Award Winning Fantasy with a Twist!

Introducing Fantasy Hen Lit!

I’ve come across a lot of discussion lately about genre definitions. The debate has grown from writing in multiple genres to writing across genres. A fellow Soulie, Sandra Harris, got me to thinking about this with her post Cross Genre – Why Has It Taken So Long?, and S.C. Mitchell wrote here about adding superheros to romances.

Guidoccio 001Today, we talk with Joanne Guidoccio, author of Between Land and Sea, for her take on the pros and cons of blending fantasy and romance:

“You’ll have to explain what that means.”

“I don’t think the hens will like it.”


From the start, I knew there would be problems when I combined genres. Unlike other fantasy and science fiction writers, I did not want to focus exclusively on the out-of-world elements. Instead, I wanted to write the kind of fantasy I could actually sit down and read. I am one of the few people on this planet who could not read past Chapter 1 of the first Harry Potter novel, and I avoid books that feature werewolves, vampires, witches, and other dark creatures.

This begs the question: Why write fantasy?

My response: Why not write light and breezy fantasy for boomer women who are also seeking hope and inspiration?

So, I sat at my computer and came up with a contemporary version of my favorite fairy tale: The Little Mermaid. While the original version by Hans Christian Anderson always fascinated me, I struggled with the ending. I wanted a happily-ever-after ending for the little mermaid and the prince and could not wrap my mind around this depressing prediction:

You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds, and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.(Hans Christian Anderson,1836 )

But when the Disney version was released, I still wasn’t satisfied. I realize now that I wanted to read about a different kind of mermaid, one who could enjoy a happy and successful life, with or without the prince. And maybe one who wasn’t quite so young or so beautiful.

Keeping this vision of an older and wiser mermaid firmly in mind, I wrote Between Land and Sea, the first book in the Mediterranean trilogy.

In my early query letters, I described the book as urban fantasy. After reading and rejecting the manuscript, one agent commented that my novel was a bit too light to be considered urban fantasy. She recommended I use “contemporary women’s fiction with fantasy elements” in future queries. After using that mouthful several times, I reverted back to urban fantasy or simply fantasy. I was happy and relieved when senior editor Debby Gibson classified Between Land and Sea as a paranormal romance.

But some confusion followed when the book came out on Amazon. One friend confided: “When I heard it was a paranormal romance, I assumed you were writing about witches or werewolves. I’m so glad to hear you’re writing about mermaids.”

Still wondering about the “right” description, I started reading articles about literary genres that focus on older female characters (aged 40 to 65) as protagonists. In these books, a variety of themes are addressed, among them giving birth after age forty, dealing with three generations living in the same house, and dating after divorce or widowhood. Terms such as “matron literature,” “hag lit” and “hen lit” are bandied about in the literature. I immediately dismissed the first two and focused on “hen lit” as an apt description for Between Land and Sea. To address the mermaid element, I added fantasy.

Right now, I’m working on The Coming of Arabella, the second book in the Mediterranean trilogy. More fantasy hen lit but with a psychological twist: Arabella is a sociopath.

betweenlandandseacoverBlurb for Between Land and Sea

After giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.

With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.

Bio and Links –

In high school, Joanne Guidoccio dabbled in poetry, but decided to wait until she had more life experiences before writing a novel. The original plan was to get a general arts degree and take a few years off to travel and write. Instead, she gave in to her practical Italian side and obtained degrees in mathematics and education.

While she experienced many satisfying moments during her teaching career, she never found the time and energy to write. In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and her articles and book reviews started appearing in newspapers, magazines and online.

Her debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, has just been released by Soul Mate Publishing.

Joanne lives and writes in Guelph, Ontario. You can reach her at:

9 comments on “Introducing Fantasy Hen Lit!

  1. maggie mundy
    November 20, 2013

    I think this book sounds fascinating. I love the concept. Sounds a bit like firs wives club with fantasy thrown in. I will definitely be reading it.

  2. kathybryson
    November 19, 2013

    My pleasure Joanne! I’ve been accused of hen-denning, so nice to know the definition of our genre!

  3. Linda Bennett Pennell
    November 19, 2013

    Great interview, Joanne! I love your concept for blending women’s fiction with fantasy. The Little Mermaid who doesn’t need the prince should make for a satisfying ending.

    • Joanne Guidoccio
      November 19, 2013

      Thanks Linda! I’m looking forward to seeing more blending of genres.

  4. J.R.Richardson
    November 19, 2013

    I love mermaids Jo – love cross genres – and your book sounds so good. It’s been on my TBR list and I can’t wait to get to it! XOXOXO

  5. Joanne Guidoccio
    November 19, 2013

    Kathy, thanks for inviting me to join the conversation about cross genres. I enjoy visiting your blog.

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