Lost in type: She-Hulk author Marta Acosta talks miscommunication, genre confusion, and sexism

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Marta Acosta is frustrated. In our emails, she half-jokingly said that she was considering writing “I don’t write romance novels” at the top of her blog. I don’t blame her.

It’s an understatement to say the media overreacted to publishers Marvel and Hyperion’s announcement of a new line of prose novels, starting with The She-Hulk Diaries and Rogue Touch. They called it romance; it’s not. Others, like me, reacted to the overreaction and wondered whether this was the best way to portray these superheroines. The whole thing spun out of hand.

I wanted to share Marta’s story because she was caught in the middle. As a journalist, I want to stand up for those who have been treated unfairly or whose voice has been lost in a sea of others. As a blogger, I want to say that a lot of this was an honest misunderstanding — it’s hard to be a feminist (although it’s easy to be one in today’s world) and not overreact once in a while. But even mistakes like these can prompt discussion about bigger issues, like genre and the way we portray women in writing. Marta and I talked about the mishap from these angles and more.

Don’t forget to check out Marta’s guest blog post from yesterday.

Misprinted Pages: Marta, I’m mortified that the Internet has gotten She-Hulk so wrong. Fans fell for it; I fell for it. That’s why I feel so compelled to get the truth out there. Let’s start at the beginning, when Marvel and Hyperion had just made the announcement. What all happened that led to The She-Hulk Diaries and Rogue Touch getting mislabeled as romance novels?

Marta Acosta 3Marta Acosta: Hi, Stephanie, and thanks for having me here to talk about my next book! My fantastic editor Elisabeth Dyssegaard made the announcement about the She-Hulk and Rogue novels. First off, it’s great to have an accomplished woman editor at the helm of these new Marvel projects. Some publications and some bloggers cherry-picked words either looking for a reaction or outrage. So “traditional women’s novels” was twisted as meaning novels in which a female character is weak and subjugated to men. All the positive points about the characters were ignored, and “romance” was presented as meaning a romance novel, which is a separate genre with its own genre conventions.

While I don’t write romance novels — defined as having a love interest as the central theme — I’m always a little stunned at the nasty disdain the genre receives. There are great and crappy novels in any genre you can name, including literary fiction, and I can’t help but think that romance is a target because it’s predominantly written by women for women and it celebrates their emotional life and sexuality.

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Call for questions: Ask the author of the Marvel book She-Hulk

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Update at 12:03 p.m. EST: Out of fairness, I’ve removed the word “romance” from the headline. What happened is this: Marvel/Hyperion didn’t explicitly state that these were romance novels — but most websites did. That created some confusion and, probably, much of the backlash.

Genre confusion is something Marta and I will be discussing in our interview, but I wasn’t aware of the incorrect labeling at the time of this post. That kind of got muddled, and I haven’t seen these websites issue corrections.

So, remember when I wrote about Marvel and Hyperion’s new line of novels that is starting with Rogue Touch and The She-Hulk Diaries? I took issue with the marketing message and expressed concern that the publishers were dropping these female superheroes into what they called “traditional women’s novels.”

Well, I’ve actually been talking to the She-Hulk author, Marta Acosta. We’re working on getting her a guest slot here on the blog, but I’ll also be asking her some questions. And I want to hear yours!

Worried about her approach to the character? Confused about what makes “good” romance/chick-lit/women’s fiction? Or maybe you just want to know more about the author. Whatever you’re wondering about, post your questions below, and I’ll be sure to get them to her.

BookRx recommends books in 140 characters or less, plus e-readers going out of style

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This post comes to you in four parts!

Part 1:

Need some books to keep you busy during all that holiday downtime? Considering trying out Knight Labs’ new BookRx, which selects potential new reads based on your Twitter account. Just enter your handle, and voila! BookRx generates a list of recommendations from specific words, users, and hashtags that you’ve mentioned in your tweets.

Here’s a preview of one of mine:

BookRx preview

Of course, I’ve already ready a few of these. So it’s not a perfect tool, but it is fun. BookRx separates titles by genre, such as mystery, fiction, and romance. One of its picks for me is Fifty Shades of Grey — a book I would never read. But I’ve previously tweeted about at least one blog post that focused on the book, so it’s little wonder that BookRx noticed my “interest” in it.

What books does it recommend for you?

