Wednesday, May 27, 2009


On Monday I went into town. While there I had a follow up appointment with the back specialist - I need to seriously start an exercise regime - organise a student ID card - so I can get into Conjecture next month on the cheap - and visit a book shop for some research.

I was very proud of myself for not buying anything, even though I visited three book shops!

I needed to locate where my book, AKL, would sit on the shelf so I could pinpoint the type of book I'm writing in regards to genre, and to help me better describe it when talking about it with other interested parties - you know, agents, publishers, and the like ;c)

It was a bit of an eye-opener.

Is my book historical fiction? Yes. It takes place in colonial Australia back in 1839 with fictional characters in a real time and place, and with real events of the period happening around them.

Is it paranormal? Yes. It involves European superstitions of the time, Aboriginal Dreamtime legends, and a malevolent ghost.

Is it romance? Yes, but not so much. My protagonist falls for one man, who betrays her and later she falls for the right man, but this isn't the main focus of the plot or theme. There is a fair bit of underlying (and mildly graphic) sex and passion which breaches the surface on a regular basis to firmly place it in the adult reading sphere.

Is it literary? Yes. The plot centres around a young woman's struggle to survive in an inhospitable climate and against a male dominated society. So the quintessential coming of age/finding one's place type of story.

So I have a paranormal historical romance novel??? What???!!!

While at the book store, I took note of other historical novels. 'The Potato Factory' by Bryce Courtenay; 'A Kingdom for the Brave' by Tamara McKinley; 'Nindra' by Dianne Holding - just to name a few.

AKL is a little like all of these, but with more. In many instances, that more is the paranormal element. Currently, my story wouldn't have a final Act without the paranormal bits. The first two Acts were written pretty much without any paranormal input (I'm waiting to write the last bit so I can go back and do plants (layering). The first half works without it, but a story isn't a story without an ending (as Aaron has so neatly pointed out here). In other bits, my use of sex is more prominent (re: graphic) than many other historical novels.

So how to define my book succinctly? Carrie Harris, as part of the Query Ninja Project (if you haven't checked this out yet you definitely should), puts some great advice on the table to help with this. Unfortunately, my assignment, which started this round of thinking about query letters, asks me to name the genre my book fits into. Personally I like the idea of painting a picture of the book with enough detail that the genre is fairly obvious to any agent/publisher who reads it, but I can't side-step this assignment requirement.

In my real-world query, I'll paint the picture and let those in the industry, who should be better at it than I am, decide for themselves.

So that leaves me with the assignment. How do I nominate a genre for this book? A hard question as I haven't fully finished writing the first draft, and none of you have read any of it, but any suggestions on how I can narrow this down, at least for the assignment, would be appreciated.

Does anyone else have this difficulty?


  1. The question I currently ask myself is, "Is it horror if the bad stuff happens to people who deserve it?"

    I'm leaning towards "literary" with your book. My reasoning being that literary books can be historical, hot, and/or have ghosts and no one bats an eyelash.

  2. I'm thinking this could work as literary too. Genre with things that aren't obvious really confuses me sometimes.

    And you've got much more will power than me. Three bookstores? I would've come home with at least three books.

  3. Thanks for sharing a bit of the storyline of AKL. You've mentioned it a few times in the past and I was wondering about the subject matter.

    Category...Hmm...As you noted, it may be best to proceed as-is and leave it to the experts (ie. those that would pay you). A librarian may be a good person to categorize a book based on it's subject matter.

    My opinion (for what it's worth) is that if the paranormal element is strong, make it horror as the sex and history are along for the ride. If somebody finds it in the romance section, they may be OK with the history but wonder about the paranormal (unless, of course, it's paranormal sex).

    Anyhoo...good luck with that!

  4. I'm definately going with literary. Literary can be a good stew-pot of elements. You have one heck of a stew pot (sounds very interesting).

  5. I think the literary mold might fit quite nicely for this. It is the label I would probably try to fit it into. An agent upon reading the actual manuscript might try to classify it as something completely different, but I think it is a good start.

  6. Trying to put the label "literary" on a book which has elements of several distinct genres just for marketing purposes is somewhat like calling a person with multiple personality disorder "well rounded." : )

    I've read enough literary fiction to know that it doesn't read the same way genre fiction does. In a few RARE cases, a book from the genre fiction camp crosses that invisible boundary into the literary world and achieves lasting fame and world renown.

    Your book MAY BE literary fiction, but I think the odds are against it if you didn't start out with that in mind... And if I may be blunt, I don't think you spend any time reading literary fiction, so I find it hard to believe you would suddenly produce a NOVEL in that genre.

    I think Alan has it right. Concentrate on the paranormal aspect. The fact that the setting isn't the present day just adds flavor to it rather than being the point of it. Same with the romance.

  7. I think you all make good points. The issue I have is because it's still the first draft. I know I have to go back and add in a lot of the layering (plants, etc) to build the atmosphere for the second half of the book so the paranormal will become much more prominent, I know I still have the relationship arc of the protagonist and her true love to grow, and yet there is still so much to use of the historical period to add the setting as a fully fledged character.

    Perhaps I need to stop worrying about this question and just get the thing finished...