic and very romantic.

Brazil or anywhere that practices sexy Latin American dancing. I don’t watch Strictly or Dancing on Ice or any of these reality programmes, but I do appreciate the real thing. I’ve been to Brazil a few times, and the way the Brazilians move is tantalising, sexy and very romantic.

The most romantic tourist attraction for me has to be a castle. And not just because I’m Scottish! If I were to get married, I would like to get married in a castle (not asking much, am I?!). Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland would be a contender. But for me, the most romantic castle has to be Eilean Donan castle, before you cross to the Isle of Skye.

Most romantic restaurant - usually Italian, where the owner or waiter comes and asks you what food you like and then they simply bring you food, without you ordering. Very intimate, very personal. Always small - even better if your other half arranges for a restaurant to close so you are the only two diners, or as has been seen in several movies, the rooftop of a building, done up as a restaurant.

Most romantic outdoor activity - flying across the country in a hot air balloon. I still haven’t done this, and since I’m now pregnant, am not going to be doing it any time soon, but one day! I did want to do this on the Masai Mara, but had a fear of the balloon coming down and being eaten by lions!

Most romantic hotel I’ve stayed in - a French chateau in the Loire Valley. It presided over the tiny village, offered the most amazing meals and had genuine Louis XVI furniture, as well as a four poster waterbed!

Most romantic beach holiday destination - it has to be Bora Bora (I’ve still never been, but am dying to go). Closely followed by the Maldives (I’ve still never been there either!).

Most romantic outdoor vacation - wild camping in Scotland (although I am sure other places would serve equally well). A good stock of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wine, a fishing rod (for other half to use - although I did catch 3 fish, too - my first ever attempt), a good book, to sit by the lochside and read until darkness falls, whilst sipping wine, and a half decent tent to safeguard you from the elements. NB: downside: insects and no en suite bathroom! Also, make sure you have plenty of snacks, as if you get rained off, and have to snuggle inside the tent, you can’t use your stove! Pringles and chocolate come in really handy...

But I suppose the bottom line is you can be in the most ‘romantic’ place in the world, but if you’re not there with the right person...
Susan Buchanan is the author of two books, The Dating Game, about a workaholic recruitment consultant, who hasn't had much luck in the love stakes so far, so she decides to join a dating agency for professional people, and Sign of the Times, a contemporary romantic drama based mainly in Scotland and Italy. Susan currently resides in Central Scotland. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

To celebrate St Patrick's Day, let's get to know some Irish chick lit authors a little bit better. Irish chick lit is very popular, so this is a great time to learn more about these authors and this area of chick lit. Enjoy!

Marian Keyes, one of the most successful Irish novelists of all time, studied law and accountancy until she started writing short stories in 1993. She did not plan on writing a novel, but sent her short stories to a publisher with a note saying that she had started working on a novel. When the publishers replied asking to see the novel, she began to write what became her first book Watermelon. It was published in Ireland in 1995, where it was an immediate success. Its appeal spread to Britain and Marian's book are now published in thirty-three languages. Her eleven novels include Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel's Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There, The Brightest Star In the Sky and This Charming Man. All of her books are bestsellers around the world, selling a total of twenty-three milllion copies to date. Anybody Out There won the British Book Award for popular fiction and the inaugaral Melissa Nathan prize for Comedy Romance. This Charming Man won the Irish Book Award for popular fiction. Rachel’s Holiday is being developed for film while Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married has been made into a sixteen part television series. Watermelon was a made for TV movie in 2003, and Last Chance Saloon became a French film called Au Secours J’ai Trente Ans in 2004. In addition to novels, Marian writes short stories and articles for various magazines and other publications. She is also involved with various charities. She was born in Limerick in 1963, and spent her twenties in London, but is now living in Dún Laoghaire with her husband. 

For fourteen years, Claudia Carroll played the part of Nicola Prendergast in the long-running Dublin soap opera, Fair City. She wrote her first novel, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me in her dressing room when she was supposed to be learning her lines. It was published in 2004 to critical acclaim and became an instant bestseller. In 2005, she followed this up with The Last of the Great Romantics, which became another bestseller. The following year, her third book, Remind Me Again Why I Need a Man was published and then optioned by Fox for a TV series in the US allowing Claudia to quit her day job and write full-time. In 2007, her fourth novel, I Never Fancied Him Anyway was released and became another bestseller, which was optioned by CBS for a movie. The movie is currently in pre-production, with a screenplay adapted by Academy Award nominee, Robin Swicord. In 2008, her fifth novel, Do You Want to Know a Secret was published and remained on bestseller lists for several weeks. In 2009 and 2010, she followed this up with If This Is Paradise, I Want My Old Life Back and Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother. Claudia was born in Dublin, where she still lives and where she’s worked extensively both as a theatre and television actress in addition to writing novels. 

