Friday, August 13, 2010
Last week, I published a review on Anne Carter's (Pam Ripling's) second lighthouse novel "Cape Seduction". In the review, I casually referred to the novel as a "paranormal romance". I explained that I usually do not read novels in this genre, but this one was different and listed all the reasons WHY. The romance was sweet, not a tawdry bodice-ripper, and the paranormal aspects are subtle. And the lighthouses! The mystery! The intrigue!
When the comments started coming in, my blood turned icy. Almost unilaterally, readers said "I'm tired of paranormal" or "I don't like romances". Honestly, as bloggers who are literally drowning in books, we DO look for any possible reason to minimize the TBR - we have to weed them out somehow, right? I understood where you all were coming from...I'm so sick of vampires I could gag, and I am too jaded to buy into a typical romance novel. But this novel does not fall into those categories. I felt like I had completely failed in communicating the merits of this book.
I believe most people stopped reading when they saw the labels "paranormal" and "romance".
And I was filled with regret. By using those two words, I guaranteed 99% of my readers would never give this book another thought.
I thought about it at length (almost obsessively). There are no ghouls in this book, just an occasional appearance of a gentle spirit of a woman who was greatly wronged. No sparkly vampires. No wolf-boys. No lurid sex scenes. What category do we place this book? Mystery? Romance? Historical fiction? Paranormal? The answer is...all of them and none of them.
Pam sent me an e-mail a few days ago, explaining her quandary and asking for my input. To promote her books, she attends romance festivals, mystery festivals, etc. but never feels like she completely belongs in any of them. She is alone in a sea of crime scenes, gumshoes, police procedurals, bare chests, groped body parts and torn undergarments.
This summer, I also reviewed two books written by Irene Ziegler, who called her latest book (Ashes to Water) a "platypus" and a "mysterary". I believe she may be having the same problems as Pam.
I think you could apply this same issue to the Young Adult genre. How many amazing books have I read this year in which their marketers have positioned them within the confines of this genre, but are ignored by the adult book-buying public because they don't want to read a "kids' book"? Molly @ The Bumbles Blog actually proved this with an experience this summer at the doctor's office, when one woman was embarrassed and hesitant to share that she enjoyed Percy Jackson's The Lightning Thief.
Are we doing harm to the books we love by labelling them in our reviews, placing them into a particular genre? How does an author, who crosses genres, effectively promote her work? Or in an effort to maximize appeal, should the author attempt to force their books into the genre categories?
Pam published a post earlier this week on her blog entitled "The Perils of Cross-Genre Writing", if you want to get her side of the equation.
I'd love to hear your opinion on this. It may have been discussed before, but this is the first time I feel it has directly affected my reviews.