“So, what do you write?”
What don’t I write? Porn? Probably not. Annual reports? White papers? Not anymore! I shrug. “Everything? Whatever tickles my fancy?”
“Yes, but what’s your genre?”
I take a good swig of Bourbon and I’m immediately reminded of why I’ll never write like Hemingway. I cringe at the question, fighting the urge to cough as the alcohol fumes travel back up my throat. I want to say, “That’s a stupid question,” but there are no stupid questions. Nearly 30 years after everybody found a way to get online, there are only a devastating slew of stupid answers. I consider giving one. It would be so freeing.
I did used to answer “What do you write?” with “Cue cards for Vanna White,” or “those blurbs on the back of your cereal box – that thing you read when you’ve plowed through all the good books in the house, and it’s raining.”
Genre. Hmm. Technical manuals. That would be an honest, dreary answer. But really, is “Whatever tickles my fancy” a genre? It might be easier to answer by process of elimination. What doesn’t interest me enough to write, ever?
I’m drawn to fantasy, in part because everyone’s a critic. These days, I can’t fool you if I write about Podunk – someone living in Podunk will get on the Internet and tell the world it’s obvious I’ve never been there. Someone else will rush to my defense, saying the residents of Podunk should just be happy for the good publicity, and glad I didn’t plant a strip club where the local Methodist church actually stands.
In an era where half of all readers want to escape into an alternate reality and the other half insist on scrupulous accuracy, it’s tough to write realistic fiction.
Horror is fun to write, but hits too close to reality, some days. And again, even if you write about vampires, someone’s going to Google “vampire facts” and pick their fangs with the pages of your novel. Fiction’s the one place where it is perfectly acceptable – required, almost – to create a world of “alternative facts.”
But why should anyone choose one genre from such a sumptuous smorgasbord? Just write. Let booksellers figure out where to shelve the thing.
After all, humans can’t be easily shoved into pigeonholes, why should stories be? The most interesting stories are written about humanity – our strengths, our flaws, and our foibles. Genre – if it exists at all, will out itself in time. One may elbow its way past the others to cry out, “I am the beast of Gothic Horror!” as the romantic heroine laughs, muttering, “The creature of comedy, more like…”
As Queen of the No-Niche Niche, I’d rather write “supremely entertaining, genre-bending works of fiction.” That’s it, in a nutshell. That’s my new mission statement, as a writer.
What genre do I write? You figure it out.