27 October 2010
Where Do I Fit In?
Every writer needs to know where their work "fits" on a bookshelf. That is, what genre is it?
It's not as easy to peg a genre as you'd think. Well, the first part of it is: Fiction or Nonfiction. Let's choose Fiction. There, that was easy. So now say you write a murder mystery where the detective falls madly in love with a suspect and the whole story takes place in 1850s Britain. Is it a romance, a mystery, or a historical? Is it historical romance or romantic mystery or historical mystery? You may think this is silly but it is very serious from a marketing point of view. What is the strongest theme of your story? If the main point is to solve the murder, then it is primarily a mystery.
My problem is that my historical series, Dragon & Hawk, is historical action/adventure romance with an element of fantasy. I spent years researching the people and events of 1880s Arizona but the main gist of the story is a Welsh immigrant's search for the Mexican healer he loves. The fantasy comes in with some of the mystical elements of Native American and Mexican spiritualism. I resisted calling it a romance primarily because it didn't fit that rather rigid formula. In my mind, it's more akin to Lonesome Dove than Nora Roberts - so does that make it a Western? I actually spoke with an editor who rather haughtily told me the only definition of historical fiction was set in Britain during the Regency period. Of course, I asked her where that put Gary Jennings' Aztec or The Journeyer (about Marco Polo's adventures) but she merely sniffed and walked away.
So where do I fit in? Historical fiction/romance is what I call it. All good fiction has a love story involved, whether it's a student for his friends as in Harry Potter, or friends who consider themselves brothers as in North and South. This allows a book seller to place my book in the same section as Outlander and Through a Glass Darkly for readers to find a new story that will have elements of adventure and lots of historical detail. And boy, do I hope they come looking.