Ah! The dreaded question!
I believe I am more than a single genre.
How can I squeeze all my thoughts, ideas and interests into just one genre? Is it odd that I can’t fit myself into a sole category?
Come to think of it, I’ve never fit into one mold in any aspect of life.
When I was a kid, I was always different in one way…or many. As I matured and learned more about myself and the world around me, I became more diverse, less classifiable. I never even had a single identifiable clothing style; something most girls have going for them.
My literary interests spanned all library sections from Louis L’Amour to Agatha Christie to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Shakespeare to every available book on the care, anatomy, classification and training of horses.
As an adult, I am a classically-homeschooling, Harry Potter-loving, pierced & tattooed wife and mom who loves and follows Christ and is quite alright with not fitting in anybody’s mold.
My all-time favorite author is J.R.R. Tolkien, with the Brontes duking it out for the second spot. My Goodreads “Books I’ve Read” shelf for 2016 showcases authors like Tracy Chevalier, Thom S. Rainer, Stephen King, John Steinbeck, David W. McFadden, Susan Wise Bauer, Natalie Babbitt and Germaine Greer.
My Pandora favorites include nature music, Pentatonix, classical, Metallica, Josh Groban, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Keith & Kristyn Getty, Celldweller, Scottish National Pipe & Drum Corps and Straight No Chaser.
With all my quirks, oddities and seeming contradictions, how could I ever squeeze all my interests and thoughts and creativity into one genre?
If I were to be asked that question with a gun at my temple, I’d blurt out historical fiction because that’s where my heart lies. There is nothing I love better than a well-crafted story surrounding historical events, places and people; and I would love to make my mark in that genre one day. (I kind of want to be Susanna Kearsley—who, I might add, includes elements of various genres in her books and does so quite successfully!)
The truth is, I’ve already been all over the map when it comes to types of content. I have been working on a non-fiction book for five or six years now. Several children’s books exist in varying stages of readiness for submission. My “to-write” list includes a series of biographies for middle school. Several short stories of various types lie to the side, needing another edit or two and a decision about their futures…some a bit darker than I’m sure I want to release. My journal is full of poetry that may or may not ever see the light of day. I have several novels started and awaiting direction—one has historical fiction potential; another took me on a Sci-Fi twist that, quite frankly, scared me a bit.
I always swore I’d never attempt fantasy; but doggone it if I don’t have the most intriguing protagonist beckoning me down that road. That’s the one genre I’ve always fought because I should never be so presumptuous as to think I could enter the realm of the creator of Middle Earth. Seriously, the thought makes my knees knock; but my stubborn brain won’t stay away!
This inability to pledge allegiance to a specific genre has given me a few headaches as I’ve thought through my “author brand” and how to present myself to potential readers and publishers as well as to other writers. And, several times, I’ve gone back to my mind’s drawing board to think it all through again. With so many people demanding a singular answer to this question, perhaps I’m wrong?
Some make the case that a writer must focus on one genre in order to perfect his craft. Personally, though, I find inspiration and clarity comes in a historical fiction work while describing a woman’s hair in a poem; the same recollection of my inquisitive 9-year-old brain aids in compiling a mother-daughter devotional and a biography for young girls about Susanna Wesley. The understanding needed to pen a poem about a desire to end one’s life also aids in empathizing with a short story character who finds her forgetfulness is early-onset Alzheimer’s. And, answering the whys, what ifs and then whats of a novel’s plot leads me to develop a new race of people surrounded by their homeland and customs.
At the end of the day, regardless of genre, the goal is the Story. And, if you can convey a Story in such a way that it moves and affects people even a little, you have proven yourself a worthy storyteller—perhaps in only one genre or perhaps in many.
Think of some of the great authors of the past. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and several other Inklings pop into my mind. They crossed genres repeatedly and, usually, quite successfully. Tolkien produced wonderful poetry of various types; stories of fantasy and faerie, time-travel and more; as well as countless scholarly essays and other publications. Lewis explored fantasy, allegory, non-fiction apologetics, academic works and even sci-fi!
For now, anyway, I choose to focus not on genre; but on the Story. Where does it lead me? Where do my characters need to go? What struggles must they overcome? What circumstances surround them and social conventions hold them back?
After their whisperings cease in my ear, then perhaps I can answer the infamous question. Or, like me, my Story will rest outside the genre box, content in its non-conformity.
What do you think—one genre or many? Where do you fall in your preferred reading and writing?