Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Origins of Fantasy Hen Lit

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 13 comments

by Guest poster Joanne Guidoccio
From the start, I knew there would be problems when I combined genres. Unlike other fantasy and science fiction writers, I didn’t want to focus exclusively on the out-of-world elements. Instead, I wanted to write the kind of fantasy I could actually sit down and read. I’m one of the few people on this planet who could not read past Chapter 1 of the first Harry Potter novel. I also avoid books that feature werewolves, vampires, witches, and other dark creatures.
This begs the question: Why write fantasy?
My response: Why not write light and breezy fantasy for boomer women who are also seeking hope and inspiration?
So, I sat at my computer and came up with a contemporary version of my favorite fairy tale: The Little Mermaid. While the original version by Hans Christian Andersen always fascinated me, I struggled with the ending. I wanted a happily-ever-after ending for the little mermaid and the prince and could not wrap my mind around this depressing prediction
You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds, and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.(Hans Christian Anderson,1836 )
But when the Disney version was released, I still wasn’t satisfied. I realize now that I wanted to read about a different kind of mermaid, one who could enjoy a happy and successful life, with or without the prince. And maybe one who wasn’t quite so young or so beautiful.
Keeping this vision of an older and wiser mermaid firmly in mind, I wrote Between Land and Sea, Book 1 of the Mediterranean Trilogy.
In my early query letters, I described the book as urban fantasy. After reading and rejecting the manuscript, one agent commented that my novel was a bit too light to be considered urban fantasy. She recommended I use “contemporary women’s fiction with fantasy elements” in future queries. After using that mouthful several times, I reverted back to urban fantasy or simply fantasy. I was happy and relieved when senior editor Debby Gibson classified Between Land and Sea as a paranormal romance.
But some confusion followed when the book came out on Amazon. One friend confided: “When I heard it was a paranormal romance, I assumed you were writing about witches or werewolves. I’m so glad to hear you’re writing about mermaids.”
Still wondering about the “right” descriptor, I started reading articles about literary genres that focus on older female characters (aged 40+) as protagonists. In these books, several themes are addressed, among them giving birth after age forty, dealing with three generations living in the same house, and dating after divorce or widowhood. Terms such as “matron literature,” “hag lit” and “hen lit” are bandied about in the literature. I immediately dismissed the first two and focused on “hen lit” as an apt description for Between Land and Sea. To address the mermaid element, I added fantasy.
In The Coming of Arabella (Book 2 of the Mediterranean Trilogy), I continue with the fantasy elements and add a psychological twist: Arabella is somewhere on the Narcissism/Sociopath continuum.
Ideas are percolating about Book 3—The Making of a Mermaid Psychic – fantasy hen lit with a New Age flavor. Hmm...I may need another descriptor.
On the day of her engagement party, an ex-mermaid’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of another mermaid—a sister she has never known. Under normal circumstances, Barbara Davies would be overjoyed, but her special day is already wrought with tension. While Barbara is not the first mermaid from the Mediterranean kingdom to settle in small town Ontario, she has yet to reveal her origins to her fiancĂ©. So when Arabella, the gorgeous sister whose disturbing black eyes banished her to the island of Crete, saunters into her life, clutching the arm of Barbara’s discarded lover, a powder keg of emotion is released.
Relationships falter and careers stall as envy stirs in the hearts of the sisters. On the verge of meltdown after her fiancé leaves Canada for a teaching job in Vermont, Barbara flees to Arizona hoping for a reprieve. There, she finds solace at a retreat for ex-mermaids and a second chance at love with a charismatic preacher. As she contemplates a new life in the desert paradise of Sedona, shocking secrets emerge and tragedy strikes. A stronger and wiser Barbara rises up to face these new challenges and embrace the best parts of her mermaid heritage.

Connect with Joanne
Website:  http://joanneguidoccio.com/
Amazon: http://is.gd/onbces
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Thank you for being here, Joanne. I love the term Fantasy Hen Lit.
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  1. Thanks for hosting me, Sue. I love visiting your blog! :)

  2. Labels! So tough to find a shorthand description for something that takes such a long slog to create. If it could easily be reduced to one or two words, you wouldn't need to write the whole book. Best of luck, Joanne, with the new release.

    1. So true! Unfortunately, editors, publishers and the folks at Amazon and Barnes & Noble like and need those labels. Thanks for dropping by, Gay :)

  3. I had heard Hen Lit but not Hag Lit. That's awful! I wonder why they don't just use "Boomer Lit." Anyway, I love your premise (again) and can't wait to read this. As you know, my sisters and the guy got all tangled up in my novel, too. :) I still haven't gotten to your first one. I got so bogged down with promised reviews and other commitments but I'll get to them!!! Best of luck to you, Joanne. You are a whirlwind. I don't know how you have the time to write several books and still maintain such a strong social media presence. My hat is off to you. P.S. The Harry Potter books held no interest for me either so you're not alone. :)

    1. Thanks Beth! There is a movement to get more recognition for boomer lit. That would certainly make things easier for those of us feature older protagonists. I must confess...Lately, I've been doing less writing and more tweeting. Need to course correct. Joanne :)

  4. Can't wait to read it Joanne. Love the blurb!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! You've been a wonderful companion on the journey. Joanne :)

  5. Hmmm. Hen Lit works. I'd describe a book like yours as possibly... Realistic Fantasy. Don't know if that is even a category!
    I have struggled with genre labels myself and finally found supernatural suspense. Not 100% with it yet.
    Can't wait to read yours!

    1. Realistic fantasy...an oxymoron! I agree that supernatural suspense is a good descriptor for your books. Thanks for dropping by, Anne :)

  6. interesting inspiration


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