Thursday, October 18, 2012

Talking Women's Fiction with Guest Carla Stewart

Happy Birthday, Seekerville! Five years??? I can hardly believe it. I remember you way back when . . . 

I’m so honored to be here for the celebration (and cake!) and talk about the genre that I love – Women’s Fiction. 

What is it? And why do I write it? Gosh, let me count the ways . . . Really, I’m going to duck and let some of today’s fabulous writers of Women’s Fiction share their thoughts. For starters, I’m calling on the pros: the recent Women’s Fiction finalists for the Carol Awards. Yes, these ladies are the best of the best. 

Meg Moseley, debut author of When Sparrows Fall (way to go, Meg!) on the reason she writes Women’s Fiction: “I write women’s fiction because it lets me explore big themes and important issues within the framework of relationships that might or might not include romance. In real life, ‘true love’ isn’t limited to romantic relationships, but can also include the bonds between parents and children, between siblings, and between friends. In women’s fiction, all these bonds—and the forces that would destroy them—provide endless possibilities for meaningful stories.” 

Susan Meissner, a former Carol winner and a finalist this year with A Sound Among the Trees, says she likes the RWA Women’s Fiction’s Chapter’s definition.  “…[it’s] 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…” Susan added, “The RWA definition goes on to include a detail about a romantic thread that is of course the heart of RWA and that the broader definition of Women’s Fiction doesn’t necessarily have. But I really like the idea that Women’s Fiction is about a woman or women in the crucible of change. I am drawn to Women’s Fiction when I shop for books to read, so I guess it stands to reason I would also be drawn to them when I sit down to write.” 

Lisa Wingate, author of Dandelion Summer, had this to say: "I think the things we choose to write about come from our passions. I'm passionate about the lives of women and families--about the struggles we all face and the joys that are part of our lives. I want to create books that are entertaining, but also good for the soul-- that don't leave readers feeling sad or disappointed, or wishing they hadn't read the book at all. I think we are all called to add something good to the world, to inspire and uplift, to add our colors to the canvas. I have met so many people who have wonderful ways of doing that. I admire them. I want to be like them. I love to write about them." 


The judges of this year’s Carol were unanimous – Lisa received the first ever PERFECT score in the history of the Carols to bring home the trophy in Women’s Fiction! Congratulations, Lisa. 
Well done. 

I’m a little afraid after that to offer any wisdom or my measly thoughts about Women’s Fiction. I just know that it’s a story that’s heartfelt and emotional. Even so, I’m going to try and distill it down for you. 

What does a WF novel look like? It may include one or more of the following with possible scenarios. 

  • Woman in marriage – marriage stale, infidelity issues, sandwich generation, chronic disease or end of life issues, crossroads, a child in crisis that alters family equilibrium, blended families, unequally yoked

  • Single woman – career woman looking for a change, perhaps the biological clock is ticking, a single parent (from death, divorce, or never married)

  • Identity – returns to roots to get back in touch with who she is. Flees to a new city/country/job to solve identity crisis. Career path is off track and there is a hunger to recapture joy. Often the theme of who she is in Christ.

  • Crisis – dealing with an unexpected crisis – late-in-life pregnancy, death of a loved one, a devastating diagnosis, guilt and/or blame over crisis situation, change in employment status, faith lost or newly realized in face of adversity.

  • Ethical dilemmas – gray areas in relation to same-sex marriage, right to life, quality of life, end of life issues. Often an inner struggle to sort out feelings and do that which is Biblically sound without damaging relationships. Often a bridge to healing and restoration rather than condemnation.

  • Addiction issues – alcoholism, pornography, gambling, approval addiction – may be personal issues or within the family or circle of influence.

  • Social causes – enlightenment over a social issue and becoming involved – often with resistance from family member or community or within the social issue itself. Can be anything from dog rescue to human trafficking. Generally done at the grass roots level and not through political channels keeping it personal and emotional. Event from the past may fire passion.

  • Romance – second chances, late bloomers, finding love accidentally, lifelong love – all can be elements of women’s fiction. While not following a set protocol for romance, women’s fiction can be infused with passion, surprise, and even a trip to the altar, but it’s not the romance that’s the knot to be untangled, but some other issue. And there doesn’t have to be a romance at all to be women’s fiction.

  • Secrets – becoming privy to a previously unknown secret, harboring a personal secret, having to reveal a secret that has rippling consequences. 

  • Humorous situations – any story can be infused with humor, and in dealing with tough subjects, this is a welcome relief to the reader. Protagonists who take their situations seriously but not themselves are often endearing and evoke reader empathy.

Deb Raney, veteran Women’s Fiction writer with more than twenty titles, summed it up well. “Women's fiction is any story that centers around the relationships in women's lives. Sometimes that includes their romantic relationships, but also relationships with their siblings, parents, best friends, children. Often women's fiction explores social issues. I write what I like to read. I've always been fascinated by psychology and the interactions women have with the people in their lives. Fiction is such a wonderful vehicle for exploring the ways women work out problems and challenges in their lives.”

Me again. 

