Women’s Character Fiction–What is it?

I write fiction that aspires to be literary, meaning that it’s well-written in terms of vocabulary and style, but not high literary, meaning its fairly accessible to a person of average education and intelligence, but some of both is required. My agent has called it “women’s fiction” because she thinks it is the kind of fiction that book clubs, often comprised of mostly women, like to read.

The central characters in my novels are most often strong women, and often they confront the same issues faced by contemporary women: career choices, childlessness, errant children, emotional or physical abuse, illness, relationships, dying parents, etc. Every time she says “women’s fiction” I wince, because I think for many “women’s fiction” equates to “romance” or “chick lit for elders” and my books fall into neither genre.

Because my novel Warming Up will be published this fall by She Writes Press, we were noodling the other day a different way to describe my fiction. “Book club fiction” sounds a bit like it may be a digested or lowest-common-denominator version; “character-driven” fiction is too much of an insider’s term; “feminist fiction” is fairly accurate but has connotations these days of a stridency not found in my novels—they aren’t polemics. We came up with “women’s character fiction,” which is closer. What do you think?

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