I’m going to admit to something that may make me sound like a book snob. Several reviews of my last books, the Evolve trilogy, described them as Chick-lit, and I was devastated. While I’m certain some meant it as a compliment, there was one in particular that stung. It was short and sweet – “This is Chick-lit. Not for me.”
I remember reading it, frowning, jerking my head back, and thinking, is that what I am? It certainly wasn’t what I initially set out to write. Or was it? Truthfully, when I first began my writing journey, I barely considered what genre I’d fall into. I knew I wasn’t going to write about wizards or aliens. That was already done. I simply planned to write a story about people. I wonder, though, was it something to which I should have paid more attention? – decide what type of writer I’d be before I knew myself?
It’s sort of like telling a child that when they grow up, they’ll be stubborn or calm or determined when in reality, it’s often our experiences that form us. Was it wise to allow myself to develop into a writing genre rather than force it? And if so, was mine to be chick-lit?
Let’s face it, it’s a sort of derogatory term for such an extensive category, a fluffy description to dismiss the experiences of half of the population. I couldn’t help but feel belittled by the tag despite knowing that some of the most adored authors in the world exist successfully within it.
If I really want to lay it bare, I could add that if my books had sold millions, including the movie rights, and I was currently driving about in a Swarovski encrusted Hummer, would I actually care? Probably not! But from within the constraints of “struggling author” at the very beginning of my career, having spent two years elbow-deep in the process of learning my craft, it bothered me.
Looking at it from a glass-half-full perspective, the term ultimately refers to women’s literature – their lives, their hopes, dreams, shortcomings, fears, hurdles. It’s a big business, and I am a woman. Is it any wonder that while I learned how to write – the discipline involved, the planning required, that I stuck within an area I feel most comfortable with? Write what you know, they say, so I did! Despite any label, I was proud of what I’d achieved in a relatively short space of time.
I once heard David Walliams say that if you were prepared to believe positive reviews, you had to be open to the bad ones. Isn’t it odd how we can obsess over one slightly negative statement amongst a plethora of positivity? I heeded his advice, but before planning my latest book, I also revisited the good reviews.
In doing so, I noticed a common thread. Repeatedly, readers claimed to enjoy the unexpected twists in my writing. It got me thinking. If I continued to apply the twists while darkening the story, perhaps I could slip sideways into a different genre – one in which I might feel more challenged. Or, in other words, throw in a dead body and try something new!
Unexpected Events was conceived during the unforeseen event of the pandemic. Locked-down, I started thinking about the life events that irreparably alter us – in particular, those that come about when we least expect them. Life can change fast, and often we have no other option but to go with it and attempt to keep up. I’m always fascinated by the occasionally small actions that can alter the course of our lives. What if we never met someone? What if we decided to stay home that day? What if we listened to that advice from a well-meaning friend?
For Seren, the lead character, one decision rocks not only her world but the lives of three other women who she never knew existed. I liked the idea of an almost unimaginable tale unfolding in the life of a very unassuming woman from Cork. Extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people. After innocently sending an email from her husband’s laptop, the discovery is made, proving that we just never know what or who is right around the next corner and that some people are dangerous.
Although this book is undoubtedly darker, I wanted to preserve some of the lightness from my other books peppered amongst the sinister themes. I can’t change who I am, after all. I’ve learned that no matter what you write, you must stay true to yourself. To me, life is a mix of light and dark. If I’ve learned anything, especially of late, it’s that even in the darkest of times, throughout immense sadness, there is laughter – sometimes nervous laughter, but laughter nonetheless!
After all my worrying about being labelled Chick-lit, Unexpected Events can probably slot into many genres. The finished product is mystery, thriller, romance, perhaps even … chick-lit. I’ve come to terms with the label, possibly even embraced it. What really matters is that, as always, I wrote it from the heart. Just like me, and perhaps every other woman (or chick) out there, like the song goes, this book is a little bit of everything all rolled into one. And that might just be its most remarkable quality!
(c) Judith Cuffe
About Unexpected Events:
One wrong decision can shatter everything.
At one time, happily married to Frenchman André, and running a wine shop in Ballycross, County Cork, Seren’s world feels small yet perfectly formed.
Things can change fast. In the aftermath of a devastating unexpected event, Seren loses all faith in life and her future. Tired of letting fate dictate, she takes matters into her own hands and soon learns that fate and faith are two very different things.
The discovery of an email destined for her husband shatters her world further. In order to decipher the mystery behind it, Seren leaves behind her comfortable life in Ballycross, to travel to France. Unwittingly she places herself into a dangerous game that she never even knew existed – one where the winner is already determined.
Four women. One man. Four very different stories: greed, revenge, love, loss. But who is telling the truth? Just how far is she willing to trust the man she loves? Till death, or beyond the unexpected?
Order your copy online here.