Willingness to change, ability to perform heroic deeds beyond their own strength, and embracing new ideas are often hallmarks of women’s fiction. These are women we admire and would like to emulate. Their problems are real-world problems that we can relate to, things that we have thought about and dreaded happening to us personally, or things that we are currently experiencing in our own lives. Spiritual themes may be subtle or the entire novel may revolve around a particular spiritual point – it all depends on the story. Women’s fiction can empower, comfort, challenge, and bring us new perspectives. 

Whether you have a literary style, a spunky, humorous bent, or just love to tell a good story, you might try your hand at Women’s Fiction. One thing they all have in common – a powerful emotional experience. 

Debut author of Mother of Pearl, Kellie Gilbert, nailed it with this observation: “…a story about a woman (or women) that tells more about her inner journey than her outer experiences, where relationships are key and the journey evokes a lot of emotion.”

And when all is said and done, that’s what every good story is, isn’t it?

Happy writing . . . and reading!

BIO: Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She is the award-winning author of three novels and an alumna of the Guideposts Writers Workshop. As well as being an avid reader and coffee lover, Carla and her husband enjoy weekend getaways and the adventures of their six grandchildren. Stardust is her latest release. 

Carla is generously giving away a copy of Stardust her latest release from FaithWords to one Seekerville commenter today.
So let's start talking. Do you read Women's Fiction? Do you write it? What appeals to you about the genre?


Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Payton inherits the derelict Stardust Tourist Court from a distant relative. Faced with opposition from the aunt who raised her and others in the town, Georgia breathes new life into the cottages. 

The guests who arrive, though, aren’t what Georgia expects: her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past. Dreams of a new life are crippled amid the havoc. 

Georgia's only hope is that she can find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxie to face the future. One thing is certain: under the flickering neon of the Stardust, none of their lives will ever be the same.




  1. I love Vaudeville. I bet this was fun to write. I look forward to reading this story!

  2. Hi Carla! I don't read a whole lot of women's fiction, I've never read any of the author's you listed other than Deb Raney but I have liked almost every WF story that I have picked up including Broken Wings. I like WF because there really aren't any fairy tale endings but hopeful endings. These stories are closer to real-life than just about anything out there besides nonfiction.

  3. HI CARLA!!!!!! Welcome to Seekerville. I love all the ways you describe Women's Fiction.
    I'm a big Romance Novel girl but this is a nice setting for a book.
    I like it.
    I love the idea of exploring the emotional lives of women in a deeper way.
    Thank You!

  4. First of all, Stardust sounds like a fabulous book! And I'm a lover of its great cover. ;)

    Women's fiction is one of my favorite genres. I find solace, hope and inspiration reading (and writing) about female characters overcoming life's hardships.

    A woman is confusing, emotional, dramatic and hormonal--but also nurturing, selfless and compassionate. Her bonds are mighty and her love unmeasurable. The perfect recipe for a filling treat. ;)

    Thank you, Carla, for the opportunity to win Stardust! :)

  5. Welcome, Carla!!!

    I've always been a huge Woman's Fiction fan, but I hadn't actually read any CBA WF...until this year.

    I just finished Lisa Wingate, Blue Moon Bay and am reading Carla's Stardust.


  6. oops take that back. I read Myra Johnson. SEEKER!! She writes excellent WF.

  7. Check out Carla's webpage. It's just adorable.

  8. Hi Lisa & Carla:

    If Lisa drops by today I have this to ask:

    I worked on the Surveyor 4, 5, and 6 in 1967 and the Lunar Orbiter 3, 4, and 5 at the same time. I worked in the control center at JPL in the Bendix building. Did your NASA friend (Norm) mention how the Lunar Orbiter engineers ribbed the Surveyor engineers by wearing 100% Competition buttons? All the LO missions were successful but two of the Surveyors failed: 2 and 4. I thought this was really tacky of the LO people! (I was younger than Norm was back then).

    I just loved 99% of “Dandelion Summer”. I was enthralled by the alternating first person POV. I would give it a perfect 10, too, like all the Carol judges. However, I have one observation relating to Women’s Fiction: Since I read it on a Kindle. I was surprised when I discovered the story had ended. I thought there would have been more. Is this a function of Women’s Fiction? Are the endings significantly different in kind than genre romances? I just wanted to know more. Will there be a sequel with Epiphany having to deal with Norm’s death and her own entry into adult life? You may be done with “Dandelion Summer” but I’m not. : )

    Also could you talk about your choice of writing in alternating 1st Person POV? Have you done it before?

    Say hello to ‘Norm’ (I know that’s not his real name.)


    Please enter me intot he drawing.

  9. Thanks for the descriptions about Women's Fiction --I've heard about the genre before, but I never knew exactly what it would entail ... I've only read of few books that would fall into the genre.


  10. Hi Carla:

    I know I see you at the WIN ACFW meetings but I still have a few questions:

    Have your written any romances?

    Will you write any romances in the future?

    Do you take efforts not to make your novels too much like genre romances?

    Do your publishers do anything to alert readers that the books are not romances?

    I asked the last question because I read a great book, “The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches”, by LI (but it was a café!) and it just about drove me nuts because I could not figure out who the hero was. Only later did I find out it was not a romance! It was Women's Fiction! And here all this time I thought romances were women's fiction. : )


  11. I would love to win this as I have not reviewed any of her books. I do not write. Except for reviews on books I win and receive. I also share books with other.
    jrs362 at hotmail dot com

    I think I've been here all 5 years.

