Sunday, July 2, 2017

Writing in a single-genre world

I admit it has always been a challenge. When you write multi-genre books in a single-genre world, you sail into the headwinds of an industry that thrives on classification. Libraries of all kinds favor the categorization of fiction literature. So do bookstores, online retailers, and advertisers. They favor it because it is the quickest and most efficient way to bring readers and books they might like together.

As a former librarian and a consumer of literature, I like this system. I like knowing that if I read and enjoy a book like Amish Vampires in Space, I can probably find a similar work in a matter of minutes.

As the author of eleven multi-genre novels, however, I take a more nuanced view. I care less about an industry with scores of genres and sub-genres than about marketing my books to the right readers.

Anne A. Wilson, author of the multi-genre book Hover, identified some of the obstacles in an interview last year. She noted that Library Journal and Booklist reviewed her book as women’s fiction, while two other publications treated it as romantic suspense or a thriller.

I can relate. On Amazon alone, my books have been classified as historical fiction, time travel, romance, coming of age, fantasy, literary fiction, teen and young adult, and mystery, thriller, and suspense. On occasion, The Journey, my second and shortest novel, is listed in the Ghosts and Haunted Houses sub-genre because it features, among other things, a bad-tempered spirit in a creaky old house.

Readers, of course, assign their own labels. Goodreads members have placed The Mine, my first novel, on no fewer than 647 top shelves, including time travel, sci-fi fantasy, and ... (sigh) ... chick lit. If I were asked to put this book on a single shelf, I could not do it.

One of the biggest challenges, beyond selecting a genre — Amazon lets authors pick two — is coming up with a cover that at least pays lip service to the labels. When a novel is equal parts historical fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery, it is difficult to find images that do justice to the entire book. For that reason, I have leaned toward simple, abstract covers that evoke a variety of themes.

Despite these challenges, I have resisted the temptation to scale back and write for a single audience. I favor multi-genre novels because, like life itself, they are complete stories. They are not just one thing or the other. They are a bit of adventure, romance, good times, and bad times. They are a combination of many things.

Last week, I finished the rough draft of River Rising, the first book in the Carson Chronicles series. As with the ten novels that preceded it, it will combine history, family relationships, adventure, romance, and suspense in one time-travel stew. How I will classify it when it comes out this fall will be a problem. But it’s a problem I’m glad to have.