Genre. Ugh. The subject gets more coverage than alien abduction, and it probably always will. The Internet is full of advice urging writers to pick a genre and then write to it; this before the opening sentence gets any thought. Writing to a genre gives the author a clear marketing path. There are warnings against cross genre work because it is hard to market, and then there are the arguments about what exactly, qualifies a story as belonging to a particular genre. Makes the head spin so I surprise myself, but I want to advocate a new genre.
I appreciate that genre categories help readers find a book – readers know what kind of story they like. I use those categories when I’m looking for a fresh read. It’s the best tool for digital browsing. Problem is, the categories are often restrictive. Amazon has denied several of my clients publishing their work in the genre category they’ve chosen. And they don’t explain what factors the decision was based on. Does that mean if your Regency era tale of love involves Aunt Middie, the humble poor relation whose secretive potions are powerful and move the plot along, you have a Romance – or a fantasy? You could publish in both categories but it would still be unseen by readers who didn’t check both those boxes.
Can a gripping good story feature a sexy vampire who steals the crown jewels, thwarts a terrorist plot, redeems the fallen countess as he exposes government corruption and solves the murder, all while meeting and winning his one true love? Of course it can. To me, the best books always have possibilities beyond what the author may have intended. I love genre-blending books, the mixed bag plots that weave in a load of improbable possibles and make it all work because the world building and plotting are strong enough for the necessary suspension of belief.
It’s a given that genre categories are necessary. I accept it and am glad that the categories themselves have expanded to include more contemporary fictional worlds such as Dystopia and Magical Realism. Still, that doesn’t cover those books that defy categorization by mixing literary elements. A.F. Scudiere, whose Nightshade series involves werewolves, the FBI, forensics, action and adventure and a developing love story is Amazon-ranked in thriller, suspense, fantasy, occult and mystery. That’s a pretty wide reach and each category fits in some way but I have to wonder how many readers browse all of them.
Ashley C. Gillis’s Detach & Target is a military thriller and a romance and neither element trips the other up. She is on Amazon under romance, war & military, and war. I wonder how many readers missed this exciting and well written book because the genre categories don’t exactly fit. I think a lot of readers may be missing a really gritty and realistic story of a special Marine unit’s action and interaction. If we had a genre category that spread a wider net, including any mix of literary devises in a cohesive, well written whole, it would be a great place to browse when a reader is hungry to taste something outside the conventional.
I propose calling this genre Salmagundi. It’s not just a salad anymore, it’s a new literary flavor.
Ian Fleming is best known for his James Bond books, yet he is also the author of the iconic children’s classic Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. Agatha Christie changed the face of literature by mastering the whodunit, yet I’ve also enjoyed her more dramatic novels published under the name Mary Westmacott. Both of these unparalleled authors stepped out of their comfort zones (well, assuming a writer can EVER feel comfortable) to write remarkable and memorable stories that didn’t happen to fall into the genres they made famous. So, I consider myself in very good company with my latest release. Even though my four novels and five short stories to date are all Romantic Comedy, I have a contemplative, serious short story in the Love Unlimited anthology. My contribution, “In Her Space,” tells the story of a 64 year-old woman who lives quietly, content with all she has survived in life. But things change when she discovers a homeless young man living under her house.
This idea for a story first came to me when my husband Ron and I spent many nights crawling under our neighbor Grace’s house, trying to get two opossums out before the exterminators came. (We got them out and relocated them to safety.) And we are often bringing food and blankets to homeless people who live in the park near our house. Hmmm … Then these seeds of an idea blossomed and took shape when I heard a story on NPR about the Mortuary Services in the army, the soldiers who are quite literally responsible for going onto battlegrounds and collecting the body parts of fallen soldiers so that the soldiers might be sent home.
So, here I am, a romantic comedy writer with this idea for a story about … all sorts of heart-wrenching stuff. Then, a few months ago, fellow writers asked me if I wanted to be part of an anthology that celebrated love in all of its many incarnations. And suddenly, mmmrrh … I had the perfect opportunity to write my story.
Love Unlimited is a free ebook anthology that’s burning up the charts on FREE downloads on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play. Eleven authors share stories that cross generations, cultural backgrounds, and borders in order to warm your heart, tickle your funny bone, and envelop you in the wonderful and complex human emotion the world calls “Love.” Download for free and enjoy!
And you can see what you think of my more serious story. This story is a BIG DEAL for me because it is not romantic comedy. It is hopeful and sweet, though. Yeah, there is tragedy and memories of bad stuff, but it is about the triumph of spirit and connection. I don’t think I could ever write something with a downer ending!
Have you ever stepped out of your genre? Who are some of your favorite writers who have gone genre-hopping? I’d love to hear all about it in comments!
When she was a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching black & white movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite.
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