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. 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 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


Allison Knight said...

A thought provoking blog.
But, my bad, because I really want to be known as an author of historical romance. I've based my promos on the concept as a writer of that genre, which in my mind, equals happily ever after the way it used to be. Maybe I'm stuck in that genre, but for me, it's the place to be.

Jean Wright said...

Honestly, I can't seem to contain myself to one particular genre. Sedition is a Fantasy-Romance thingy. Witch-Born is more steampunkish but still Fantasy and I have 3 science fictions and an Urban Fantasy in the works ... which, well, likely puts me under the Science Fiction - Fantasy bookshelves.
But if I had to contain myself to just one I would go insane.
Love the article!

Linda Kage said...

I break a couple genre boundries in my stories too. Like you, I just write and what comes out comes out!

Karyn Lyndon said...

Oh great, now I want some pie!

That's what I hate about writing commercial's sooooo...uh...commercial. All of my books have crossed genres. The good far as online the publishers can "shelve" the books in several different genres. And you can add as many keywords as you like for search engines to find you.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I enjoyed reading your blog and learning more about you as an author. I like Delinsky's writing.
Here novels are always quality reads. I agree that writers need to test their wings and write in a variety of styles and genres. That's what I do myself.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I enjoyed reading your blog and learning more about you as an author. I like Delinsky's writing.
Here novels are always quality reads. I agree that writers need to test their wings and write in a variety of styles and genres. That's what I do myself.

Fiona McGier said...

And for me, the "voices" that tell me stories in my head are always contemporary. I can't imagine being a woman in the day and age before birth control was easily available, and the women's movement had established the right of women to do what they want with their lives. To me, having that kind of freedom is exhilarating. And a man who is strong enough to pair up with a woman like that is the kind I like to read/write!

cindy Sample said...

Excellent blog, Teresa. My book also crosses genres and I can never decide whether to call it a funny romantic mystery or homicide with a side of humor. I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one puzzling over this question.

PS - I'll take apple pie with a side of ice cream.

Therese said...

Thank you all for stopping in and reading! You can have the pie; I'm back at the whole diet thing! Allison, I guess the trick is to stick with what works, right? Like I said, I don't purposely jump from genre to genre. I just write the story in my mind. Therese

Linda Rettstatt said...

Thanks so much, Therese, for sharing your thoughts with us about genre. I didn't really think a lot about genre when I began writing. My book just fell into the women's fiction genre. I've since ventured into writing romance, as well. I write and let the book tell me what it is when it's finished.

Thanks, again, for participating in The Writer's Alphabet blog.