Do the Hoovering

What’s behind the mega-popularity of author Colleen Hoover?

The mythology surrounding best-selling author Colleen Hoover is nearly as popular as her myriad novels and novellas. The woman can write at a pace that puts both Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King to shame. But unlike her bestselling male counterparts, Hoover, or CoHo as fans call her, genre hops like a maniac. She’ll toss out a thriller, mystery, or even a paranormal tale—whatever strikes her fancy, though everything she writes is saturated in romance (with ample moaning and erect body parts) and riddled with tragedy.

From all accounts, CoHo certainly didn’t set out to become the Queen of Trauma Porn. Hoover married young, had three kids by the age of 26, and settled into her career as a social worker, but felt bored. Apocryphal tales purport that her grandmother (or mother) purchased a Kindle, and Colleen decided she wanted to have a book on there. Thus inspired, she wrote a story, figured out how to use Amazon’s self-publishing services, and released it into the wild, which as it turns out, was absolutely ravenous for her work. Excited by the attention, she repeated the process again and again and again.

It’s a story of modern magic that downplays the amount of research, hustle, and savvy she possessed. Hoover admired book bloggers and BookTubers, and intrinsically understood how to do outreach, build bonds, and rally the online community of enthusiastic young women to her side. When Instagram, then TikTok became the places to self-promote, Hoover eagerly joined each platform, earning millions of followers and millions in sales with her approachableness, enthusiasm, and aw shucks Texan demeanor.

@colleenhoover

Y’all asked for more Lily and Atlas, so you’re getting more Lily and Atlas! #ItStartsWithUs info in bio. I love y’all so much! #outtakes

♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Hoover’s writing lacks pretense. There are no cunning societal observation or pithy characters for the ages. Instead, generically hawt, presumably white, heteronormative men and woman meet, fondle, and experience tragedy with the approximate self-awareness of a Teletubby. Women with names like Beyah Grim, Lily Bloom, and Lowen Ashleigh find themselves unable to resist the relentless smolder of whatever Caulder Cooper, Leeds Gabriel, or Atlas Corrigan crosses their paths. And, much like someone on The Brady Bunch, these fictional damsels dreamily think about their menfolk using their first and last names at all times.

To be fair, the books, written at a low middle school reading level, are aimed at young adults and “new adults,” which is what the internet calls the coveted 18-24 demographic these days. They’re a group that hates JK Rowling now, and are of an age to get more excited by raunch and sadness than Hogwarts anyway. They shun glittering vampires and S&M millionaires alike. Colleen Hoover’s readers want to immerse themselves in a world of overwhelming feelings and toxic masculinity. And though prose like, “And when you love someone, seeing them sad also makes you sad,” is banal, it makes for easily digestible nuggets of pseudo-wisdom for anyone’s Instagram feed.

Becoming a best-selling author obviously doesn’t require robust writing chops, but it helps to have determination, an uncanny ability to tap into the zeitgeist, and, as with all art-as-commerce, marketability. In the case of Colleen Hoover, case, a zealous fanbase of impressionable young women who want to feel all the things and have plenty of time to kill before the next season of Euphoria doesn’t hurt either.

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Paula Shaffer

Paula Shaffer is currently a casting producer who has worked on an array of shows including Love It or List It, Judge Steve Harvey, and Love After Lockup. Her family zom-com script, Chompers, was a selected work of the Stowe Story Labs Feature Campus in 2021, and a 2022 semi-finalist in the Emerging Screenwriters contest, which led to placement on the Coverfly Red List.

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