I don’t write ‘crap books’, thank you very much…

Last week, my book cover was wrongly featured in a blog post on The Spectator website, along with covers of authors I know and love. The article wasn’t even about our supposed genre, so I can only assume our covers were used as ‘click-bait’. We were accused, by implication, of writing ‘crap books’. So, I feel I have a right to reply…

The header image used in The Spectator blog article, Let me introduce you to ‘sick chick lit’ has now been changed to a stock image. But this is the image originally posted (thank goodness for Google’s image caching):

Spectator blog article header

(Books featured above: Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson; Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood; Christmas at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown; Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley; Just for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey; Beyond Grace’s Rainbow by Carmel Harrington; Bridget Jones – Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding; and Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara.)

The article was supposed to be about the author’s dislike for Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep, which, she appeared to be arguing, represented a cynical plot by publishers to extend the chick-lit genre (whatever that actually means) to books with a domestic violence storyline. So why our book covers were used is a mystery. But the inference in the article was that women’s fiction books (into which many varied female authors are lumped together as ‘chick-lit’ by lazy journalists) were crap: “Chick lit has its place,” the author stated. “I’m not being snobby about crap books.”

I don’t write crap books, thank you very much.

Neither do any of the authors featured in the original header image to that article. Had the author of the piece actually bothered to read any of the books, she would have found stories of women empowering themselves, bucking the status quo, refusing to put up with crap jobs and unreliable partners, overcoming fears and growing as individuals. Yes, there might be romantic threads in the books. Yes, the protagonists may be female. But the stories are inspiring, entertaining, thought-provoking and relevant to the lives of thousands of readers. And that seems to be the main crux of the article writer’s problem.

“The basic chick-lit plot centres on getting a man, keeping a man or coping with a man when he leaves you/is being a total bell end,” the article states. Well, in that case, Take a Look at Me Now is not a basic chick-lit plot. It’s about a woman who, when life deals her a blow, refuses to lie down and take it and instead takes control back by doing something just for her. In the course of that experience she reconnects with an ambition to start her own business, which empowers her to make it happen. Yes, there is a romantic sub-plot, but whether she ‘gets a man’ or not is an added extra, rather than the main event (and, crucially, is her choice, adding to the empowerment theme).

What I strongly object to is the idea that only self-appointed literary ‘experts’ can dictate what readers should be reading. That reading should be a joyless slog; and that, by definition, any enjoyment one finds within the pages of a book is instantly unworthy. Great stories are those which meet us where we are and take us somewhere else - they challenge, amuse, terrify along the way but, most importantly, entertain us. And great stories do not fit in genres defined by the media or publishers. Real readers know this already – and the reason books like those featured above are popular is that readers connect with the stories within and recommend to other people. Readers are savvy, intelligent individuals who will seek out great stories, without having to rely on self-important ‘experts’ to help them.

I would hazard a guess that Take a Look at Me Now was used in the header because there is a woman with a handbag on the cover. Let me let you into a little secret here: I hate that handbag! I argued against it, not least because my protagonist Nell never goes shopping in the book, but also because the woman is too thin and at no point in any of my novels do I prescribe body shape (or have my protagonists obsessing about ‘big bums’). The point is, authors rarely have a say in book cover designs, a bi-product of which is that it unfortunately allows literary snobs to make idiotic snap judgements about our books without reading them.

As I said in my comment on The Spectator article, it would seem that the old adage, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is as pertinent today as it ever was. So, dear ‘literary commentators’, please let readers decide what is worthy of their time – and stop decrying the sheer pleasure of reading!

Here It Is!

Well, the wait is FINALLY over! I am over the moon to reveal the cover for I’ll Take New York!

I’m chuffed to bits with it and can’t wait to see the finished paperback cover with its gold foil stars and lettering. It’s out with the eBook and audiobook on 4th December, but you can pre-order it NOW at Waterstones, Hive.co.uk, The Book Depository, WHSmith and Amazon.

Here it is! Let me know what you think, lovelies! x

ITNY Final Cover

Miranda Writes 31 – Could YOU appear in Book 7?