Part 2:

Do you like the new blog header? I wanted a change. :) But if you guys hate it, let me know and I’ll create some others.

Part 3:

If you’re looking for today’s book cover selection, it’s one post down!

Part 4:

e-reader girl

In a bit of news, the e-reader market is apparently shrinking. Data from the International Data Corporation shows that this year, worldwide shipments of e-readers will fall to 14.9 million units from 23.2 million units last year — a 36 percent decrease. Forrester Research recorded a similar trend specifically in the United States, and these numbers are expected to keep falling in 2013 and beyond.

The explanation? People are buying more multiversatile tablets, smartphones, and PCs — an increase of 27.1 percent from 2011, according to IDC. They’re more willing to spend more money on a high-tech device than a “primitive” e-reader in exchange for the extra features, and those often include Kindle and Nook apps.

“It’s looking like e-readers were a device for a particular moment in time that, more rapidly than we or anyone else thought, has been replaced by a new technology,” Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst, told The New York Times. Here’s the full scoop.

Are you ready to trade in your e-reader, or are you surprised by these findings?

[Image credit: via CNET by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, public domain; CBSi]

Interview with Dana Fredsti on Plague Town

Yesterday I reviewed Dana Fredsti’s Plague Town—out today from Titan Books. I was offered a chance to speak with the author about her new zombie book and how her exclusive background in horror influenced its writing.

Misprinted Pages: Hi, Dana. Thanks for sitting down to chat about Plague Town. Can you tell us what your upcoming book is about?

Dana Fredsti: Hi there, and thank you for having me here! Plague Town is my take on the  start of the Zombocalypse experienced from the point-of-view of a twenty-something, divorced liberal arts major who has no idea what to do with her life until she’s attacked and bitten by zombies and discovers she’s one of a very small percentage of the population who is immune to the virus. This puts her and her fellow “wild cards” in the unique position of being able to fight the undead hordes without fear of infection. Wacky—and gory—hijinks ensue.

There’s a lot of zombie stuff out there—from movies to video games to television shows. What made you want to write a series of zombie novels, and how is Plague Town different from its peers?

Oh, I could go on at length here … First of all, I am not one of those people who think that zombies have “jumped the shark.” Folks like me (people who have been total zombieholics since the early ’80s) have been waiting a long time for zombies to get even a little of media exposure of their hairier and fangier cousins. And I don’t see any end to werewolf and vampire novels any time soon. Not even taking into consideration the variations writers and filmmakers have been coming up with on the original flesh-eating ghoul “theme” started by the Father of All Zombies, George Romero. The best of the books and movies are as much (if not more) about the characters and human relationships as they are about people getting their intestines pulled out. So … maybe I should answer your question now.

I was approached by Lori Perkins with Ravenous Romance to develop a series of books that were “Buffy … except with zombies. And different.” I said yes ’cause … well, zombies! The series was then sold to Titan Books, and I worked very closely with my Dark Editorial Overlord, Steve Saffel, to tone down the romance, tighten up the pacing, and bridge the gap between readers of paranormal romance and the zombie genre. Plague Town is unique in that it probably has more humor than your average zombie novel, and has one of the few female protagonists in the genre to this point. I think my narrative voice (okay, Ashley’s narrative voice) makes it stand out as well. There are some other elements I think are unique, but talking about them would be major spoilers at this point.

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Awesome book cover Friday: You’re (Not) the One

I saw this release at Barnes and Noble recently and just fell in love with the cover. You’re (Not) the One was published in late 2011 by Alexandra Potter.

Description of the book as listed on Amazon.com:

Most women dream of finding the love of their life. Lucy just wants to lose him…

Venice, one of the world’s most romantic cities, lives by the legend of the bridge of sighs: When a woman kisses the man of her dreams under the bridge at sunset, she will be together with him forever. So eighteen-year-old Lucy seals her fate in the blush of first love with Nate.

Yet ten years later, the pair has completely lost contact-until the day Lucy arrives at Nate’s luxury Manhattan apartment with paintings he has purchased from the gallery where she is newly employed. The legend has reunited the couple, and Lucy is overjoyed-until the state of their union is misery.

Can destiny be undone? In the hands of the international bestselling author Alexandra Potter, You’re (Not) the One is a witty romance that turns on the power of a kiss.