Jane Green: Chick lit ‘has changed a lot in 18 years’

Temping Fate
“Tempting Fate” is Jane Green’s 15th novel.
Credit: Ian Warburg

Back in 1997, when Jane Green released her first novel, “Straight Talking,” there was no such thing as chick lit. Green, along with a few other authors at the time, is among the founders of what went on to become a billion-dollar genre.

“Helen Fielding wrote ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary,’ and ‘Straight Talking’ came out three or four months later, and there were a couple other books in England that came out around the same time,” Green tells us. “A newspaper ran a double-spread article about us and said we had created this new genre, ‘chick lit.’ And that’s really how it started.”

Green has made a career of writing commercial women’s fiction and is releasing her 15th book, “Tempting Fate,” on March 25. According to her, writing for women now is very different than it was 18 years ago. “When I first started writing, [chick lit] was aspirational. You had these huge, sexy, glitzy sagas about women who conquered the world. They weren’t very real, but they were huge fun. I think what we did was introduce a genre that really held a mirror to women, and held it with great honesty and humor,” she says. “I don’t think there was a genre of books where women were able to read and say, ‘I’ve been there. That’s exactly what my life is like.’”

Her new novel is about infidelity, full of so many “what if?”s and “then what?”s that make it impossible not to devour in just a few sittings. As Green has gotten older, so have  her characters. The principal character in “Tempting Fate” isn’t a 20- or 30-something trying to figure out her relationship status; it’s a woman in her 40s on the brink of a midlife crisis.

“My days of writing about women in their 20s and 30s are over,” Green says. “I’ve always drawn on my own life. … All of a sudden in my 40s, I noticed a number of women who announced they’d been unhappy for years and, unbearably, it turned out these women were having affairs. I started to really look at female infidelity, and in particular what happens to a woman in her 40s. Why am I seeing so many women being unfaithful? What is going on?”

Green is contractually obligated to release two books a year, so even though she is just now celebrating the release of “Tempting Fate,” her 16th book is already done and she’s at work on the 17th. “My next book is called ‘Saving Grace’ and is about an older man married to a younger woman. They take on an assistant who seems perfect in every way, but within a short period of time she starts systematically destroying their lives,” she reveals. Sounds just about right.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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