As a person who writes fiction, reading about writers feels a bit dirty, a bit too self indulging. Still, I’m not one to say to to some generous self care, and – more importantly – I’ve been privileged enough to run across and enjoy these three novels about writers who are neither male, nor middle-aged, nor facing a long-term writer’s block, nor about to be tortured. (Yikes.)
#1 Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. I’m not sure I could even find a novel to top this one, but I’ve sure stopped trying. Looking back at it through the years, I can now spot the “cliches” and the tropes, but also how great the writing still is and how effortless the humour still reads. Welcome to Temptatio was the first novel in the genre (contemporary romance comedy) I remember reading, and the one that made the greatest impact on me both as a reader and a writer. Because it was so freaking hilarious. Because its FMC was tough as nails. Because its MMC was intelligent and genuine. Because it was kinky (by pre-Ao3 ratings, mind you) and because it focused on orgasms, not penetration. Whaty’s there not to like? Also, the plot is so over the top, the dialogues all around incredibly witty, and the idea of found family – something I’ve inadvertanty bought into through my own experience and my partner’s appreciation in the years inbetween – rings even truer today. My favourite parts remain Sophie being a great (albeit overprotective) big sister to Amy, and – as a close second – the Dempsey pool training.
Why I’ve loved the writer plot: I’m a fan of morally ambiguous characters, and I’ve loved how Sophie had to skew her own worldview to write the best damn script she can. Also, the way she sees the world – through quotes and movie references – is something I relate to. And then there’s the best quote about writing sex scenes I’ve ever read – one I cannot note here because I only have the Croatian edition of the novel on hand. You’re gonna have to go and find it in the book by yourself, something I most definitely recommend, no matter your stance on the romance genre.
#2 For Every Solution, A Problem by Kerstin Gier. I don’t recall much about this novel (I’ve only read it once, years ago) other than it did wonders with the idea of writing mass market vampire paperbacks (what we’d call paranormal romance, these days). It’s originally a German novel, and its pacing is a bit different than what I’m used to. What I recall liking the most were the FMC, who’s more of a “regular” person than usual (I have a distinct feeling of her body being described as something a lot closer to mine than your “average” American heroine), the wonderful “goodbye letters gone public” trope and the fact that she a) writes for a living, b) writes pulp paperbacks for a living and c) writes vampire romance pulp paperbacks for a living. Yum.
Why I’ve loved the writer plot: Years before I’ve evet imagined I could write for a living, years before I’ve started identifying as an artist-of-sorts (a close friend was honestly surprised by the fact that identifying as an artist is a new thing for me, because she’s seen me as one ever since day one), this quirky novel about the insides of a pulp publishing house and the many reasons novels – as well as genres – get both rejected and commissioned was rather amusing. Bonus points: every book has its readers. And I mean that: every. book.
#3 Smut by Karina Halle. This was rather recent (last Thursday?) and rather unexpected. Being a public librarian, every few
daysweeks I run into a freshly returned book I simply cannot refuse. Still, reading in more popular genres, at least in translation, is rather risky nowadays because production is going up, and translation rates keep going down for the many people working in publishing in Croatia. End results may vary. (Also, I’m always a bit weary of reading extra popular het these days – which a book most often has to be, to be translated for such a small market – because there are still so many archaic tropes floating around that I simply cannot stomach. YMMV.) I love reading new adult every now and then, and a romance novel about fresh writers – the romance part was actually great here, too, since I had no issues whatsoever shipping the MCs – who end up writing porn for money and fun proved an intriguing concept. I still have issues with the MMC – not sure if its a het thing, or a “redemption arc” thing – but it didn’t stop me from having fun with this novel. (Bonus points for the author being Canadian. I blame my appreciation of the fact on Queer as Folk and Michelle Lovretta.)
Why I’ve loved the writer plot: This was such a refreshing take on writers – which came to me at such a refreshing time – that I’ve laughed aloud in the moments which felt so much like breaking the fourth wall. Having read a few of the novels referred to in this book (not by title, but by genre) and being a big hater of Fifty myself, I’ve had such a good time here. Because, for all its many failings, Fifty did one thing exceptionally well – it helped create a wideapread market for porn (oh, excuse me, did you want me to tone it down to erotica?) not only written exclusively for women, but one that is more socially acceptable for women to even buy. Sure, I haven’t been around for Claudine (making a guess here, haven’t read it) or any the numerous “problematic” fiction of the last century. I’m a part of the generation which had to endure through tomes upon tomes of other genres to get to the few-and-far-inbetween porn scenes in other novels aimed at a primarily female audience. Guess what – these days have long since been done and over with, and reading Smut made me feel even more aware and grateful for that. Here’s to the future!