Crossing the genre Rubicon

21 09 2013

I write chick-lit and am proud of it! But some people have issues with being typecast into a genre. He only writes westerns, she’s a feminist author, see when his next historic romance is out, M&B weepie etc etc.

Some people get so annoyed with being ‘trapped’ they seek to escape. There are a number of ways of doing this and we can see in the real world that it really works – if you have the skill and talent to get away with it.
• Iain Banks / Iain M Banks – fiction / science fiction
• JK Rowling / Robert Galbraith – fantasy / crime
• Stephen King / Richard Bachman – horror / oh, er, horror

How do they do it though? I am steeped in my genre. I love the ability to hide hard hitting reality under banal conversation and trap readers seeking a sex & shopping moment inside a complex detective story under a chick-lit cover. Chick-lit-dicks satisfy nearly all my needs as a writer because I work at it and make the genre my own.

Crossing into a fantasy world or horror would be a wide river indeed. I would spend my time fearing I was paddling in the Styx rather than the Rubicon. Would all my readers leave me to pay the lonely ferryman as critics pan the attempt to cash in with second-rate output? Or would it be safer to use the pseudonym until it was proved I knew what I was about and could float your boat (perhaps taking the analogy too far?)

Ask a secondary question. Do genres really exist with boundaries we dare not cross?
B*ll*cks to that! I’ll write what I want

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Homophobe or Racist – which do you prefer?

18 09 2013

As a writer you have to live inside other people’s heads for much of your life. I’m a bloke, have been all my life, but I find myself inside the minds of my heroines. The creative mind sits inside someone I will never be – but women (obviously) face many of the same issues as men and I can empathise with many of the others!
In much the same way I sometimes find myself inside a bigot, a rapist, a killer – trying to understand them, trying to make their voices plausible, their actions consistent. And I don’t always know if I am doing it right!
If a bigot hates gays does it follow that he/she also has to have a problem with black people or Jews or the Welsh? If they don’t ‘have to’ be universally bigoted is there somewhere I can go to find out the correlation. Do 90% of KKK members regularly protest against vegans or is it only 5% or not correlated at all? Does the national census track this? Do Which? produce a report? Who knows these things?
I’m being deliberately flippant about this because it is all in my head. If I want to make my baddie even worse I will throw some casual racism into their dialogue because I see that as a bad thing in a person. But if I make them racist can they also be gay – do people with one unjustified subjectively dodgy bias automatically have to have more? Does a homosexual racist criminal have to hate straight people?
Sometimes I think it is better to steer away from such questions but sometimes a writer just can’t. Characters develop with a story and sometimes they aren’t consistent and sometimes, to be blunt, they turn out to be complete b**tards!





Sequel – how many is too many?

30 08 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about sequels. How many can you have? How many stories about the same hero can you write. I think Clive Cussler has over 30 about Dirk Pitt. How about Captain Johns and Biggles, Conan Doyle and Sherlock, Blyton and her five or seven adventurers. Sometimes you have no choice but to write more and more and more.  Doyle tried to kill off Holmes but wasn’t allowed. Wodehouse occasionally bored of Jeeves but had to keep popping back for more.

Some would say I am more semantically discussing series rather than sequels but the dividing line is blurred. Following a single life through multiple adventures seems to me to be a series of sequels but should a sequel follow concurrently to be a sequel rather than a series? Does it ultimately matter? Let us assume for now that it doesn’t. Sequel = series.

So how many is too many? Should the author choose or the readers? The rise of fan fiction would indicate that for some readers there can never be enough. The hero resonates so much in their own lives that they want to take them to new places, given them new experiences. Do I, as an author, own my character, own my heroines? I think I do. Unless I say to the world that their lives are their own for others to develop then I think that I do. Mrs Vintner belongs to me and I do with Penny B what I wish. Or, strong women as they are, I do with them as they wish!

There is no limit on the tales to tell about a hero, a band of brothers, a dynasty, a country. Each links to the other and builds to create a world which your reader wants to live. If you, as a writer, do get bored of it and need a new direction then you can do no worse than to let your creation go. But before you give them into the hands of all and sundry who daily contribute to the slushpiles of creation why not consider the ghost writer, the co-writer – you can’t stop having ideas about the people you created so why not let someone you trust write their lives for you.

Don’t kill off your Holmes, outsource him!





First books – how autobiographical are they?

16 08 2013

First books are autobiographical.

This is something I have always known, both intellectually and anecdotally. The proof sits on the shelves of any bookseller. First novels are where authors pour their naked souls only to edit and rewrite to take some bits back, hide themselves away again, disguise and disfigure to bring new heroes and villains to life.

I have often wondered if I re-read the first novels of each of my series, would I see different facets of the creative mind in each heroine. Does Mrs Vintner hide more darkness than Penny B? Will Mischa give people a view of my lightness of spirit at times?

Or…

Or is the first novel which no-one sees the one where you are most naked? We all have that first book – it may not be finished – it may never have fully left your mind– but we authors all have the first embarrassing secret text where we gave too much and could not edit it enough to hide our true selves from the readers

To quote some advice given in my latest work:

“This is your first novel. There are always autobiographical elements. Don’t worry about it, there has to be. But if you don’t give Mischa her own face, her own voice, she will assume the readers know her as well as you know yourself. You, the writer, are just recording her actions, her thoughts – not your own – no matter how similar you might think she is.”





Chick-lit-dicks

8 08 2013

It has long been known that chick-lit is not the easy way in to being an author. Admittedly there are some shockingly bad examples which have somehow escaped the slush pile – often in response to a publisher’s need to have something out there “on-trend”. Self-publishing is also home to a number of books that would benefit from a spell-check, an editor’s green pen or a lit match.

However, chick-lit at its best is good. Better than good. It is structured yet creative, offering the reader an escape without forcing them to think too hard or reach for a dictionary. Feeding enough data to spark the imagination without being patronising, and they don’t have to have to lead the reader by the nose to the next set-piece. It’s not all muscles and passionate embraces.

I love the concept of detective stories in the chick-lit arena. Chick-lit-dicks I call my heroines. It is a bit tongue in cheek but it is what they are. Chick-lit detectives, private dicks, brains for hire, crimes to solve, helping people who need it. And if they find the necessary romance along the way? Well, it comes on their own terms and not just because some pecks get flexed or they fall for the “Why Miss B, you’re beautiful under those glasses” line.

Chick-lit, like any genre, needs regular reinvention. It’s not all sex and shopping. My heroines do indulge in both but they also make a difference to the people they meet. Not just chick-lit with a heart, chick-lit with dicks!