A couple of weeks ago I was working away at Book Three, and finding out how unclear I still was on the concept. When I’m stuck I consult, but half the time I end up even more brain-scrambled. I was faced with the whole concept of genre, which I had not considered before, and particularly with the fact that my potential book fits into rather too many, and thus possibly into none at all.
This wasn’t an issue for, say, Douglas Adams when he wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. He described the book as “A thumping good detective–ghost–horror--who dunnit--time travel–romantic–musical--comedy–epic.” But the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could get away with anything. Not only would people read anything he wrote, but the book is wonderful so they kept reading.
But a reader who opens a bdsm book has certain…shall we say… expectations? Yes, bdsm erotica is now combined with science fiction, paranormal, romance, steampunk, mystery and no doubt many other genres. The genres are usually obvious from the cover and the blurb, and the readers who open those books also know what they think they’re getting. In the commercial world of publishing, genre is crucial. Formulas come into play. Readers’ anticipations have to be met and fulfilled, book after book.
I can relate to being disappointed when something doesn’t fit the genre I was expecting. I recall a couple of books that should have been detective fiction according to their blurbs. In both, the policeman protagonists were more tragic figures than detectives, and figured out nothing at all. The blurbs were totally misleading, obviously written by someone at the publishing house who assumed a clear-cut genre when the novels didn’t fit.
But I’m reluctant to shoehorn myself into a particular niche. The story I’m plotting has plenty of bdsm, of course (that’s a given), and is contemporary, like As She’s Told, but it has elements that might get it labelled as paranormal. Those seeking paranormal bdsm might be disappointed, though, because I think of it more as magic realism (remember The Time Traveler’s Wife?). I’m also trying to write a serious bdsm-lit novel focused on characterization and relationships, so those looking for a quick and raunchy kink fix are going to be grumbling and skipping a lot of pages.
I don’t fit. That’s really what this post is about. And I hope I’ll be forgiven, because I’m stubborn as hell and will write the book I want to write, genre be damned. (And will then of course agonize over the confusion and negative reactions I’ve engendered.)
Do you care if genres get mixed? What’s your reaction if a book goes down some road you didn’t expect?