Novelist Jodi Picoult has taken a swing at the sexist nature of publishing, saying that if she’d written The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (or if Jeffrey had been a woman author) it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it.
The 48-year-old American author has written 23 novels in 22 years, eight of which have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list. She has tackled subjects from the Holocaust to assisted dying and yet says she struggles to be taken seriously.
“I write women’s fiction,” she said in an interview with The Telegraph. “And women’s fiction doesn’t mean that’s your audience. Unfortunately, it means you have lady parts.”
She claims the publishing industry ignores big issues in her books, favouring to describe them as chick-lit. “When people call The Storyteller [about a former Nazi SS guard] chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever,” she says.
Picoult, whose novel My Sister’s Keeper was turned into a film starring Cameron Diaz, claims that while the publishing industry puts female writers into the romance box regardless of the subjects they write about; male writers are meanwhile gaining recognition for similar stories.
She says that if a woman had written One Day by David Nicholls it would have been airport fiction. Instead it became a multi-million bestseller and a film starring Anne Hathaway.
The author says she is angry about men who had “co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years” while getting little recognition.
“There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, 'Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy,’” she says.
The New Hampshire-based author revealed she tried once to publish a book written under a male pseudonym but her agent was told it was too well-written for the male romance genre.
The author is currently in Europe promoting her new novel Leaving Time, about a 13-year-old girl searching for the mother who abandoned her.