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'Can she hack it as a novelist?'

25 January 2010

'So, Cheryl Cole is to write a series of 'chick-lit' novels... Ms Cole is gorgeous and talented... as a singer and celebrity. But can she hack it as a novelist? Does she actually know what it entails? Where's her track record of being able to write 100,000+ words of original fiction?...

I take this very seriously. It's not about 'slagging off' Cheryl Cole' (she's seems lovely) - it's about protesting at the decisions made by our leading publishers. My concern is that talented, promising, as-yet-unpublished authors may be ignored because publishers are investing their funds elsewhere, where literary quality does not figure. Tell me that Ms Cole's fine UK publisher won't now reject and forfeit fine unknown novelists on account of having spent a vulgar amount on her advance?

We all know the adage of 'everyone has a book in them' - but how many truly have the commitment, courage, tenacity - and skills - to write a series of novels? Writing a novel is not about 'burning ambition' - where ambition is solely about publication or money or fame. For a novel to be a good novel - and worthy of the generous readers who part with their cash to buy it - it can only arise from the author's absolute desire to write that story out of their system - and being blessed with the necessary talent to do so...

Above all else, we object to the assumption that it's 'easy' to write commercial fiction - that 'chick-lit' (an umbrella term I've always loathed...if anyone called me a chick I'd belt them...) is but a dumbed-down genre that 'anyone' can turn their hand to. It's great commercial fiction, it's perennially popular and there should be quality controls!!!'

Freya North, in a Bookseller blog