Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Stuck in the genre with you

I know this blog’s called Murderous Musings and I’m also aware that sometimes my own musings here aren’t very murderous. But that’s because (like many of my colleagues, I suspect), the genre thing sometimes feels restrictive. At the same time, I know full well that publishers (and probably readers) prefer us to stay within the genre they associate with us.

When my historical novel, The Figurehead, was published, it was well received but, as well as being crime-based, it flirted with the romance genre, and some readers and reviewers commented on the fact. In a different way, The Sparrow Conundrum was also a departure, being a satirical novel on the spy genre which was all black humour and near-farcical situations. It’s crime-related but my main aim in writing it was to make readers laugh.

I’ve been told I should think of using a pseudonym but if that’s the case there’d be three of me already – the police procedural guy, the historical guy, and the funny man.

On the other hand, if a reader spends $X or £X on a book of mine because he/she enjoyed a previous one, I’ll be disappointing them if it’s totally different. But on the other other hand, should writers be condemned to keep on producing the same book over and over?

My plan is to write just one more in my procedural series, featuring Jack Carston. So far there are five books and he’s been changing through them. I anticipate that the final one will actually end with him leaving the police force. I had no overall plan when I wrote the first, but as the books appeared, I began to sense the bleakness accumulating underneath the killings and suspected that an empathetic person (such as Carston) might be seriously affected by having to deal with constant examples of man’s inhumanity to man (and especially woman). Carston’s at the stage where the satisfactions of solving mysteries are being outweighed by the cruelties he’s witnessed.

I’m not suggesting that I’ll stop writing crime altogether. The sequel to The Figurehead is well advanced, and the romance element is even stronger, but it’s still about a crime. And I’ve already sketched out some scenes for the sequel to The Sparrow Conundrum because that’ll be great fun to write.

And this posting sums up two opposing functions of blogging. Here, I’ve expressed my misgivings about being stuck in a genre but I’ve also warned readers what to expect by spelling out what each new title will deliver. At the same time I’ve, perhaps foolishly, articulated in public my plans for future books. Whenever that happens, the written word becomes a fixed, irretrievable truth. Which means I seem to have committed myself to writing the damn things.

On the other hand (again), I could have a Damascene moment and leap to an entirely different genre – something like ‘The Wordless Novel’. I could manage that.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I sympathize, Bill. I think you've successfully combined a number of genres, which I've enjoyed. I've written in four genres and would hate to be stuck in just one. The lines have blurred since I began writing and I've combined more than one in my own novels.

Bill Kirton said...

Yes Jean, you're a good example of a writer who moves easily (and naturally) into other areas of interest. Much as I love the crime genre, I think if that's all I wrote, it would quickly become stale and repetitive.