  12. Thank you, Carla, for all the information re women's fiction today. I'm filing it for future reference as it's the most comprehensive I've come across so far.

    MY WIP is women's fiction and it's my favorite genre to read, probably because I find relationships and inner journeys more interesting than outward action.

    Enjoy your book signing this weekend.

    God bless

    Ruth Ann Dell

  13. Oh, YES!!!!

    Huge fan of yorus, and of all the people who quoted!! (Except haven't read the debut author, just wrote her name down).

    A novel I wrote (that has remained unpubbed) is very near and dear to my heart. I sent it everywhere... and even got told 'no one reads women's fiction anymore'.

    HA! Maybe its time has come!

    I so love this post and all the insights into WF!

  14. P.S. I told my brother that I wrote women's fiction once and he said 'you mean a cookbook?'

    HAHA. What a kidder.

  15. I enjoy reading romances, yet not all of life can be wrapped up in a tidy bow. This is why I enjoy WF. It's a little more complicated but I love the realistic endings!

  16. Thank you Carla. I do enjoy reading Women's Fiction and I guess the reason is watching the characters deal with their issues and seeing them through to the final resolve of those issues. Thank you for sharing.

    Happy Birthday Seekerville!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  17. Happy Birthday Seekerville.

    A wonderful posting, Carla.

    Yes, I do enjoy reading Women's Fiction...It's 'real.'

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  18. Hi Cara,
    Great post and I do read women's fiction, but not as much as I used to. It's a matter of time, not a matter of interest. Although, with the definition you provided of RWA's vision of Women's Fiction, I'd say I'm living it!

  19. Oh, Carla, I love the idea of those guests! That simple blurb made me envision just what that could be like, LOL!

    Carla, I've read that WF doesn't sell well.

    True or false? In your opinion?

    Do you think it takes longer to establish your name in WF than in romance?

    And Connealy is being nice to you.

    Watch your back.

    Coffee is here!!!! Helen must be busy getting ready for her birthday... Or was that last weekend????

    Oh, sigh.

    I might be losing it.

    Anyway, a delightful magical pot of refills-itself coffee has arrived! Very "Once Upon a Time"....

    Carla, you always make me smile. Thank you for that!

  20. Carla, I love the blurb from your book.

    Vince's comment made me wonder: Do you write in first person POV? I thought all women's fiction was written in omniscient.

  21. I write women's fiction, I love women's fiction, and I'm writing in first person. Thanks for this wonderful, affirming post.

  22. All I really knew about WF was they had beautiful covers ALL THE TIME. I had a very fuzzy idea of what constitutes WF. Now it is much clearer.

    I see books for my book club in this post. Thanks for that alone! I have not read much of the genre but am going to have to read more for sure.

    Thanks again for a great post today.

    Peace, Julie

  23. Carla, thanks so much for all the insight into women's fiction which is my favorite genre. It's hard to get a good definition of what is entails.

    Stardust sounds wonderful!

  24. Carla, thanks for explaining this! I've got a story in mind that I've made notes on. I couldn't decide if it would be a romance or women's fiction. You've answered my question for me.

    I love the thought of a real-life hopeful ending.

    Congrats, Lisa!

    Thanks again for sharing with us today!

    Jackie L.

  25. Hi Carla! Thanks for a great post on women's fiction. I'm just a reader. Being a busy mom, its nice to "runaway" and read a good book. Stardust looks like one of those good books.
    Campbellamyd at Gmail dot com

  26. Good morning, Carla & welcome to Seekerville! I really enjoy women's fiction--the depth and variety of relationships and situations explored--so it really disappointed me when I recently heard CBA publishers are moving away from it because it's waning in popularity. I think as much as anything it's the price of trade paperbacks that hurt sales as its hard to find women's fiction in a more affordable mass market paperback.

  27. Good morning Carla, Women and fiction what good subjects for today. I enjoy reading and you have some really good authors that you put in your post. I would like to be in your drawing. thanks for sharing today with Seekerville in this special Birthday month...
    Paula O(

  28. I read about two women's fiction books a year. Hopefully, this year one of them will be Stardust, not because I think I'll win your give away but because I purchased it for my Nook after reading the back cover blurb!

    It sounds great! And I want to have plenty of time to savor it.

  29. Happy Birthday!!

    Please enter me in the giveaway of STARDUST. I love the cover.

    Silver's Reviews

  30. HI Carla, Welcome to Seekerville today. Loved seeing you at RWA in Anaheim last summer. The FHL meeting was lovely.

    What great descriptions of women's fiction. Thanks for sharing.

    Love the sound of your new novel. Better get on Amazon.

  31. Virginia, Hang onto that WF.

    The best thing in my humble opinion is to get your name known and then when you have a following, get that WF out there.

    WF is difficult to sell and it helps to have that name recognition already established. Then publishers are delighted to publish it.

  32. Great post! I love to read women's fiction, but I haven't actually written a WF novel--yet :) Your new novel sounds wonderful, and I love the cover!

