I read this post on BigAl’s Books and Pals this morning about what exactly is the difference between Chick-lit and Romance? Most of the talk centered around the tried and true formulas we all know.
Romance: Man and woman face some obstacles, steamy sex scenes (with no genitalia actually mentioned), happily ever after.
Chick-Lit: Narrator is a 20-30 something woman who suffers comedic hijinks to end up with a happy ending.
In the comment discussion, one commenter pointed out that Chick-lit and Romance are both under the umbrella of Women’s Fiction, but that Chick-lit gives an author more freedom with "happy ending." The main charcter could get the guy, the promotion, realize she’s better off without him, change careers altogether, etc.
I am hopeful that with more self-publishing, independent authors will step up and challenge the boundaries of these genres. So many genres are the result of formulaic, publishing guidelines produced to promote a bottom line, not necessarily literary value. Need proof? How many chick-lit titles have you read are based in either London or New York and involve the publishing/advertising/public relations world in some way? Me? Too many to count.
Where are the chilck-lit stories about women working in engineering? Or the romance stories about a passionate, frenzied tryst that ultimately fizzles out because most people can’t sustain that level of lust?
Much like other facades the traditional publishing world has hid behind (like the famous "It costs more to produce an ebook than a printed copy""), these genre formulas are going to be torn apart. They have lasted because authors were told "We did the research and this is the story arc the readers will read." Really? So why is self-published erotica suddenly leaping off the sales charts? The very same stories the publishers said the majority of readers won’t touch?
I am working on my own attack of these genres with my first novel. I talk about this on my own blog. My "chick-lit/romance" is from a male POV, placed in the engineering world pandering for defense contracts, and doesn’t end sappily, happily ever after. And I don’t think readers of either genre will have a problem with this, because the love story is one that is modern, relatable, and realistic. The escape part is that my readers will be relieved this isn’t their life.