WATCH: Does the "women's fiction" label limit a book's reach?

Salon talks to bestselling novelist Janelle Brown about "Watch Me Disappear" and the double edge of genre


Mary Elizabeth Williams
August 3, 2017 11:58AM (UTC)

Bestselling author Janelle Brown has scored yet another hit with her new novel, the twisty, suspenseful "Watch Me Disappear." Brown's tale of a seemingly idyllic California family, upended when the mother goes missing and is presumed dead, has garnered accolades writers dream of. When she talked to Salon recently, she discussed what we talk about when we talk about books and how the labels — even positive ones — we apply to them influence what we buy and how we read.

On being marketed, and transcending genre:

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[The book is] being sold in three different ways: It's being sold as women's fiction, it's being sold as a thriller, and it's being sold as a mystery, which are three different genres. I think all genres kind of intersect now. It's a literary book; it's also a page-turner and a beach read.

On the "women's fiction" label:

There's a categorization . . . which I get. But it is weird when you have something designated as "women's fiction." What about men, especially since half the readers are men? Why do we have to designate a gender or assume that one gender is the universal gender, and the rest of it is "women's fiction?"

On the persistence of fiction:

It's a really challenging time to be an author because people have much more limited attention spans. I do think that books are such an important form of communication and conveying of ideas and emotion and also escapism.

I'd like to hope that people will tire eventually of the endless charade that is happening in Washington right now and turn back to stories. . . . Right now, there's so little bandwidth. But that said, people are still reading.

Watch our conversation for more on "Watch Me Disappear."


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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