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The Rise of ‘Up Lit’: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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Hazel Gaynor © 11 September 2017.
Posted in the Magazine ( · General Fiction · Interviews · Women's Fiction ).

Whatever your opinion of them, publishing trends, genres and sound-bitey tags are as much a part of the industry as the words in our books. Starting with Chick Lit in the late ‘90s, we’ve most recently seen the rise of Grip Lit, a term coined in response to the success of psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Since I couldn’t write a psychological thriller if my life depended on it (oh, the irony), I’ve watched this latest trend sail by (ditto Vampires and Erotica), ever hopeful that someone will coin a natty phrase for books about the Titanic (Ship Lit, anyone?), or novels set in Victorian England (I still have high hopes for Vic Lit).

But despite being somewhat off-trend, I’ve stuck with what I love, writing historical novels with a big heart, because I’ve always passionately believed that books like mine – gentle, uplifting, emotional – would, one day, have their moment. And, hallelujah, the latest literary trend is one I can definitely hang out with.

‘Up Lit’ is the new literary buzz word, described in a recent Guardian article as a trend for books with an emphasis on empathy, books that are uplifting and life-affirming, and which explore themes of family bonds and the human spirit. Publishers attribute the growing appeal of uplifting fiction to a direct response among readers – and writers – to the turbulent times we live in. Bestselling British authors like Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Matt Haig (How to Stop Time) and Joanna Cannon (The Trouble With Goats and Sheep) have already been linked to the Up Lit trend. Closer to home, my shelves are full of novels by Irish authors like Monica McInerney, Sinead Moriarty, Carmel Harrington, Kate Kerrigan, Ciara Geraghty and Ann O’Loughlin, all of whom write beautifully tender, uplifting novels. Of course, books with empathy, humour and kindness at their core are nothing new, and I’m sure our beloved Maeve Binchy would be greatly amused by the notion of this ‘new’ trend. Perhaps it isn’t new, so much as an industry acknowledgement of an increasing desire among readers, for gentler, quieter books, as well as the pacy unputdownable thriller.

On a personal note, I’m delighted about Up Lit because it is the first literary trend I can truly relate to as both a writer, and a reader. My latest novel The Cottingley Secret is about many things, including fairies (I’m not sure you can get much more ‘up’ than fairies), and the power of hope and belief. It is also an unashamed love letter to bookshops. The qualities of Up Lit encapsulate everything I love about books, and everything I hope to capture in my own writing. With the world as it is right now, it’s perhaps no surprise that readers are looking for an antidote to bad news, or that they want to escape to a brighter, more compassionate place in their fiction. I certainly want readers to put down my book with a smile on their face, perhaps a little something in their eye, and above all, a sense of quiet empowerment in their heart. While I still hope Fairy Fic is about to have its moment (never say never), for now I’m very happy to be aboard the, well, happy train.

(c) Hazel Gaynor

About The Cottingley Secret:

In her latest novel, The Cottingley Secret, the New York Times bestselling author, Hazel Gaynor, turns the clock back to a time when two young girls convinced the world that fairies really did exist…

1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Order your copy online here.


Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME (for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award) and A MEMORY OF VIOLETS. Her third novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller and was shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book Awards. Hazel’s books have been translated into a number of foreign languages. In addition to THE COTTINGLEY SECRET, Hazel will also release LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (October 2017, co-written with Heather Webb). Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. She is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative, New York. For more information, visit www.hazelgaynor.com

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