At twenty-one years old, Cecelia Ahern wrote her first novel PS, I Love You, which was sold to over forty countries and was also made into a film of the same title starring Hilary Swank. PS, I Love You was one of the biggest-selling debut novels of 2004, reaching number 1 in Ireland and in the UK Sunday Times bestseller list. It was also a bestseller throughout Europe and the USA, staying on the best-seller list in Germany for over 52 weeks. In November of 2004, Cecelia's second book Where Rainbows End (Love, Rosie/ Rosie Dunne in the US) also reached number 1 in Ireland and the UK, remaining at the top of the Irish bestsellers list for 12 weeks and again a bestseller internationally. Her third book If You Could See Me Now was published in November 2005, became an international bestseller, and was optioned for film. Cecelia won the 2005 Irish Post Award for Literature and a 2005 Corine Award for her second book Where Rainbows End. In May 2007, Cosmopolitan US honored her with a Fun Fearless Fiction Award for If You Could See Me Now. Cecelia’s fourth novel, international number one bestseller, A Place Called Here (published under the title There’s No Place Like Here in the US) has been optioned by Touchstone for a TV Drama series. Cecelia was a co-creater and producer of the ABC half-hour comedy television show, Samantha Who? Cecelia has also contributed short stories to anthologies for which all her royalties go to charity. Cecelia's fifth novel Thanks for the Memories was published in April 2008 and was nominated for a British Book Award for Most Popular Book. Her sixth novel The Gift was published in October 2008 and was the second highest selling hardback of the year in the UK. She was voted Author of Year in the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in 2008. That same year, Cecelia's first play, Mrs Whippy, a one woman show, opened and is currently touring Ireland. Cecelia's seventh novel, The Book of Tomorrow is available now. 

Cathy Kelly began her journalism career at the Sunday World, Ireland's biggest tabloid newspaper. While still a journalist, she decided to start writing a novel. Her first novel Woman to Woman went straight in to the Irish bestseller list and stayed there for eight weeks. Since then, Cathy has written ten more novels. Once In A Lifetime, her tenth novel, was published in paperback in September 2009 and went to number one within days of its release. Her books are international best sellers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Her upcoming novel Homecoming will be released later this year. Cathy is also an Ambassador for UNICEF in Ireland helping to raise awareness of children orphaned in Africa through Aids. Born in Belfast, she currently lives with her partner, John, and six-year-old twin boys in Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Sinead was born and raised in Dublin where she grew up watching her mother write children's books. From then on, her dream was to write a novel. At the age of thirty, while working as a journalist in London, she began to write creatively and joined a creative writing group. Her first novel The Baby Trail has been translated into twenty languages. Her second book A Perfect Match (The Right Fit in the US) has been published worldwide. Her third novel From Here to Maternity is the final instalment of the Emma and James trilogy. Her fourth book In My Sister’s Shoes is about two sisters who help save each other. Her fifth book has been published under two different titles: Whose Life Is It Anyway? in Ireland and Keeping it in the Family in the UK. Her sixth book, Pieces of My Heart, about a family dealing with a terrible crisis, has recently been published. Sinead moved back to Dublin where she lives with her husband, two sons and baby girl.

Sarah Webb is the author of nine bestselling novels including Always the Bridesmaid, Anything for Love, and The Loving Kind. Her books have been published in many different countries including the U.S. and Indonesia. She has also written many children's books, has contributed short stories to several collections and has compiled and edited two charity collections of her own. She writes a popular series for readers ages 10+ called Ask Amy Green. Three books in the series have been published so far. After attending Trinity College in Dublin, Sarah worked in publishing for many years as a children's book buyer. She now combines writing with schools visits, speaking engagements and giving workshops at festivals, and reviewing children"s books for the Irish Independent. She has also run many successful readers' days and is on the board of Children's Books Ireland. Sarah is currently working on her tenth adult novel and her fourth Ask Amy Green novel. She lives in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, with her partner and three children. 

Are you a fan of Irish chick lit? Which books have you read? Who are your favorite Irish authors? Are there any Irish authors that you would add to this list? Leave a comment & share your thoughts with us. Thanks!

Author Fun

Hi readers!

We are going to start posting author spotlights soon. These will be posts about chick lit authors so we can all learn more about their backgrounds and their books. We are also hoping to interview authors and share those interviews with you. If you are interested in learning more about a specific author, please let us know and we'll do our best to feature your favorite author here. Let us know if you have questions or topics relating to authors and their careers that you would like us to focus on. If you are an author and want to participate in this, please contact us.

Email us, send us a tweet, write to us on Facebook, or post a comment here and help us make this new addition to our blog something fun and interesting for everyone. Thanks!

The Chick Lit Bee Team