Invent your own Genre
Men’s Action-Adventure Fantasy.
This started when my First Reader and I were plotting in the car. It’s a favorite way to pass the time while making the trek over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother’s House, and yesterday as we were on the way home I started talking about what I’m hoping to write in the upcoming time when school is over. I have to finish the science fiction (Jade Star is the prequel, although Jade herself doesn’t show up until two-thirds into the novel), but the next book planned is The East Witch. And yes, that is another book in the Underhill universe I created with Pixie Noir. We’ve actually roughly plotted three more novels, loosely connected, in that world, and I’m really excited about them.
But as we were talking about what the Pixie for Hire series is becoming, my dear husband informed me that he thinks it should be called men’s action adventure fantasy. I protested that technically it’s Urban Fantasy (despite very little of the setting being anything like urban), and I’ve also been told it’s Dark Fantasy. Nope, he told me. Correia’s MHI series, the Dresden Files, and my books are all part of a different genre – action adventure fantasy. I still protest lumping my books in with Butcher and Correia, but he has a point. They aren’t easily encapsulated in an existing genre (except the Dresden Files, which I suspect define Urban Fantasy). We’ve talked before about genres, here at the Mad Genius Club. In the new world of Indie Publishing, we authors are free to invent our own genres. We can mix, match, and crossover. If I want to write men’s action adventure fantasy (and frankly growing up I loved men’s action adventure books, like the works of Alistair MacLean and Louis L’Amour) I can.
The problem comes in helping your reader find your books. Genres are useful to readers. Me? I’m not a fan of High Fantasy – too much Tolkein pastiche for my taste (I loved his work. All else is a pale imitation). However, I do enjoy some Urban Fantasy, except where it ought to be labeled Paranormal Romance (which is fine if it’s written by Amanda Green. I highly commend her recent Witchfire Burning as a good example of that genre). I’m not a big fan of whiny main characters (they aren’t all female, but it seems that way sometimes) so I’m cautious of that genre. And then there is Low Fantasy, and Dark, and Light, and… and what is Sword and Sorcery in all that, anyway? I did decide that Correia’s Son Of the Black Sword is an excellent modern example of that blood and thunder genre, though. I’ve written about Science Fantasy, which isn’t a genre but probably should be.
Which brings me back to inventing your own genre. You can, but you need to be familiar with the existing delineations, so you can tag or categorize your book in such a way that the reader can find it. And it shouldn’t fall so far outside the parameters of the genre as to give your readers mental indigestion – like how I react to Urban Fantasy now. Which of course means you ought to be reading in your genre. I’ve run into writers that insist they can’t read in their genre – or read at all, which just boggles the mind – and frankly, it’s a fatal mistake. Yes, you can stop reading it for a time while writing. I have to, since I pick up ‘flavor’ from whoever I’m reading, and while that can be useful (I binge-read Spillane and Hammet and other pulp authors while working on Pixie Noir and sequels) other times it can mean that your work sounds too much like someone else. Which I don’t want, since I do want my unique voice to come through in my work.
I could sell my books (well, not the science fiction, but you know what I mean) as simply ‘Fantasy’ but that is a very broad brush to paint with. If instead I can find a niche market of readers who like my style, that is more likely to lead to consistent sales of other books in the same vein. And sometimes out of it, since I also write other things, up to and including the Western romance under a pen name. As we were moving and I was shelving books in the new house, I realized we own books by Sarah Hoyt writing under at least three, and possibly four pen-names, for instance. Because if you’re going to go that far out in left field, it helps the readers to have a banner hung over you saying ‘read this, not that! Unless you really want to, but don’t get mad if it’s not what you expected from this author under another name.’
Ok, maybe that’s too long. Short and punchy. Something. I dunno. What do you think about genres, and how would you define your favorites?