The brilliant Lynne Drew, publisher of amazing women’s fiction, is here to give us her view on the hottest trends in commercial fiction at the moment. #Romance15
OH if only I had a pound for every time someone asks about industry trends. And if only it were that simple – pick what everyone wants and you’d have a bestseller. However, here are a few thoughts …
- Gone Girl keeps running and running. There’s no let-up in appetite for the domestic thriller – the novel that peers behind the net curtain of married life to see what’s really going on. These novels aren’t traditional crime novels, hinging on detection or motive, and nor do they always feature police investigations. They’re psychological and the appeal lies in the suspense, the building menace that comes, usually, from unreliable narrators and unpredictable characters; characters who are drawn to look just like people we know, in marriages we recognise, and jobs we find familiar. The tension lies in who you can ever really know – or trust…and how easily any of us might find ourselves in that situation. Girl on the Train, which has just shot straight to the hardback number 1 slot, is a prime example of this. It makes a change from women being the raped, beaten victims of male psychopaths and reflects a female appetite for novels that inhabit the complex psychological worlds of marriage, work and friendship.
- There’s a continued appetite for historical fiction in all its guises. This isn’t just the big Wolf Hall variety – it’s an appetite for rich, layered novels, sometimes with two strands, that take us back to a very different or difficult time and let us experience it. The twentieth-century continues to throw up rich pickings here, whether it’s Isabel Wolff memorably evoking the Indonesian prisoner of war camps that many of us knew nothing about, or Rosie Thomas re-creating Kashmir during the Second World War and depicting the isolation and unrest of that time. Downton and Mr Selfridge continue to draw huge audiences and prove how thirsty we are to have a different period illuminated through the characters we engage with. Perhaps too, as we move ever faster into a tech age, the past century seems so very different.
- Darker, sadder fiction- perhaps because of the times we live in, perhaps as a reaction to austerity, we all seem to be loving a good tearjerker or a story that looks inwards. These are novels with more introspective themes; novels that deal with tough subjects and sometimes with death, but ultimately give us a feeling of hope for the future, and deliver emotional reward for the reader. The amazing word-of-mouth sales of Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer’s stunning debut about mental illness, loss, and brotherly love, just go to show how strongly we’re all responding.
- But, as with last year, for the times when you don’t want any of the above, just help yourself to a cupcake in a cute setting. I’m not sure this trend has much further to run – but I probably said that last year, and 2014 was full to bursting with cake-y, cutesy, beach-based vintage teashop books, most performing best on Kindle and feeding an apparently insatiable appetite for entertaining escapism at a low entry price.
- My wildcard prediction for the year ahead is that we’ll see more novels set in different universes or different places – timeslip or post-apocalypse in some way; not sci-fi or fantasy in the true sense, but a very slightly different world to where we are now, tipped just slightly from the one we recognise. As the speed of the technological revolution hastens, so we become fascinated by how closely worlds similar to our – but in vastly different landscapes, or remote, inaccessible corners of the globe, tipped over by one small thing – might be what lies ahead.
How we read is changing and there are more distractions for readers than ever before – so above all, the power of strong original voices telling stories you can’t put down has to prevail. We all share our thoughts more than ever before, making it easier to pick out a great read. And that has to be a good thing for all of us who love to curl up with a good book.