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, I have an amazing competition for you…

I also have another exclusive extract from  I’ll Take New York

I’ve been offering opportunities for my readers to #getinvolved with my books for three years now and I love the way your suggestions spark ideas that feed into my stories. But I’ve never offered a competition like this before. I’ve written a couple of real-life lovelies into my books in the past, but never opened this up to everyone. But I’ve decided to do it now as my way of saying thank you – not just for supporting me and my books for six years, but also for coming with me as I move publishers at the end of this year. Book 7 – Anna Browne’s amazing story – will be my first book for Pan Macmillan and the beginning of a new era for my writing.

So please watch the vlog and then tell me why YOU should join Anna in her story. Leave a comment below or tweet me (using the hashtag #getinvolved). Go for it!

A BRILLIANT book year…

adore books. I’m pretty sure the reason I am a writer today is because I was introduced to books from an early age – and that passion for great stories has never left me (as my bookshelves will attest). This year has been a great year for reading, not least because having Flo has meant I have pockets of time to read during her naps.

And what a year for books so far!

I’m very fortunate that now I’m a published author I’m often sent proof copies of new books and this year I’ve been blessed with some amazing reads. I’ve also been indulging my love of bookshops, which has led to a book-buying curfew for the next few months while I read all the books in my TBR pile.

I was thinking about this today, particularly how blessed we are as readers with the wealth of brilliant writing in the UK and beyond. So here are some of the stand-out novels for me so far this year, both books I’ve received and books I’ve bought – every one a must-read!

GLAZE – KIM CURRAN

GLAZE

GLAZE is a dark, twisty thriller set in the near future, where everyone is connected to the internet via a chip embedded in their brains. It’s a concept that isn’t so far removed from recent reports of technology being explored by Google, Facebook, Amazon – after all, Google Glass is one step removed from the premise of GLAZE. Kim’s writing is phenomenal – I say this not only as her friend but primarily as her avid fan. Breathlessly exciting, utterly original and if it isn’t adapted into the next big Hollywood smash hit film, it will be a crime!

FALLING – EMMA KAVANAGH

Falling

Falling is the kind of psychological thriller that holds you in its grip until the last page. Emma Kavanagh’s debut novel is fantastic, bringing together the stories of a group of characters united by one, horrific event. What I loved most about it was the human element of the story – each character is so well drawn – and the pace of the novel is amazing. I can’t wait to read more from Emma!

THE MEMORY BOOK – ROWAN COLEMAN

Memory Book

I sobbed my way through The Memory Book earlier this year. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story that I found incredibly moving and profound. I love Rowan’s writing and am proud to call her my friend, but this book is a step above anything she’s ever written before. It’s the kind of book you recommend to everyone you know – my mum is now a big fan because I raved about the story!

A HUNDRED PIECES OF ME – LUCY DILLON

A Hundred Pieces of Me

A Hundred Pieces of Me is profoundly affecting and gorgeously written. I read this on holiday, just before Flo was born, and was utterly engrossed in the story from the first page. I love stories with a theme of rebirth and redemption and this book was a wonderful study of what life is really all about. I loved Gina’s search for herself after years of living for other people and her decision to redefine her life. It’s a beautiful book, sensitively written and gloriously imagined.

THE ACCIDENT – C.L. TAYLOR

The AccidentWhen my lovely friend Cally told me she was writing a psychological thriller, I couldn’t wait to read it – and boy, was it worth waiting for! It’s been a very long time since I haven’t been able to put a book down but The Accident was one of those books. In fact, I found myself reading it while making a cup of tea, last thing at night and first thing in the morning for two glorious days! It’s the kind of twisting, chilling story that wraps itself around you and pulls you in, with a protagonist I was fascinated by but didn’t really know if I should be trusting. Brilliant, brilliant storytelling!

DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES - RACHEL COHN & DAVID LEVITHAN

Dash and Lily's B of DI’ve been following the #bookadayuk challenges on Twitter and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares kept coming up. Being a fan of New York, especially books set there at Christmas, this sounded right up my street, so I treated myself last week for a journey down to London. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a sweet, hipster-y tale of two teenagers who don’t think they fit in, finding each other first through words and then through New York experiences. Think Gilmore Girls-style sass meeting Dawson’s Creek teen self-awareness, wrapped up in a cute story with more than a dash (no pun intended) of New York magic. I read it in a weekend and it was a real treat.

