- About the Author
- On Active Service
I was very excited, and more than a little nervous, when I was invited to talk on our local radio station 10 Radio. The programme, “Talking Books” is presented by Suzie Grogan as part of the Friday morning Community Radio session.
10 Radio started in 2004 when a small group of local residents with an interest in community development read about community radio in Manchester and thought “wouldn’t it be great to do it in rural Somerset as well.
Suzie asked me to speak because her theme for that week was “Romantic Fiction”. I don’t actually class my work as “Romantic Fiction”. I would describe it as “Women’s Commercial Literature”. Although there is a degree of romance in my novels, they deal mainly with relationships and conflict and family life.
My work is unashamedly written for women. I very much doubt if any man would find my books interesting. I like to write about women’s lives, their position in society and about the effect of marriage and divorce on family life. My two published novels are semi-autobiographical. I am not the sort of writer who can use their imagination to put themselves in a different time period or to imagine themselves as a spy for example.
I write the sort of books I like to read myself, that deal with situations many women will have experienced themselves. I can’t always promise a happy ending. Life isn’t like that. Indeed I can’t necessarily promise an ending at all. Sometimes I leave my reader to make their own mind up about what might happen.
Writers who have influenced my work are Anne Tyler, Carol Shields and to a lesser extent Margaret Atwood, though I would also have to include classical authors like Jane Austen, who famously advised her niece to write about what she knew and had experienced for herself.
Reading is a form of escapism. It is possible that we may prefer a different style of book at different times of our lives. If we are going through a particularly bad time we may like to read something light, something easy to read, almost formulaic maybe, with a happy ending. Why should we want to read about unhappiness and conflict if we have enough of that in our life already? And why should we be ashamed of reading Mills and Boon, or Georgette Heyer, or Maeve Binchy? You only have to look at the numbers of their books bought or borrowed from libraries to know how popular they are. As for the classic good-looking lantern-jawed romantic hero, well, you need look no further than Rochester or Darcy to find him. The Bronte sisters wrote the same “boy meets girl scenario” as any modern writer, it’s the way a novel is written, the actual writing style, that makes it a classic.
So, “romantic fiction”, “chick lit”, “romcom”, “relationship fiction”, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. It doesn’t matter either why you read it. It’s a genre that’s been around for some time and one that will always be popular with women, whether or not they are looking for a happy ending.
Listen to the show on the link below:
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.