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Publishers put their faith in churchified ‘chick lit’

USA Today, USA
Oct. 30, 2003
Deirdre Donahue
www.usatoday.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Friday October 31, 2003

Secular and religious publishers are adding a Christian twist to the genre of young women’s fiction called “chick lit.” Publishers Weekly dubbed it “Bridget Jones goes to church.”

While classic chick lit addresses single women’s supposedly crushing issues thigh circumference, man-trapping and how many glasses of wine one drank the night before Christian chick lit includes more church singles’ groups. And no recreational drinking.

Upcoming titles include:

In January, W, part of publishing company Thomas Nelson Inc., is launching Kristin Billerbeck’s What a Girl Wants, about a 31-year-old patent attorney looking for a nice Christian guy who doesn’t live with his mother.

Also in January, Multnomah Publishers is releasing Sisterchicks Do the Hula by Robin Jones Gunn. According to fiction marketing director Sandy Muller, the first “chick lit goes to church” novel was Hula’s prequel, Sisterchicks on the Loose, out in June. It is the tale of two women, friends for 20 years, who cut loose in Finland. Now they are off to Hawaii. The series “will grab any over-30-year-old female gazing nervously at the second half of her life,” says Muller.

In March, Zondervan is releasing Theodora’s Diary by Penny Culliford. The romance by the English author will be followed by Theodora’s Wedding.

In October, Harlequin launches The Whitney Chronicles by Judy Baer about a 30-year-old heroine who struggles with her weight, bad dates and meddling relatives who want to know why she’s not married. Being active in her church doesn’t preclude searching for Mr. Right.

The Whitney Chronicles is the first in the new, as yet unnamed imprint. It will combine elements from Harlequin’s Red Dress Ink, which has snagged younger readers, but also will draw on its Steeple Hill line of “inspirational” romances.

The imprint will offer “smart, hip editorial that features faith and humor,” says Harlequin senior editor Joan Marlow Golan. “It presents real-life situations that modern women of faith face without sacrificing strong morals and values: How do I live an authentic contemporary Christian life?”

Christian writing is a growth area in publishing. “Sales of Christian fiction have doubled in the last 10 years,” says Golan. According to the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association), sales of Christian books are up 6.8% from 2002.

“Publishers and retailers have a desire to connect with younger readers,” says CBA president Bill Anderson. He sees a strong market for titles “that deal with contemporary issues but respect the faith and values of the readers.”

In addition to chick lit, publishers are releasing mom lit, Christian variations on the best-selling novel about motherhood clashing with career, I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. (The Sisterchicks are moms, for example.)

Charis Calhoon of the Romance Writers of America says 51.1 million readers buy at least one romance a year. Inspirational novels make up 10% of the market. Notes Calhoon: “Although (inspirational romances) have happy endings, the characters are grappling with their faith and their spirituality.”

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