Meredith Schorr explains why real-life emotions are the anchor of her books.
One of my best friends is fascinated with serial killers. I don’t mean she thinks they’re “cool” or strives to be one, but she is intrigued by the workings of their mind and their motivations. Where she enjoys True Crime and can binge-watch Forensic Files and America’s Most Wanted, I prefer back-to-back mushy romance movies on The Hallmark Channel. Although we call each other “soul sisters” since we have shared similar experiences in our lives (often at the same time) and just “get” each other, where I’m often light and fluffy, she is sometimes dark and brooding. She doesn’t typically read chick lit, but she makes an exception for my books. She says she appreciates the realism I bring to my characters as opposed to more “glamorous” chick lit. BUT … she has asked me, not once, not twice, but MANY times if I could include a darker element in my novels, for instance have someone die a brutal death or at least kill someone off. I’ve always let her down easily with the answer, “it ain’t gonna happen.”
My first three novels are classic “chick lit.” My forthcoming novel is a bit more serious women’s fiction, but while it tackles heartbreak from a romantic standpoint, that is where the grief begins and ends. Some people shed a few tears when they read chick lit, but it’s usually the result of a sappy happily-ever-after, not because a character is diagnosed with a serious illness, hit by a bus, or some other tragic circumstance. This is one of the reasons I’ve always chosen to deny my friend’s request. I don’t write thrillers or mysteries, and I don’t think tragedy necessarily belongs in a chick lit novel.
Another reason I’ve refrained from dealing with death in my books is that every mental state I’ve bestowed upon my characters thus far — insecurity, lust, frustration, rejection, abandonment, fear, jealousy, betrayal etc — is one I’ve lived through myself. I was able to draw from my own library of experiences to give my books authenticity. True grief, however, was not something I ever truly experienced until recently when my best friend and boss of eighteen years lost his battle with cancer last month. I’ve had friends lose parents, best friends, and other integral people in their lives in the past and I’ve heard people speak about deep, tragic loss on the news, but while I always sympathized with these people, I couldn’t put myself in their shoes and empathize because I didn’t “get it” – I didn’t know what devastating loss really felt like.
My friend Alan is the first person I’ve ever lost. Although I mourned the death of my grandparents, it was different. I loved them, cried when they passed away, and missed them (still do sometimes), but it was not the same. I guess I accepted their deaths as a part of life. Alan, on the other hand, was not old. He was not supposed to die for decades. He was supposed to live a long, happy, healthy life, attend his son’s weddings (and mine too) and become a grandfather and maybe even a great grandfather. He wasn’t supposed to be diagnosed with the most aggressive form of leukemia and lose a year-long battle after months of chemo therapy and a bone-marrow transplant. His death was tragic and unfair and broke my heart in a way that, right now, seems irreversible. He was my boss for eighteen years, but more than that, he was my best friend. For those of you who watch Grey’s Anatomy, he was my “person” like Meredith was Cristina’s “person.” He was my go-to guy for advice, guidance, comic relief, and even therapy and I loved him so very much. The grief over his death is a weight that I carry with me constantly. It is exhausting, seemingly never-ending, and it physically hurts. Most of us can imagine what it might feel like to lose someone we really, truly loved, but only when it happens do you know. And once you know, everything is different. I’ve had the loss of breath and the anxiety attacks; the uncontrollable sobbing that hits you out of nowhere; the inability to “get happy;” the fleeting moments of feeling “okay” and the sudden reminder that things are not “okay” because my closest friend is gone forever. I think back on my friends and colleagues who have lost someone over the years and have a new understanding of their pain. It’s like I’ve become a member of a club I never wanted to join.
The point of this post, besides being a total buzz kill (sorry), is that my characters to-date have run the gamut of emotions, including, insecurity, wishful thinking, infatuation, embarrassment, and shame in a true-to-life way because I’ve always been inspired by real life. I’ve been rejected by men; I’ve spent months wasting my time overthinking and over analyzing the behavior of men who were not worth it; I’ve been happy for my friends who have found “the one” while at the same time wondering when it’s going to be my turn; and I’ve experienced the joy of requited romantic love (albeit temporarily in my case so far). Now that one of my favorite people in the world, perhaps the favorite, is gone and I know what true grief feels like, I’m certain I could include a darker layer to my novels with an equally believable character. I probably won’t because, as mentioned above, I don’t think this particular form of heartache belongs in chick lit, but perhaps someday, I will spread my wings and grant my friend’s wish with a more serious novel.
What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out. A chick lit enthusiast since the first time she read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim, with her blog, Pastel is the New Black, has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that “chick lit is dead” once and for all.
Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm. While Kim’s day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged) associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most-hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book that’s turning heads – and pages – across the land. It’s also popped into Kim’s inbox – for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim’s coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book.
And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.
A born-and-bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to, and was famous among her friends for writing witty birthday cards. After trying her hand writing children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing “real” chick lit for real women. When Meredith is not hard at work on her current work in progress, she spends her days as a trademark paralegal. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. Her novels include A State of Jane, Just Friends With Benefits, and Blogger Girl.