WHERE LOVE LIES – JULIE COHEN

Where Love Lies

Every once in a while, a book comes along that blows you away. For me this year, Where Love Lies has been that story. I’m a huge fan of Julie’s writing and I know personally how much love she invested in writing this book. But even given that I adore every word she writes and love her as a dear friend, I wasn’t prepared for how utterly wonderful her latest book would be. Here I’m going to run out of superlatives and be unashamedly fan-girly, but I truly believe this is Julie’s best book yet. It’s raw, unafraid and intensely challenging. The story constantly surprises and I found my assumptions being called out throughout the book. It’s so different, so affecting and so exquisitely written that I know it’s a book I will return to again and again.

I’m a big believer that you can’t be a great writer without being a great reader first… These books have entertained, challenged, gripped and delighted me this year and I have loved every one. Much has been written about the ‘death of books’, but while stories like these exist in  the world, readers will be blessed. It’s an exciting time to be an author and an even more exciting time to be a reader: I’m looking forward to see what the rest of this year brings!

Miranda Writes 30 – Do writers need agents?

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, there’s another chance to #getinvolved with Book Seven and I talk about whether writers need agents…

Thank you so much for all your fab entries for last week’s #getinvolved challenge – I reveal the winner in this week’s vlog! I’m loving writing Book 7, even if it is currently in snatched hours between nappy changes and feeds… I’ve another chance for you to appear in the book this week, which I tell you all about in the vlog.

This week’ question is one I’m asked a great deal: do writers need agents? I’ve been on both sides of the fence – without an agent for my first two book deals and with an agent for my third – so hopefully I can shed some light on the pros and cons. The lovely lady who asked this week’s question is the wonderful Joanna Cannon, who is a phenomenal writer. Click here to visit her website and read some of her work.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, ask me! Leave a comment below this post, email me at mirandawurdy@gmail.com or tweet me @wurdsmyth.

Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled:’The Invisible Chihuahua’

Miranda Writes 29 – Overcoming ‘The Fear’…

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, I have another #getinvolved challenge for Book Seven and talk about facing The Fear as a writer…

I’m getting back to work after a few wonderful months of new-mum-hood and this week have been checking the page proofs for I’ll Take New York – which has been lovely and scary in equal measure. It made me think about The Fear – a phenomenon known only too well to writers. How do you keep writing when the doubts creep in? When the inspiration won’t come and you’re staring at a blank page? In this week’s vlog, I talk about how I tackle The Fear.

Talking of finding inspiration, have YOU booked your ticket for one of my WriteFoxy! Writers’ Inspiration Days in November and February yet? They’re going fast for both dates, so don’t miss your chance to be inspired, fired up and have your love of writing rekindled by an amazing line-up of speakers. All the details are HERE

So, here’s this week’s vlog – enjoy!

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, ‘Si-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ing!’

Miranda Writes 28 – Meet Jake Steinmann

All this year I am vlogging about the writing and publishing of my sixth novel, I’ll Take New York. This week, I have another exclusive extract for you, plus your next chance to appear in Book 7!

Thank you all so much for your brilliant coffee shop suggestions for my first #getinvolved challenge. It was a tough decision, but I have a winner at last… and I’ll tell you who they are in the vlog!

I thought it was about time I introduced you to Jake Steinmann – Ed’s brother from Fairytale of New YorkI’ll Take New York is written from both his and Bea’s perspectives – I haven’t written anything from two points of view before but as soon as I began to write the book I felt that I wanted to take readers inside Jake’s head as well as Bea’s. Jake is travelling from his home in San Francisco back to his birth city of New York after his beautiful wife Jessica unexpectedly files for divorce. He is reeling from the revelation, having believed they had a perfect marriage, and chooses to return to New York to be close to his family and start his business again. It’s a painful decision, but to stay in San Francisco is unthinkable if he has to live there without Jess…

“He could stay in San Francisco, pretending that life was untouched by his wife’s decision to leave him. But he knew, deep down, that to stay in a city in which every street, sidewalk and brick seemed imprinted with her name would be the end of him. Better to nurse a broken heart on the other side of the country…”

The full extract is in the vlog – hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think…

M xx

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, “Ee by ‘eck, look at tha’ cap, lass…”