  33. Oh, Carla, you're speaking my genre. I'm working on my first novel, and it's women's fiction. I loved how you shared what other WF authors think and feel about this genre, as well as all the elements that make Women's Fiction stories so good. Loved this post today!

    Your book sounds wonderful! And, I love that you are a coffee girl.

    As one who's still figuring this out, I'd love to know how you highlight the heroine's internal journey. I'm finding it tricky to highlight the internal journey as much as the external story. :)

  34. Hi, Carla! Thanks for sharing those great thoughts on Women's Fiction! I am glad we have you and these other great authors to write women's fiction, because I'm not sure I could do it! I like to have a serious issue or two in my romance novels, but to me, it's all about the romance! If I had a woman dying of cancer, I'd end up having her fall in love with her doctor and then get healed and lived happily ever after!

    You know I love you, Carla! Keep up the great work! Everybody loves your books. God bless!

  35. i do enjoy reading Women's Fiction, for all the reasons listed, but i read any for a while, and haven't reviewed many. So i need to check these books out of the library. Thanks for the great post and awesome giveaway. i would be honored to win.


  36. Good morning, Seekerville! What a great surprise to see all your comments first thing this morning!

    Christina - Congrats on being the first one here. I'd love it if you read Stardust!

    Hi Renee. How lovely for you to mention Broken Wings - another story close to my heart. Deb Raney was one of the first Christian women's fiction writers I read too. Great stories and a great lady!

    MARY!! Thanks for the welcome! I love romance, too, and especially your books!

    Oh C.E. you make me smile. My publisher does beautiful covers, and I hope that you love Stardust.

  37. Although I mainly read Historical Romance, I do occasionally read WF. The last one I think I read was The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. So I do like reading it!!


  38. Hi Carla:

    Correction: The Lunar Orbiter buttons read: 100% Completion not competition. They were not that tacky.

    Good morning Carla.

    Could you tell us the difference between ‘Women’s Fiction” and “Chick Lit”?

    Would you say that Myra’s, “One Imperfect Christmas” is “Women’s Fiction”? Can some books actually be both?

    Who do you see as the first “Women’s Fiction” writers?
    Do you consider Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Anais Nin to be “Women’s Fiction” writers.

    When I was in college I just loved “female subjectivism”.

    Thanks, you’ve told us a great deal about “Women’s Fiction” but there is still so much more to know.


  39. Carla, lovely to see you back in Seekerville! Thanks for the thorough look at women's fiction and the recommendations for some excellent books, including Stardust!

    I brought coffee cake made with buttermilk. Moist and still warm from the oven.


  40. Carla, thank you for this post. I was a little fuzzy on the subject before.

    Could you explain what a sandwich generation is?

  41. Oh Vince, you mentioned some of the writers I hated in college! That "female subjectivism" drove me nuts. It almost made me stop reading, and certainly derailed my writing dreams for a time - like 35 years...

    Yes, you've all had a glimpse into my dark past - but we won't dwell there :)

    I'm just beginning to enjoy Women's Fiction. It's not a genre I would normally choose to read (I was deeply scarred by my dark past!), but I'm warming up to it, and love a few of the books I've read.

    Thank you, Carla, for defining the genre. And your blurb about Stardust sounds so intriguing, I'll have to be sure to read it!

  42. This got me wondering if there is a Men's Fiction genre. I've never heard the term before, but according to Google, there is. I wonder how well it fares.

  43. Tina, you make me smile! Glad that you have found Women's Fiction! It's a great addition to any reading menu! And a million thanks for asking me to come today!

    Vince - I told Lisa where the party was so maybe she'll drop by later. Goodness, a pop quiz. I hope these aren't trick questions. I'll given them a shot, though.

    I once wrote a steamy romance and sent it to a Hollywood studio, but never heard back. I was twelve at the time, and perhaps the trauma of never hearing made me go in another direction.

    All of my books have romantic elements in them, and I love great love stories. My next novel has a great deal of romance, so I hope you'll look for SWEET DREAMS next May.

    Vince, I'm a storyteller, so I write stories that way. If one came out looking like a romance, then I guess I would. It all depends on the story.

    The publisher question I can't answer. Back cover copy should clue the reader in - I know it doesn't always. I'm smiling because you were confused about the hero. That's one of the things I love about WF - the surprise of not knowing where the story is going.

    Thanks, Vince! I always enjoy your questions.

  44. Good Point...wonder if there is Men's fiction. :)

  45. Lady Dragonkeeper - I'm glad this was helpful to you! Thanks a bunch for coming by!

    squiresj - As an author, I am most grateful for READERS and REVIEWERS! So appreciative. And if you get the chance to review one of mine, give me a shout! I'd love to hear about it.

    Ruth Ann, welcome to WF! Wishing you much success with your writing. Thanks for the compliment about the post. Every day when I read the paper, I see something that has the potential of being WF. There are endless possibilities!

  46. Virginia - I"m so glad you're a fan of WF. LOL about the cookbook story! I sent my first book everywhere, too, and was near the point of surrendering it to the trash bin when there was a spark of interest. You never know. Don't. give. up.

    authorkathyeberly - Variety in reading is good. Sometimes we just need a good romance. Sometimes something else. I'm glad you've found WF enjoyable.

