Australian author Lisa Heidke breaks down the label of chick-lit

Lisa Heidke’s head is a labyrinth of narratives — plotlines, characters, backstories, crises... She is always thinking about how her character would think and behave. When I meet the Australian author, she is diligently scrolling through her phone at the soberly-lit lobby of Taj Club House.

Known for her character-driven, light-hearted novels, the latest being It Started with a Kiss, she is nothing short of a burst of energy. Punctuated by the occasional ‘yeah’, she talks with fervour about the dos and don’ts of writing fiction, her journey as an author, and why ‘chick-lit’ is an unnecessary categorisation. Heidke was in the city for the international conference on Gendering Literature and Culture: Australia & the Asia-Pacific, hosted by the Madras University last week.

Though Heidke did journalism at the University of Queensland, she ended up in the field of academic publishing. But soon enough, she realised she could not do without writing — she donned the garb of a feature writer, working with popular magazines of the time. “Writing isn’t about getting a perfect draft. It is about rewriting. The hardest part of writing, for me, was to find the confidence to keep going — it was daunting.”

Heidke recalls her initial fear, adding that it all boils down to the question of ‘Who am I?’, the answer to which ultimately reflects in one’s writing. Heidke’s characters almost always finds themselves in crises, she admits. Which prompts her to answer questions that arise out of this crisis. “I go, ‘what if?’. I tend to pile problems on. It’s sort of like trying to throw mud at a wall and seeing what sticks,” Heidke explains with a laugh.

She adds that she often feels bad for her characters. But her writing is laced with humour — not “gags”, but unlikely and awkward situations. In It Started with a Kiss, the protagonist Friday’s best friend Rosie is a character lends that itself to humour (she comes up with an idea for what she calls ‘divorce’ parties). “I am mindful of my style, but at the same time, I have to keep surprising my readers,” Heidke says.

Heidke is also a creative writing trainer at the Australian Writers’ Centre in Sydney — a job she loves. “Regardless of genre, elements of the craft remain the same: points of view, dialogues, three-dimensional characters, and the aspect of beginning, middle and end.”

For young writers, Heidke has only two questions — “What do you want to write about; and why do you want to write about it? If you get bored with your characters, readers are going to feel the same.”

Most of Heidke’s works are referred to as ‘chick-lit’. Though the author does not believe that ‘chick-lit’ is a derogatory term, she does believe that it is just a marketing tool. If a story is about women and their relationships, written in a humorous way, it is categorised as chick-lit — she goes on to question the necessity of such a label. “They don’t say that about the fiction that men write. Which is what bothers me. Call it whatever! As long as people enjoy my books, I am good!”

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 10:21:01 PM |

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