The serious side of women’s fiction – Amanda Brooke
By Amanda Brooke
As soon as I mention that I’m an author, more often than not, the first question I’m asked is what kind of books I write. Well, I write Commercial Women’s Fiction, but that is such a broad genre that it doesn’t feel like a satisfying answer and little wonder. ♥
If you’re looking for a definition, you’ll come across many differing opinions about what should and shouldn’t be included under this umbrella term. The Romance Writers of America organization describes it as, “a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship.” But then I’ve also come across definitions that simply describe it as any fiction marketed towards women.
So it’s not surprising that the follow-up question will be, ‘What kind of Commercial Women’s Fiction?’ Ah, now there’s a question.
I find it easier to start off by saying what I don’t write. My novels are contemporary so I can quickly rule out historical fiction, and although my stories will involve relationships, my character’s love life isn’t the central theme so it’s not Romance either. And my writing is neither light-hearted nor humorous which is what readers tend to expect from ChickLit, so I can cross that one off the list too!
What I can say is that there will be lots of drama, strong focus on family and sometimes an element of mystery too. But my reply when asked is far simpler. I tell people that I will probably make them cry.
I love nothing better than writing novels that take my characters on an emotional journey and the reader along with them. I get a real thrill from reading back a scene that gives me goosebumps and yes, occasionally I cry too. I don’t shy away from subjects that can be incredibly painful; separation, loss, illness and death. But while these are issues that we wouldn’t want to experience in real life, I think it’s good to immerse ourselves in a fictional world where we can experience those emotions in a safe environment.
‘I do think that sometimes we need to hear about someone else’s troubles to appreciate what we have.’
I love getting feedback from my readers and one thing I hear time and again is that, yes I made them cry, but they also found my novels uplifting. And once in a while I’ll be told that something I’ve written has touched a nerve with a reader, the story will connect with them on a level that even I couldn’t have predicted and I can’t tell you how thrilling that is. By drilling down into the emotions of a fictional character, we can occasionally find parallels with our own lives and our own emotional journey, and when it comes to emotional journeys, I know what I’m talking about.
If you’ve read my biography you’ll know that I didn’t start writing until quite late in life and even then, it was with no aspirations of becoming a novelist. I began writing to survive the trauma of discovering my baby had leukaemia and then having to stand back while he fought the battle of his life only to watch helplessly when he lost that battle before reaching his fourth birthday. Nathan is the reason why I write and undoubtedly the reason I’m not afraid to explore those subjects that can tear at your heart.
I do think that sometimes we need to hear about someone else’s troubles to appreciate what we have, and if that’s what happens when you read one of my novels then my son has influenced yet another person’s life and that’s all the incentive I need to carry on writing.
Reading books like mine is hopefully like going on an emotional version of a rollercoaster. We go on those rides because we want to experience the fear and excitement of falling only to be lifted upwards again, and we want to feel that sense of exhilaration when we step off the ride.
So I won’t apologise for making you cry, in fact I hope you do because I think you’ll feel all the better for it.
Amanda Brooke is a single mum in her forties who lives in Liverpool with her teenage daughter Jessica. It was only when her young son was diagnosed with cancer that Amanda began to develop her writing, recording her family’s journey in a journal and through poetry. When Nathan died in 2006 at just three years old, Amanda was determined that his legacy would be one of inspiration not devastation. Her debut novel Yesterday’s Sun was inspired by her experiences of motherhood and her understanding of how much a mother would be willing to sacrifice for the life of her child.