    Cindy W - glad to have you at the party! Thanks for your comment.

    karenK and Lyndee - Welcome! Thanks for sharing. I think what we all dream of is the "romance" story, but we're all living "Women's Fiction". Y'all are teaching me soooo much!

  47. Good morning, Ruthie! You always make me smile, too. You are probably right about WF not selling as well as romance, since stats bear that out. There is probably a better possibility for a WF to break out and become a huge bestseller, though. Chip MacGregor talked about that on a recent blog post.

    The bottom line is, we all want sales figures that will allow us to continue writing. Having a recognized name helps you get there, but a lot of debut authors do well, too.

    Mary is ALWAYS nice to me, Ruthie! And thanks for the coffee - I'm headed for a refill!

  48. Bridget - My first three novels are in first person. My next one will be in 3rd with 2 POV characters. Omniscient is rare - I can't even think of one off the top of my head.

    Susan Codone - You're a girl after my own heart!!!!

    Julie Steele - I"m glad this was helpful to you! And it is true that WF works really well for book clubs!

  49. Great article, Carla! Thanks for writing it. One of the questions I hear most often is about Women's Fiction is... "So... what does that mean, exactly?" I love how you broke it down.

  50. Cara Lynn - so happy to be here and to hear about other WF lovers!

    Jackie, I'm glad this was helpful in helping you decide where to go with your story. Blessings to you as you write!

    Amy, I can relate to being a busy mom. When I had four little ones, all I wanted to do was escape sometimes. Thankfully, reading can help you do that!

    Glynna Kay - I think there's always room for great stories. I hadn't thought about the price of trades vs. mass paperbacks. Great point.

  51. Cara Lynne your books are romance to me. HEA. Don't you think so?

  52. So Carla, let me get you all comfy. Here's a tray of tea, and coffee and some pumpkin bread and zucchini muffins.

    NOW think I brought you to our lovely little town because I'm a nice little gal.


    I invited you because you are good at what you do so I want to pick your brain.

    Brain picking about to commence....

  53. Pantser or Plotter.

    Answer when Vince leaves the room.

  54. Tell us about a typical writing day for you.

  55. Now to the meat of the matter.

    When you write a WF of course you have GMC but how do you weave in the spiritual thread. Is it more organic, the heroine takes the journey and her faith walk is like a coat she wears. Very organic to the story.

    Or do you purpose to have a spiritual thread woven in.

    or perhaps each story is different.

  56. Pol, thanks for stopping by. Good luck in the drawing!

    Rose, you're a dear! Hope that you enjoy Stardust! Thanks for adding it to your Nook.

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for your comment. Stardust is one of my favorite covers, too.

    Sandra L - I so wanted to be at the FHL event. And thankful that they include WF in their categories. Great advice for Virginia, too.

    Annie, thanks for the affirmation that you like to read WF. Who knows? You might find it to be the perfect genre for you to write.

    Jeanne T - Congrats on getting started on your book. Since every heroine's inner journey is different, there's not a pat answer. One thing that is helpful is crafting subplots that somehow give resonance to what the protag is going through. It's easy to fall into interior monologue but that gets old quick, so making the external conflict strong enough and specific enough that the protag has to face her internal knot (whatever it is). Also, read other authors and dissect what they do. God bless!

  57. Well, Mademoiselle J Squires, let us know where you review and your full name. Let's chat.

  58. Omniscient POV. I haven't read an omniscient. Only first person. I thought only God and Vince got to write in omniscient.

  59. Melanie - LOVE you back! and HEA endings are good medicine!

    Marianne - going to the library is a great idea! Hope you find some WF authors that you want to review!

    Marissa! Thanks for coming by. I'm thrilled that historical novels are so popular. Mine are nostalgic (fifties and sixties), but a lot of my younger readers think they're historical - LOL!

  60. Vince - you're stretching my coffee-deprived brain cells. Chick lit is a sub-genre of WF. Think Bridgett Jones - snappy, self-deprecating humor, some slapstick elements. Probably less realism than serious WF, but there's still room for humor in any WF.

    Yes, Myra's book is definitely WF - and a great book!! Any WF novel can have romantic elements - inside of marriage or out.

    I'm passing on the first WF novel question. Maybe someone here today will have an answer for you. The first one I read and loved was THE SHELL SEEKERS by Rosamund Pilcher. Later discovered Anne Tyler and Barbara Kingsolver. And Lisa Samson in CBA.

  61. Hi Janet - I'm so glad to be here. And thanks for the snacks - my stomach was growling.

    Donna - the sandwich generation means a woman who is still raising her own children while taking care of her aging parents. She's in the "middle".

    Jan, love your transparency! There are some subjects that I have difficulty reading, too, not necessarily from past experience, but personal preference. Thankfully, there's room for everyone here! Let me know if you read Stardust.

  62. Good morning, Janet! So glad to be here.

    THANK YOU, Lisa, for writing great books and helping me out here!

    Tina - maybe Vince has gone for a morning walk.

    Mostly I'm a panster. Synopsis with beginning, plot points, and usually the ending. No chapter by chapter stuff.

    And thank you for your confidence that I know anything - ha! Some days I wonder why I do this thing called writing.

