A chick-lit master on voice, the big questions and the sausage grinder.

After four successful novels, why a short story collection [The Guy Not Taken, Reviews, Aug. 7]?

First and foremost, my publisher asked for it. The title story ran in Glamour and was optioned for the movies. I wrote a bunch more, which was very fun. There was a lost story I had to recreate, and I did a lot of rewriting on some of the old ones. I thought I was a real hot number when I was 22. Lots of big words.

Were they easier to write than the novels?

I've heard it described as the difference between a marriage and a date. In a novel, you're living with those people for a year or more. For me, the short stories are harder. I love the broader canvas of a novel.

Do you have a favorite story?

I like "Swim" an awful lot. I wrote it when I was in college, and it won a contest sponsored by a newspaper. Somehow, I lost it. I tore my house apart, tore my mother's house apart and couldn't find it, so I rewrote it; it was interesting to revisit it after all that time.

Your work has been called "semi-autobiographical." Where's the line with, say, your parents' divorce?

You have to make it worse for your character. Worse is funnier. The raw material just goes into the sausage grinder. You have to be ruthless in a way. You can't write to flatter yourself.

Is that what fuels great chick lit?

The voice is what makes chick lit. There's a lot of malicious stuff out there saying it's just boys and shopping. It's more profound than that. It's more, how do I fit in the world? It's big questions that mean a lot to a lot of people.

Where is chick lit heading?

Chick lit is going to move beyond the story of a 23-year-old publishing assistant in New York City, although there's a place for that story, too. But I think it's going to deal with different issues. The movement may have crested, but the good stuff will survive. Look at the bestseller list. If chick lit is dying, it's a very lively corpse. At the end of the day, good writers are good writers.