Are we boxing ourselves up?
I've been interested in genres lately; how we define a book. I've recently had book one of a new series published and one of the first things I've had to do is define it.
But I find this quite hard. I end up rattling off what I think will be right - it's new adult, because the protagonist is in his early 20s, but it's also cougar, with the secondary lead being a mature woman. But then, it's also paranormal. And I'd have to throw in that it's erotica too - because it's got sex scenes in it.
I guess I have to do this so that I can narrow down the options to reach the right audience.
But who is the right audience? What I really want to tell people is that it's a story. I didn't really start out with a set agenda based on a genre, I set out with an idea for telling what I hoped would be a fun tale for people to read.
What it's made me realize though, is that when trying to define a book, authors often end up finding that the story itself seems secondary. Okay, so we need to add some tags to a book in order for it to reach the right audience. Or do we?
Most of the people I talk to who read books, as opposed to writing them, start by discussing the book itself - the story, how it made them feel, the new thoughts that it triggered in them, or just the pure joy it gave. Rarely will they define it first as a particular genre.
So it's interesting to see the contrast with the publishing world where I'm asked to define my book, categorize it, package it up so people know exactly what it is and who it's supposed to be for. Sometimes that's hard to do. I tend to start with a general idea or situation and a character, and shape the story from there. I write for the thrill of creating something new, for the love of story.
It was interesting the other week when I sat down over a cup of coffee with a fellow author. He talked about the development of his next book, how he was going to slot it into what he thought the publisher would want based on the genre they covered. It made me feel slightly sad. "What about the story?" I asked him, "you know, what it's going to be about. The characters you'll create." He looked at me in surprise. He didn't have a story yet. He'd carve one out based on the definition of what he thought would sell. He'd studied the publisher's requirements, he'd read loads of books in the genre so he could use them as cookie cutters to create something people would buy. Sure, we all want our books to sell, but perhaps for different reasons. I want to pass stories on, to entertain, to hone my art of storytelling - not constrict my readers to tightly defined boundaries.
Storytelling is an art, and there are definitely tried and true methods in creating a story that we as human beings react to. But have we gone too far? Are we focusing too much on genre and boxing up our books into neat little categories in order to make a quick buck?
Or should we try more to keep in mind the words of Carlos Fuentes: "I'm a writer, not a genre."
My aim with storytelling is to sweep you far from the shores of boring, everyday life. To send you galloping through new lands, surround you with adventure, with silliness, with a bit of pleasure and delight.
My new Big Cats series celebrates bold, brilliant, complex women. Women who are not always nice, and who don't always get their way, but sure have fun trying.
The City is everything Adam Reid could possibly have hoped for – power and potential. And his scholarship to the prestigious Harton University is his ticket to it all. A chance for a fresh start. A chance to hide from his dark past.
But the City has secrets and its doors only open if you know the right people. People like Jack, Adam's new louder-than-life room mate, and Lia, who yearns for a soul uncorrupted by the City.
Then Castalia Vallas stalks her way into Adam's life. Intoxicated by the seductive professor, Adam learns to confront and control the desire he dares not speak of.
But who is the hunter and who is the prey?
Secret Cravings Publishing