Author Robert Dunn has stopped by the blog today to share a Guest Post. His latest novel A Living Grave is being release on September 13 by Lyrical Underground.
Check out my review of his recent release Motorman here.
Let’s check out his Guest Post, shall we?
It’s Time to Play, What’s My Genre?
By Robert Dunn, author of A Living Grave
It seems like an easy question and a silly game but it has serious stakes. Something you hear a lot in writer circles is the idea that genre shouldn’t matter. I’ve read interviews with writers who say they hate being slotted into a definition. They don’t think of their work as anything but, hopefully, a good book and books should be equal, free to find their widest audience without labels. Most of the writers that say that are the very successful—household name—making big movie deals—bestseller list writers. And to a degree they are right. That degree is books should be equal, like the American ideal, all capable of growing up to be president. We all know how that works.
Authors selling into broad markets see genre as a limiting factor.
The whole idea of genre is to categorize and help readers find your book by grouping it with other books they already know and like. That is also the limit that so many writers object to. Many readers don’t look beyond their comfort label. Is your paranormal romance shelved with horror titles or romance? It makes a big difference. If the book is more paranormal than romance it won’t satisfy the strictly romance fans. If it’s more romance, the paranormal fans, read that horror fans, because that is where it will be shelved, won’t be happy at all.It’s oftentimes up to someone who has not read the book to decide where to put it in the bookstore. All of that is easier if sometimes more confusing with online retailers listing a book in every, even vaguely, meaningful category.
The thing is that the big names and big titles have a gravity to them. They have mass and awareness that draw readers to them both despite and because of genre. All the rest of us, the small press authors, the first timers with a larger publisher need to be found. We want our horror book on a horror shelf not a general fiction section that stretches or a mile. I have written books in horror, both very genre zombies and aliens as well as more literary, mystery/thrillers, and romantic suspense. If you were to put them on one shelf by author’s name it would just make different readers angry at me for fooling them. On the other hand, because of those little overlaps, literary horror, mystery thriller, romantic suspense, it matters very much where the book is placed in category shelving. These books need online retailing.
There is no easy answer and no winning the genre game. I can understand the complaints of authors who don’t want to be limited and see the needs of the smaller authors who live by genre. Over it all are the concerns of publishers and book sellers in an increasingly dynamic and fractured marketing world.
But I’m learning something else as I go along. The hard rules of genre really are for the shelves at the local B&N. The books themselves are best served by a furious and liberal cross pollination. While it’s true a romance with a horror ending is going to be a tough sell, bringing a new layer of tension, a jolt of fear into the story can serve it well. Taking character expectations and types from one to another is also liberating. It’s easy to see with the growing influence of paranormal in romance and, I believe, a simmering resurgence of gothic in horror. Have you noticed a creeping rise in weird western titles? I have.
Books like my upcoming, The Harrowing, a mix of thriller, horror, and contemporary fantasy, are something that better writers than I are leading with. Jonathan Maberry is one of those authors forging the new hybrid genre, horror/thriller. His Joe Ledger series about a team of special operations agents that confront everything from genetically modified monsters to zombies and Lovecraftian elder things is the product of a lot of gear shifting. And it’s shaking things up. Not an earth quake shake up but something I notice when I browse at a book store. I’ve seen his wonderful Joe Ledger and Dez Fox books shelved as horror, as science fiction, and simply in the general literature heading. I picked up one of his latest, Kill Switch, at the library and it had a Suspense sticker on the spine identical to what was attached to the latest historical mystery from David Morrell.
Another author that’s doing the genre mix and making it work so well is Richard Kadrey. In the Sandman Slim series of books, Kadrey has succeeded in fusing horror fantasy with a hard boiled noir feel. It is a potent mix both with readers and the people who choose shelving position.
Maybe I’m just rationalizing my own lack of focus and short attention span. Or maybe I’m part of a larger trend of writers shifting our genre gears more often. I hope so. Not just to make myself feel better but because of the books. Writers and their work benefit from a broadness of experience. It works the other way as well. Writers who read widely, bring different energies and viewpoints to their work. In all cases, it is books, and publishing, and book selling that benefit. That’s good for everyone.
I wish I could make it look easy like Jonathan Maberry does. I don’t know him. We’ve shared some posts on social media and I read his books. (I can’t imagine him reading one of mine.) What I do imagine is him shifting easily, down into the curve and up on the long straight away taking the different bits and pieces of genre and melding them into his own smooth road. I’m getting better at it but the thing is, as I said and I slowly figured out, it’s not about the writer. It is about the books, the finished bits that stand for us in neat rows on the shelf or online display.
So even though it makes my head spin, and I don’t make any of it look easy, I’m going to keep shifting and jumping tracks to make my own road. It will feel so much better sharing it that way.
Robert Dunn’s next book, A Living Grave, is out from Kensington Lyrical in September.
The first in a gritty new series featuring sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams, as she investigates moonshine, murder, and the ghosts of her own past…
BODY OF PROOF
Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.
The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bottlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unraveling each thread will take time Katrina might not have as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…
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