Let’s Talk Genre

The following is a guest post from Jennifer Innes, the co-author of The Beginning of Whit, a comedic urban fantasy tale recently released on Amazon. As an update to Jennifer’s story below (so sorry it took so long for me to post this, Jennifer!) she and her co-author, Andrew Grace have successfully funded their book’s launch through Kickstarter!!! Way to go, guys!

Let’s Talk About Genre

When I started my own blog many years ago I wanted it to be a place for fantasy authors to go so they knew they weren’t alone. Well, okay so there are enough fantasy books out there to prove this but there weren’t enough people talking about the validity of fantasy as a genre. One of my very first posts was about genre, exploring a wide variety of genres within fantasy (such as ‘historic fantasy’ and ‘urban fantasy’). Understanding your genre as a writer helps strengthen your final product and your credibility as an author.

Most writers I know write in multiple genres, and how can you not? If you have any imagination at all you aren’t limited to only one form of writing or one world you explore through your writing. As an author it is completely valid to write horror, chic lit, urban fantasy, and steam punk. At a certain point you’d probably just call yourself a speculative fiction writer (like I do) which Wikipedia defines as “is an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres.”

I personally write several subgenres of fantasy, science fiction and horror. But something that always throws a wrench into labeling a genre is when I start adding comedy to a story. My first finished novel “The Beginning of Whit” is a comedic urban fantasy. Easy enough to label but very hard to pitch. Ace sat on this book for a year, trying to decide if it was publish worthy. Ultimately they decided there “wasn’t a market for it.” And in reality at this point there really isn’t. Sure some famous authors have gotten away with funny fantasy (see: Terry Pratchett and Robert Lynn Asprin) but as a general rule finding these types of books, and the success of these types of books seems far and few between.

But I haven’t given up on my novel yet. My co-author and I decided to try the deep waters of self-publishing and to help cover some of the publishing costs we have launched a Kickstarter for the book. So far the response has been great and we really think the success of Kickstarter will help make the book successful. Knowing our book is unique makes it both interesting and, at times, a hard sell. Even through Kickstarter it can be difficult to get people interested in the project, but knowing our genre we have a better chance of getting people interested.

Knowing your genre allows you to tell people what the book is like, “Yeah, my book about wizardry school is similar to a little known novel about a boy named Harry Potter” or “Do you like the True Blood series? Well my book about a small town full of vampires might be right up your alley!” Now this doesn’t mean copy books that are successful just so you can pitch your book as the next best thing, but it does mean understand the book you already wrote and love so you can find the people who liked something similar. For us, it’s still a struggle to find people interested in comedic fantasy, but based on the success of the funny authors that have come before us, I know this audience is out there and I just have to go and find them.

Follow Jennifer and Andrew on Facebook

Check out The Beginning of Whit on Amazon

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Dealing with Abuse in Young Adult Fantasy

Pull2b webFrom Home is Where the Monsters Are:

“David started asking if I could come over. My dad didn’t care what happened to me at that point, so he would take me over there, drop me off and then leave for the afternoon – probably to get wasted in a bar somewhere. The first time I came over, David acted really nice at first, but not a good kind of nice. David was nice like a snake. He gave me ice cream, and I think there was something in it. It made me sleepy. Still awake, but kind of…out of it, and then he slipped a black bag over my head and carried me downstairs.”

Stacy put a hand over her mouth. None of them were sure if they wanted to hear any more but knew that, for Melissa’s sake, they had to.

Abuse of any kind, particularly child abuse, is among the hardest topics to deal with in literature. Making that topic fair game in Young Adult literature has been a controversial but increasingly common development in the literary world. When most people – particularly non-YA readers who are mostly familiar with the Harry Potter movies – picture the Young Adult Fantasy genre they picture happy child wizards on flying broomsticks, facing down the occasional troll the heroes always seem to get away from.

The truth, however, is that children aren’t always smiling. Kids aren’t always loved the way they should be. Sometimes abuse happens and keeping that topic OUT of the books we read is being disingenuous to the true experiences of childhood.  

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in her Salon Article: “Has Young Adult Fiction Become Too Dark?”:

“That ‘adult’ aspect of reading is scary for many of us. It’s our job as parents to protect our kids, even as they slowly move out into the world and further away from our dictates. But there’s something almost comical about raising them with tales of big bad wolves and poisoned apples, and then deciding at a certain point that literature is too ‘dark’ for them to handle. Kids are smarter than that. And a kid who is lucky enough to give a damn about the value of reading knows the transformative power of books.”

As a fantasy author who writes for teens as well as adults, I understand that I will likely face some backlash for including the topics of abuse in Home is Where the Monsters Are and The Pull. I cringe a little inside when I tell a parent that the book is suitable for ages 14 and up because I’m afraid they’ll go home, read the book and then start a campaign to get my book banned from their local library. It’s happened to some of the best books in literature, but for an up-and-coming author, the prospect of backlash is a scary thing.

But I think of the very first person I wrote these books for: myself as a 14 year old. I was dealing with a different kind of abuse then: bullying, but it put me in the kind of place where I could relate to children who were victimized. Hearing their stories and how they overcame being a victim and started being a survivor gave me hope that I could do that too.  

The character of Melissa in Home and The Pull dealt with her personal tragedies by becoming a stronger person. So strong, in fact, that she became feared, herself. Not all of us can become warriors. Some who have faced abuse will become poets and painters, doctors and teachers, but to become aware of not only our own demons but the demons our children face can make us that much more equipped to deal with them. 

Home is Where the Monsters Are

The Pull

Has Young Adult Fiction Become Too Dark?