Thursday, January 6, 2011
G is for Genre
This week, The Writer's Alphabet blog returns with thoughts about genre from author, Therese Kinkaide.
I’m thinking about pie. We’re past Christmas, but we’re still knee-deep in holiday stuff, and some of that stuff is dessert. In my family, dessert is pie. Everything else is just Christmas goodies to snack on before dinner and pie.
This year may have been the first in my memory where there was no pumpkin pie at the family Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this is not a problem for me, as I don’t eat pumpkin pie. But I found it amazing that a group of twenty-ish people who normally eat pumpkin pie easily adjusted to different desserts this year.
So many different desserts, it’s hard to choose. It’s hard to choose which to make, and it’s hard to choose which to eat. It’s a big choice. Which calorie and fat gram-laden dessert will it be?
Kind of like writing and reading. Dictionary.com defines genre as (among other definitions pertaining to art) ‘of or pertaining to a distinctive literary type.’ I’ve been a voracious reader all of my life, and I attempted to write my first book when I was in 5th grade. (Hmm. That’s interesting. My son is in 5th grade. I could see him attempting to write a book.)
However, as much as I read and as long as I’ve been writing, I didn’t become involved in the publishing world until January 2008 when my first book, Luther’s Cross, was accepted for publication with WingsEPress.com. Before I began actively searching for a publisher and before I signed my contract with Wings, I didn’t realize how many different genres and subgenres exist. If asked, I probably would have said there were four genres: romance, mystery, science fiction and women’s fiction.
Now that I spend a great deal of time researching small press websites and a great deal of my time reading (still) I have seen many genres and subgenres. I don’t often go to a bookstore or library and look for a specific genre to browse. I might go in search of a particular book or a particular author, regardless of what genre the book is.
I recently read a Barbara Delinsky blog entry about the danger of writing in a particular genre for so long that a writer becomes defined as only that type of writer. Barbara Delinsky started as a romance writer, (I started reading her books when she wrote romance novels) but she’s progressed to women’s fiction. Still many readers consider her a romance writer, and bookstores still sometimes place her novels on the romance shelves.
When I sit down to write, I don’t think in terms of genre. I write the story inside my head. I write the story my characters are telling me I need to write. Granted, I generally write women’s fiction, but I don’t want to be held to a specific genre. My first book, Luther’s Cross, is billed as contemporary romance and my new book, Fairytale, is suspense/thriller. However, I think they both also fall under the women’s fiction title. I’m also working on a time travel romance, and I have two young adult romances in progress too.
There’s much debate over traditional publishing versus small press, which is very often POD (print on demand.) I have had great experiences with my publishers (WingsEPress and LLDreamspell) and particularly in regard to genre, I think small press has definite advantages. Writers have more freedom to move from genre to genre and aren’t expected to produce book after book in the romance or mystery or horror category.
That freedom allows us writers to write from our hearts, which results in heart-felt, compelling, intense (insert your own adjective to describe your book in your genre) books. Those are the books we want to put in our readers’ hands, and those are the books our readers want to read and recommend to their friends and family. Those are the books that we hope will keep readers coming back for our latest releases.
Therese Kinkaide, author of Luther’s Cross and Fairytale and short story The House on Ash Street, which appears in LLDreamspell’s anthology Mysteries, Dreams & Darkness