    You are correct in assuming the spiritual thread is organic and different for each story. I don't force the issue but examine how a character would respond to God in her situation - anger, confusion, surrender, seeking truth. Depending on the personality of the character that can be a quiet knowing and trusting faith or something more overt and dramatic. Much like real life which goes back to the basic premise of WF - real. Life changing. I'm not sure if this answers your questions or not.

    My grandchildren are visiting and they're getting a little restless, so we're off to partake in some real life fun. If I think of anything else, Tina, I'll share later. Ta-ta for now.

  63. Hi Jan:

    I think you just caused me to have an Epiphany! (And I don’t usually get to use the word ‘epiphany’ twice in one day in two different contexts!)

    You wrote:

    “Oh Vince, you mentioned some of the writers I hated in college! That "female subjectivism" drove me nuts. It almost made me stop reading, and certainly derailed my writing dreams for a time - like 35 years...”

    This caused a great insight! Back in the day, when I was a 25 year old graduate philosophy student, I stumbled upon the female subjectivists. It was like being transported to an undiscovered continent. I didn’t even know women with such rich and creative internal landscapes even existed! I wanted one for my own! I went on a reading spree just to be ‘close’ to the authors. Now that I think of it, the literature itself might have been god awful!!! But then that was over 35 years ago!: )

    Revenge: if you saw “Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen takes a shot at Djuna Barnes when the hero is dancing with her. I laughed so hard but the rest of the theater was dead silent.

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience with my first loves. At least now you don’t have to read any of their books. : )


  64. Hi Tina & Carla:

    I’ve been at the doctor’s all morning. He’s a new specialist to me and he looked over five pages of history and he said, “You have a lot of things wrong with you.”

    I said, “You sound like one of them romance contests judges.”

    He looks just like Santa Claus but he didn’t laugh. He just said, “We’ll have a talk after you have all these tests.”

    Carla: I must sound terrible if you think this is a pop quiz. It’s not a quiz if I don’t know the answers. Just answer anything you know and let the rest go.

    BTW: You mentioned “Bridget Jones's Diary” by Helen Fielding. It might interest you to know that Liz Fielding wrote a romance version of this theme in “City Girl in Training”. It’s a hoot if you know what is going on. Liz is a genius. She always has something else going on besides the story. She’ll write a contemporary but it will actually have all the elements of a Regency romance. This is to support your idea of having women write whatever they want to write.


    P.S. Just because I am the President of NAPP, the National Association for the Prevention of Pantserism, Tina gets after me. (That’s the subtext.)

  65. I would love to win,Enter me!!
    Thanks for the giveaway!!
    Sarah Richmond

  66. I love writing WF for all the reasons you mention. You get a chance to move deeper into the relationships that float around your characters. You can delve into your character's dreams and emotions and have more characters in your story. Of course, there are draw backs... like when you try to get it published and people are only looking for Romance.

    Yes my stories have Romance, but like you said it doesn't always have to be the driving force in the story. Romance is part of the story.

    thanks for sharing.

  67. "just because I am the President of NAPP, the National Association for the Prevention of Pantserism, Tina gets after me."

    It's that you also head the Pantser Police Dept. that worries me.

  68. Stardust sounds like a great book! I enjoy reading WF and appreciate your sharing with us today.

  69. Carla, I loved chatting with you at the 2010 and 2011 conferences and having you on the blog, you are such a gracious person. Women's fiction is making a resurgence, esp. Southern women's fiction. Many blessings!

  70. Carla,
    This is very helpful information. I wasn't sure what was included in WF, so I didn't know I'd been reading some. Probably my favorite in contemporary authors is Karen Kingsbury, but my all-time favorite to date is a series by Beverly LaHaye and Terri Blackstock, which chronicles the lives of 4 women in all the stages of life that women experience. It looks like I need to check out some of the titles listed here as well.
    Stardust sounds like a good place to start. I'm in.
    Ruth T

  71. Thanks for a great post, Carla! I was happy to read you are somewhat of a pantser, it makes me feel better about my inability to outline. I love to read Women's Fiction despite the fact that there isn't always a happy ending. I love to read romance when I need to have a happy ending.

  72. I loooove women's fiction. It's also what I write.

    Carla, thank you for all of those definitions. They really helped me see that I'm going down the right path. I have the beginnings of a relationship in my story, but it doesn't end with love, only with the promise of future love.

    And I have a male POV throughout the book, the hero's POV. Is that allowed in WF?

    My favorites have been Linda Nichols and Francine Rivers. I wish Linda still wrote. She did everything so well.

    Last winter I discovered Kristin Hannah and I'm slowly making my way through her stuff. So good!

  73. Oh Vince, I hope the tests don't reveal anything serious. And it's good when a doctor doesn't laugh at your lab work.

    I actually love your questions, and they made me think. Stretching is always good!

    Tina P - In a perfect world, the publishers would love everything we write. I've experienced what you're talking about - romance rules in terms of sales, but I like to think that just because most people prefer chocolate ice cream, there are surely a few who like orange sherbet.

