Monday, 7 January 2013

Writing the Dark Side of Chick-Lit

A Guest Post by Anna Bell
I think that a lot of non chick-lit readers think that everything between those bright pink covers are fluffy and light-hearted, but so many chick-lit books have a darker topic within. My new novel, Don’t Tell the Groom, does too. Penny, the main character, has gambled away £10,000 on internet bingo. The challenge for me when writing the book became: how do you write a laugh-out-loud comedy centred around such a serious topic.

I picked online gambling as a theme for Don’t Tell the Groom as I’m always fascinated by the bingo adverts on TV. Bingo ads are often an assault on the eyes with all the bright colours, and the people in them are always having ridiculous amounts of fun playing it. The adverts always got me wondering - behind all the flashing lights and jollity, surely there has to be a darker side to it? A quick search on the internet soon revealed that gambling addiction amongst women was on the rise, and online gambling was one of the main causes.

I knew then that if I was going to tackle gambling, I had to do it both sensitively but also as accurately as I could (without becoming a bingo addict myself). I asked a friend to introduce me to one of their friends who I knew had had an online gambling addiction. The friend was amazing, they told me all about their motivations, the ramifications of the gambling, and their treatment. I think what hit me the most about the addiction was how secret it could be. Unlike alcohol, drugs or smoking, there are no physical signs that a person has a gambling addiction. And especially with online gambling no one needs to see you do it, and with mobile apps, it can be done anywhere.

After realising just how serious the consequences were, I had to create a balance between portraying the addiction well and remembering that I was writing a romantic comedy, not a tragedy. I tried to keep the humour to a minimum in the scenes where Penny got help with her addiction. But I couldn’t lose the humour entirely or else it wouldn’t have fit with the rest of the tone of the novel.

It is the first time I’ve challenged myself as a writer to tackle such a difficult topic. I guess now, it’s over to the readers to judge whether I got that the balance between sensitivity and humour right!

Here's the Amazon link for Don't Tell the Groom

Anna's website: www.annabellwrites.com

10 comments:

D.J. Kirkby said...

I am so glad this novel is finally available to buy because I loved the opening chapter you posted on your website! I'm off to buy my copy now.

Flowerpot said...

This sounds great - straight on my TBR list!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I'm glad to hear you're tackling such an often destructive subject, Anna. I get very worried for people when I see all those ads for online gambling.

Mama J said...

Chick lit doesn't have to be light and fluffy (you only have to look at a lot of Marian Keyes' work to see that). Good luck with 'Don't Tell The Groom' (which I happen to know is a fab read).

Karen said...

Very topical at the moment Anna, I was listening to a debate about online gambling this very morning.

The book sounds great, and you're right that a lot of chick-lit deals with much darker issues than the covers may suggest!

Teresa Ashby said...

This sounds like a great read. I enjoy chick-lit that has a darker side. One for my Kindle list I think :-) x

Debs Carr said...

Thanks for your comments ladies. I've bought a copy of Anna's book for my Kindle and I'm loving it.

Chris Stovell said...

Congratulations to you, Anna - and three cheers for raising this issue! I've tackled some pretty dark areas myself so I do gnash my teeth a little bit when so much of women's fiction is dismissed as superficial. Here's wishing you and 'Don't Tell the Groom' every success.

Anna Bell said...

Thanks so much Debs for hosting me in the Plotting Shed, and for all the lovely comments ladies x

Anita Chapman said...

I enjoyed finding out more about how you wrote 'Don't Tell the Groom' Anna. It must have been difficult dealing with such a topic, but it sounds as though you've researched it thoroughly by talking to someone who knows so much about it. Wishing you lots of luck.