15th May 2012
Why We Read Celebrity Fiction
Katie Price’s eighth novel, In The Name of Love, is set for release in June. With two children’s series (Perfect Ponies and Mermaids and Pirates), four autobiographies released within six years and a fashion manual, Price has released more books under her name in under ten years than many of the most respected writers of literary history.
During my time working at W H Smiths, I was always astounded by the speed Price’s books would fly off the shelves. Placed near the doors, we’d pile the shelves high with the latest sexy, boob-central, shiny cover and sell out completely within two days of release, maybe even quicker.
So, what is it about celeb writing that get the public so excited about reading? Celebrity autobiographies are popular for obvious reasons – a first-hand glimpse into the lives of the rich, famous and idolised is always going to be popular; my collection of comedian’s autobiographies is constantly growing and I’ll devour them in one sitting.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons behind the success of the celebrity-penned narrative…
Fact vs. Fiction
While the celebrity autobiography brings us a first-hand view of the life and events of the star, there’s a sense around the novel that the reader will find out further autobiographical details deemed too scandalous for memoir.
Bitching and gossiping can play a big part in the celebrity novel, for example Nicole Richie’s The Truth about Diamonds, which is rumoured to contain ‘unofficial’ opinions about former BFFs.
While any gossiping contained in an autobiography cannot be denied, placed inside a supposedly fictional context, the celebrity can portray any opinions they wish, and then deny the connections to real life through the context of fiction. Juicy.
Numerous celebrities have coined children’s novels, including names such as Katie Price, Madonna, David Walliams, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ricky Gervais. While the celebrity name can be used to attract kids as much as adults, there are implications about the celebrity-penned children’s book that aren’t as prominent in an adult narrative.
I have to admit to feeling…odd about the popularity of a children’s book with the name Katie Price blazoned across the cover. As a woman who fame has stemmed from a business built around her knockers and conforming to the male gaze, the idea of young girls and boys idolising her doesn’t fill me with joy.
On the other hand comedian David Walliams, who came to fame with the non-child friendly Little Britain, was the most successful celebrity children’s author of last year with Gangsta Granny. His books also include The Boy in the Dress, and I can’t help but feel his camp, all accepting humour will do nothing but good for the youth of today.
His presence on Britain’s Got Talent has turned a normally xenophobic, dare I suggest even homophobic, piece of television drivel into a fantastically humorous, camp and light hearted tea-time programme that accepts all views. This can only be brilliant for easily-influenced minds.
The Brand Name
Of course a lot of success of the celebrity novel will come from the fact that blazoned across the cover is the name of the celebrity, often written in signature style as if to try and verify the authenticity of the book.
Fans of any celebrity will always buy whatever material has their name on, be it DVD, clothing line, CD, food…in the case of JLS, even condoms.
If a big name decides they want to take their business venture into the literary world, they may not have hopes for Book of the Year, but the publishers know that they will sell.
What are the implications for ‘real writers’ though? I’ve made it pretty clear on this website before that I don’t agree with book snobbery, but the difficulty of getting a big time publishing deal for an unknown yet brilliant writer is significant.
There is the sense a publishers will be more willing to take on a big, well-known name as the fans will always buy the books, but it’s not good news for the genuine up-and-coming authors.
What do you think about celebrities writing fiction? Is there a moral dilemma when it comes to comedians and page three models writing kids fiction, or are their day jobs unimportant? Let us know what you think!