  74. Thanks for all the info. I have put all these books on my must read list. I love to read so I will definitely be getting these books


  75. Thanks for all the info. I have put all these books on my must read list. I love to read so I will definitely be getting these books


  76. I read women's fiction because it is like watching movies in my head :0

    I have enough of reality every day so it is nice to hide away with characters in a book at times - and many authors have great messages interwoven in their stories

  77. YIPPPPEEEEEE!!!! My wonderful friend Carla is in Seekerville today!!!!

    And where have I been? Out running around doing errands and lunch with hubby. I can get away with that because yesterday I finished the "first" draft (that's if you don't count all the in-process revisions I always do along the way) of my book for Abingdon due Dec. 1.

    Anyway . . . women's fiction. Ugh. I love to read it. Love to write it. But just this week I've been having an email conversation with my agent about how WF is "in the tank."

    Of course she agrees all genres cycle in and out of favor, but clearly some of my favorite WF authors (Carla included!) are still finding homes for their books! What's a writer to do???

  78. Really? Woman's Fiction is down cycling. What is upcycling?

    I'm ready for Rom Com to come back.

    Usually downcycling means the market is saturated.

  79. Tina, I'm glad my comment was helpful. Realized I didn't answer what my writing day was like. I goof off terribly if I'm not on a deadline, but when I'm really pushing for word count each day, I use mornings for email, social media, and editing - all those left brain things. I do my most productive writing from two to six in the afternoon and for a couple of hours after an evening with my hubby. That's just what works for me. Thanks for asking.

    Thank you, Jamie, for your interest in Stardust.

    And Carrie - you're a gem! YES! Southern women's fiction seems pretty strong right now. Lots of good writers in the South turning out great stories which I love.

  80. Ruth T - I think what you're saying is that a good story is timeless - true for WF, romance, historical, etc. Thanks for sharing!

    Jill - Even if a WF story doesn't tie up all the threads, there is a satisfying ending, a sense of calm and hope for the future. The main plot must be resolved in a way that resonates. I'm not a fan of unhappy or tragic endings or those that leave me saying what??? Most WF I read (and write) does have resolution.

  81. Sally, welcome to the WF club. It sounds like you're on the right track. Yes, you can definitely have a male POV in WF. Some even get more than 50% and/or are the primary character. I have an idea that I've not fleshed out with that scenario.
    Best of luck!

    Melinda - these are some of my favorite authors so hope you find lots to love :-)

    Kim - that's EXACTLY it - like watching a movie in your head. Actually that's the way I write stories - like a movie. Sometimes even with my eyes closed which helps to dredge up expressions and engage the senses. Thanks for coming by!

  82. Myra, I wondered where you were!!! Since you were celebrating completion of a mss, I'll let you off easy this time!

    So sorry to hear that your agent thinks WF is toast. It certainly isn't in the general market, but I know CBA readers are different. And Tina, it can't be because the market is saturated, can it??? Still, agents do know how to gauge the pulse of the market (and who's buying). What did she think was selling?

    Snack time for the grandkids! (and maybe me).

    Tina - I've really enjoyed chatting. Thank you so much for giving the opportunity to share today. I've learned a lot and also gotten some fodder to chew on.

    I'll check in later.

  83. Welcome Carla! Great post today--thank you for sharing with us. I LOVE reading Women's Fiction and have thought about writing in this genre (rather than my usual historical/contemp. romance). After reading your post today (along with all those great comments from other authors too) it's looking more appealing. ~ I was happy to meet you (although briefly, LOL) on the elevator at ACFW last month (you were talking about how tired you'd be when you arrived home--which I could relate to!). Your book STARDUST sounds wonderful - Congratulations! Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  84. Carla said: "I do my most productive writing from two to six in the afternoon." That's me to a T! I'm usually just hitting my stride when hubby says, "Ready for supper???" But I can't get back into writing in the evening. By then my brain just wants to veg out with a good TV show.

    As for what my agent says is really selling right now . . .


  85. Thanks, Carla. What a wonderful article. This is a topic near and dear to my heart.....I'm a READER of women's fiction. It's what I write. I love exploring the heart matters in a woman's life and how she relates to others, especially in tense situations.

    I especially find the recent stats from BOWKER interesting....that many Christians who love women's fiction find their stories in the general market where "upmarket women's fiction" is a hot genre right now. Authors like Kristin Hannah, Elin Hilderbrand and Jodi Picoult might fit into that category.

    I'm hoping the genre will grow in the CBA so there will be high-quality stories without some of the elements many of us don't care to read.

    I love your books, Miss Carla. And books by all the authors cited in your blog post have cozy homes on my book shelves.


  86. I am a reader and I just wanted to say, Congrats on 5 years Seekerville!

    Thank you Carla for your post.

    I like reading women's fiction books. I love when they have some romance in them. I love when they have a message in them of forgiveness, faith, truth, and trusting. I love when my emotions are put to the test!


  87. Kelli Coates Gilbert, thanks for stopping in! Your debut book sounds wonderful. Wishing you continued success!!!

  88. Thank you, Judy and thanks for stopping by!!!

  89. Carla,

    A great exploration of what women's fiction represents. I love reading romance, but I do read the occasional women's fiction novel and usually love them.

    May your newest book be a huge success!

