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





Try it before you write it?

12 08 2013

Do you need to try something before you write about it? Ask Arthur C Clarke.

A flippant answer but pertinent. Did Mr C go into space, did he meet aliens, did he redraft the laws of physics. No. But should he therefore not have written about it?

We are fiction writers. It’s made up. Of course there will be elements of truth  in all our stories – human’s breathe, walk, live in houses, have sex. A plan will transport you between cities, countries or continents. But I have faith that Egypt is in North Africa even though I’ve never been there. If I had a guide book to hand and access to t’interweb I could probably write you a rollicking chase through the souks of Alexandria. But I’ve not experienced either the chase or the souk.

Did Mrs James have to try all 50-shades before she wrote about them? Does Dan Brown read latin or just have a phase book? Did A A Milne really have a hunny-loving bear telling him his thoughts?

There are areas, even in fiction, where experience is beneficial. A knowledge of anatomy is useful when writing a murder scene. Understanding of police procedure helps set up a detective story. Your first book will probably have more of your knowledge than any subsequent because you will write what you know before you really get into making everything else.

Do you need to try it before you write it? No. But you should know it. Don’t piss off your readers by putting Birmingham at the end of the M23 motorway – unless of course you’ve made a world where it really is!

Why not just make up the fact that you’ve tried it!





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!