‘Women are having different fantasies’: romantic fiction in the age of Trump

In the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up, how do authors write a good sex scene? How ‘bad’ should the bad boy be? Romance writers and editors reflect on how the genre is changing

In early November 2016, Sarah MacLean was 275 pages into writing her latest historical romance novel, The Day of the Duchess. She had hit all the right buttons – a titled (and entitled) duke; a beautiful, estranged wife touched by scandal; and an insurmountable challenge the pair had to mount before they could, well, mount each other. And then Donald Trump was elected. And MacLean couldn’t bear her hero any more.

“I woke up on 9 November and I was like, ‘I can’t write another one of these rich entitled impenetrable alphas. I just can’t,” says the New York Times bestselling author. “It was the story of that horrible impenetrable alpha evolving through love to be ...

Women’s prize for fiction reveals ‘outward-looking’ longlist

Judges acclaim the boldness of a 16-strong selection that ranges from a future utopia to the arrival of a mermaid in Georgian London

From murderers to mermaids, the “whole wealth of experience” features on the longlist for the 2018 Women’s prize for fiction, according to chair of judges Sarah Sands, giving the lie to “that stereotype of women’s fiction”.

The 16-strong longlist for the £30,000 award for “excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women in English from throughout the world”, was announced on Thursday. The award, previously known as the Baileys prize, places two major names, Pulitzer winner Jennifer Egan and Booker winner Arundhati Roy, up against six debuts. The latter include Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, which won the Costa first novel award, and Imogen Hermes Gowar’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a tale set in Georgian London in which a mermaid is captured.

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Three women go public with Sherman Alexie sexual harassment allegations

NPR says 10 women in total have approached them with accusations against the author, who made a public apology last week for his ‘poor decisions’

Three female writers have gone on record with accusations of sexual harassment against the acclaimed Native American author Sherman Alexie.

Alexie, who has won a National Book Award and a PEN/Faulkner prize for his writing, issued an apology last week in the wake of a series of anonymous and unspecified allegations of harassment. Although at that point no women had spoken on the record to the media, Seattle author Litsa Dremousis alleged on Twitter that a number of women had been in touch with her to recount their stories.

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Writers learn they have won life-changing Windham-Campbell prizes

Judged in secret, eight English-language authors are set to hear of $165,000 awards, intended to give them financial freedom

The lives of eight writers are set to be transformed on Wednesday, when they receive a phone call from the director of the Windham-Campbell prizes, informing them that they have each won a $165,000 (£119,000) award that is intended to give them the freedom to write, liberated from money worries.

Recipients, who this year include British writer Olivia Laing and Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison, are nominated confidentially and judged anonymously. The first time they will learn that they were in the running will be when programme director Michael Kelleher calls them to let them know they have won. Kelleher said making the calls was his “highlight of the year, as each cycle I hear how much of a difference it will make for them”.

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Terry Goodkind, warrior against sexism? That’s what I call fantasy

The author has publicly objected to the portrayal of female characters on his new novel’s cover art – which leaves me wanting to object right back

Let’s begin with a preface: I have read a lot of Terry Goodkind’s books. Wizard’s First Rule distracted me from my finals, and I persevered with the Sword of Truth series for way, way too long, ploughing my way past endless and increasingly bonkers Objectivist polemics thinly disguised as plot. (I hadn’t known that Goodkind rates Ayn Rand, but it makes absolute sense.) I even took in that epitome of bad writing, his infamous evil chicken scene. (“This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People’s chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest.”) I can’t explain why I read so many – I read an awful lot, and quickly, and perhaps it was a necessary escape ...

Lionel Shriver says ‘politically correct censorship’ is damaging fiction

The We Need to Talk About Kevin author says novelists today are contending with ‘a torrent of dos and don’ts’ that puts the genre at risk

We Need To Talk About Kevin author Lionel Shriver has warned that “politically correct censorship” risks turning the world of fiction into a “timid, homogeneous, and dreary” place, and called on her fellow novelists to take a stand against it.

Writing in March’s issue of Prospect magazine, Shriver said that authors in today’s “call out” culture are “contend[ing] with a torrent of dos and don’ts that bind our imaginations and make the process of writing and publishing fearful”. She provoked outrage in 2016 when she said in a keynote speech at the Brisbane writers festival that she hoped “the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ is a passing fad”. Almost two years later, she has now written that “preventing writers from conjuring lives different from their ...

Only half of pre-school children being read to daily, UK study finds

Survey finds proportion of toddlers having story time fell by a fifth in five years

The proportion of toddlers being read to every day has dropped by a fifth over the last five years, according to research warning that the decline is a significant threat to child development.

The annual Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer survey from Nielsen Book Research, interviewed 1,596 parents of 0 to 13-year-olds, and 417 14 to 17-year-olds in the UK last autumn. It found that while 69% of preschool children were read to daily in 2013, that figure had dropped to just 51%.

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