  90. Patti Jo (CatMom) - LOL on the ACFW conference. I was tired when I got home, but it was that contented exhaustion of being challenged and spending quality time with the people who get me. Thanks for joining in the conversation, and you never know - maybe WF is your genre.

    Myra - from one sluggish morning person to another - I miss you! I know, you're tired of hearing that.

    Romantic suspense? Wow. Great news for all the wonderful suspense authors. I get chills just thinking about it - haha!

    Kellie, my friend! Thanks for stopping by and especially remarking about the upmarket fiction. I said in an earlier comment that WF was strong in the ABA, but I didn't expand on that. Thanks for filling in the blanks on that. And yes, I read a lot of that, but sometimes it makes me squirm - would love to see more CBA WF writers get picked up. Your Mother of Pearl is a great example of that.

  91. Hi Judy! Isn't it great when a story has all the elements we love come together? Romance and enlightenment about the emotions/situations in real life. Thanks for a great comment.

  92. Aw, Dianna, thanks for the well wishes. And thanks for dabbling in WF. I hope that you find a lot to love.

    Again, Tina - I'm truly honored to be here sharing Seekerville's birthday month. What a journey you've all had! Here's to another five years of even greater success! Love you all!

  93. Myra- Thanks for the latest update. I'm excited now because I'm trying to find a home for my romantic suspense! Very encouraging!!

  94. Yes, I read women's fiction, though the main woman in my life wonders about me from time to time when I do it.

  95. Just remember, you can't write to what's selling NOW. Because what readers are buying now is what was contracted for publication 1-2 YEARS ago.

    So write the stories God gives you to write and trust Him to open the right doors at the right time.

  96. Love WF...and I know guys who read it too! You'd be surprised! Keep them coming!

  97. Thank you for being with us today, Carla,and sharing your insights!!

  98. Good gracious. Before reading your post, I would have said I don't read women's fiction ... but as soon as I saw the author's names, I realized I do. Thanks for the enlightenment!

    Now to read comments ...

    Nancy C

  99. CARLA!!! WOW ... I will be the first to admit that I am generally not a women's fiction reader because romance is front and center for me in both reading and writing. I like to joke that I was stunted in growth at the age of 12 when I read Gone With the Wind, ruining me forever for mature writing like women's fiction! :)

    But although I don't read it all that often, I have to say that some of the most profound books I have ever read are women's fiction -- everything by Patti Lacy, Susan Meissner's The Shape of Mercy and Myra Johnson's One Imperfect Christmas, to mention just a few.

    I TOTALLY agree with Lisa when she said, "I think the things we choose to write about come from our passions." I concur and believe God places that specific passion in each of our hearts, be it for the reality of women's fiction to heal hearts ... or the "Calgon, take me away" style of romance I write, infused with the spiritual lessons I've gleaned in my marriage and relationships over the years.

    GREAT POST, Carla!!


  100. Carla,
    I'm stopping by late, but loved your post. Also loved the blurb for your story, which sounds wonderful.

    Thanks for being with us today.

  101. About WF, I *think* could be wrong on this but I read somewhere that when the economy is bad romance since it's such a great escape tends to sell really well so maybe that's why WF isn't selling since it's more true to life? Like I said could be really wrong on that LOL.

  102. I've often wondered what classifies as Women's Fiction. This is a wonderfully helpful post. Thank you!!!

    Stardust looks like a VERY interesting novel! Love that cover!

  103. Terrific article. I would love to win the book.
    I can't wait to start writing. :)

  104. I do read Women's Fiction, or what I now know to be Women's Fiction.


  105. I have read Meg's book and it was very interesting! Would love to win Carla's book too!

  106. Carla,
    What a great post! I enjoyed reading the Carol Award finalists opinions and your explanations as well.


  107. Dianna - you go, girl!! Sometimes getting a contract is a matter of timing - maybe the time is right for you.

    Walt - love that you read WF. My husband does, too, occasionally, and I like being able to discuss books with him. Maybe it's a trend :-)

    Great advice, Myra! Trends come and go, and there's nothing more frustrating that being stuck with a manuscript that so last week.

    Nancy C - this made me smile. Actually any books that women read could be called WF, right??? Guess it's all in the label.

    Julie! I always enjoy your refreshing view of life and writing. And, of course, romance. It would be a dull world if we all wrote and read the same thing. Variety is the spice of life, eh?

  108. Hey, Debby, good to see you. Thanks for your encouragement. I think you'd like Stardust! Let me know if you get a chance to read it!

    Great insight, Renee. I've heard that, too, about the economy driving the choices people make about what they read. Amish and the desire for a simpler life, for example, is one that's enjoyed a huge wave. And romance would fall in there, too. Not to say that there's not an audience for WF which offers hope and insights for today. Thanks for sharing.

    Natalie, glad this was helpful. Would love it if you read Stardust! Truly.

    Thanks, Jan and Mary!

    Sheila - I loved Meg's book. And she's a sweetheart, too!

    Edwina, the Carol Award winners are some of today's best, so I was interested in what they had to say, too! Not that I had selfish motives or anything .

  109. Great post. I think you captured the essence of women's fiction.

  110. Terrific post! Made my cup of coffee go cold because I was too busy reading; I forgot to drink it. LOL