One “Hot & Steamy” Atomic Summer vs. Too Many Shades of Grey – Guest post by Elaine D Walsh

Calling all women’s fiction readers. For a moment, put down whatever book you’re reading in the Fifty Shades trilogy and spend a few minutes with me. Publishing a debut novel in the year of a publishing phenomenon is no easy task. Eighty percent of my personal network tells me, “Elaine, as soon as I finish Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m going to read Atomic Summer.” I feel like the anchor dog on a sled team. My only view is the tails of the dogs ahead of me, and that dog is Fifty Shades of Grey. When do I get to be the lead dog? It could be awhile; after all, it is a trilogy for goodness sakes.

Instead of bemoaning my circumstances, I always play the hand I’m dealt. If I can entice E.L. James’ readers to take off the handcuffs shackling them to Fifty Shades of Grey and put me on their “must read” list, my book sales would sky rocket. I figure if I compare favorably to their current read, I may have a chance. USA Today carried an article July 10 “10 Reasons ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has shackled readers”. Let’s see how those 10 reasons compare to Atomic Summer.

  1. Sex sells, but what women really crave is love – At its core, Atomic Summer is not a love story. There is love, but it is the awkward teenage type. Remember that? Never mind, I’m not helping my cause with this one.
  2. It’s all about the handcuffs – I can’t help James’ fans here. But I have bomb shelters, air raid drills and the communal fear of nuclear war in 1953. There is no hanky panky in the bomb shelter, sorry. I know, I know, it would be a great “make out” place, but it’s in the backyard which means parents with their third eye would easily see the opposite sex descending the stairs. But there is the old Erie Canal lock hidden in the woods. You can read all about what transpires there. Ooh la la.
  3. A publishing fairy tale – I’m thinking this could be me too and you can say “I read Atomic Summer before it hit the big times”. An agent once told me “I can see this as a movie. There are so many explosive situations going on. Even the title suggests bombs are going off everywhere in this book. It would be a great vehicle for a few young actresses.” So there you have it, a fairy tale prediction. Don’t be left behind.
  4. Welcome to the Twilight zone – My book’s parallels to the Twilight series are that I have teenage characters. That’s it. End of comparison.
  5. The writing – Reader’s reviews are mixed. Either they love Fifty Shades of Grey or it’s not their cup of tea. Wow, I just looked up on Amazon how many people wrote reviews. Let me make sure those aren’t actual book sales. Nope, they’re reviews. How do you get so many readers to write reviews? I’m envious. “A review, a review! My queendom for a review!” Sorry, I was lost in the moment. It’s not often I get to draw upon my college Shakespeare class.

Intermission – Let’s check in on how I’m doing. Hmmm. Okay, maybe comparisons 6-10 will play better in my favor.

  1. Lifestyle porn – There is the town Peeping Tom in Atomic Summer, a creepy mechanic named Lyle. That’s as close as I get with this comparison, so let’s quickly move onto the next one.
  2. E-books are today’s brown paper wrapper – Besides making it incredibility convenient to shop for books, e-books do make it easy to hide what you’re purchasing and reading. I don’t have much in the way of marketing dollars so the more people say “I’m reading Atomic Summer”, the better off I am. But if you want, you can pretend it is something illicit that you might not otherwise buy if not for the privacy of a download. After all, fiction books are about escape and suspending belief. I won’t tell.
  3. An answer to Freud’s query about what women want – Does any man really know? Men will tell you themselves that we confound and confuse them, which is why I’m thinking Freud fell out of favor. Besides, it took a woman to write a book that tickled the fancy of millions of women. Men can use it as a guidebook, which is exactly what many women are hoping their men will do. But check out this fact as it relates to Atomic Summer. The Kinsey Reports, which were groundbreaking studies on human sexuality, were published in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. My teenage girl characters sneak a copy of one of the studies to their sleep over to learn the secrets of the opposite sex. I’m thinking my comparison is starting to warm up and may catch fire with the James’ army. What do you think? Is it time to ice up the champagne and light the candles for an awkward date night?
  4. Fifty shades of inescapable – You can’t help but bump into it everywhere you turn, so you might as well read it and see what all the fuss is about, right? As for Atomic Summer, it is summer and everything about my book screams, “summer read”. It takes place in the summer and has summer in the title. Pretty compelling, huh?
  5. Marital aid – One reader told me, “I stayed up too late reading Atomic Summer because I couldn’t put it down. My husband was annoyed at me for reading your book because he was expecting me to read the Hunger Games with him so we could watch the movie together.” Not a compelling endorsement for a good cuddle session with your mate, is it?

Okay women’s fiction reader, I won’t quit my day job any time soon.

Elaine D Walsh, Women’s Fiction Author, Bio

Nimitz Highway and River Street is an intersection on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. This is where she impatiently came out of the womb ready to start on her personal history. She grew up in upstate New York against the backdrop of the flowering women’s rights movement with different ideas from her mother as to what her life as a woman should be. In college, she majored in psychology with the intent of being a “death & dying” counselor. This would be her paying job while she wrote the next great American novel. Plan B kicked in and she graduated with a B.A. in English, packed her car, and upset her parents by moving to Florida in search of her destiny.

Without ever having taken one business course, she created her own brand and became a successful business executive by day and women’s fiction writer by night. So far, she has lived a Lifetime Movie Network life, a mixture of extraordinary, ordinary, mundane, and terrifying, providing her great inspiration and fanning her creative flame.

Her father imbued in her a strong sense of family. He brought to life the words unconditional love. From her mother, she gained an appreciation for the complexities of relationships and richness in life one finds exploring and experiencing everything from a recipe, to a historical site, to lunch with friends, or a glass of wine. Her mother was a collector of experiences. They journeyed together and grew as individuals and as mother-daughter. Elaine shared her mother’s journeys battling cancer, as her mother survived one and succumbed to another. In one of their last soulful conversations before her mother died, she told Elaine she was glad Elaine also had a daughter and hoped she would enjoy her own daughter as much as her mother enjoyed Elaine.

The most powerful influences in her life and her stories come from being a daughter, mother, friend, and soul mate. But as a successful women’s fiction writer, does this surprise anyone?

4 Comments

  1. We just can’t let 50 Shades be any kind of a benchmark. We have to consider it a fluke. For haven’s sake, people still quote Shakespeare. How long do you think people will continue to wear t-shirts that say, “Laters, baby.”
    I asked my sister-in-law if she read any of my books yet and she said dismissively, “No. I don’t have a Kindle.” (non-excuse, we know.) Then in the next breath, all a-quiver, she says, “Did you read Fifty Shades of Gray?” I admit I found it insulting. E.L.James owes her audience to the fan fic phenom which I just don’t get. Twilight paved the way in quality for too many people. Did you read those? I didn’t.
    At least Hunger games is supposed to have some content.

    • I didn’t read the twilight series but my 12-year-old daughter read the Hungry Games. She really enjoyed it. And she is a big critic of sloppy writing. I think I will make her my next editor if I can ever get her really interested in my writing and not One Direction’s latest news.

  2. “E-books are today’s brown paper wrapper…”

    I laughed so hard when I read this. Good one! :D
    Great post, Elaine. :)

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