One of the most frustrating questions asked of me as a writer is “What genre do you write in?”
As much as I hate it, genre matters. Genre matters a lot. This is true when it comes to looking for an agent, an editor, a publishing house, and even self-publishing is not free from the tyrannical clutch of “genre.” Writing contests and awards are one way to stand out from the sea of horribly-written, self-published fiction. And guess how are those writing contests classified and divided?
There’s no escape from genre.
Technically, mine is fantasy but I don’t get so wrapped up in the magical elements or alternate world building that is considered usual in the genre. For me, magic is a tool I use to make my point and carry the story in ways that I would not be able to do in a setting of the “real world,” but magic is not the focus of the story. I consider my foundation to be in fairy tales, fables, and mythology, and forget urban fantasy or sci fi because I’m not into technology in my life and I don’t want to get bogged down in that in fiction. I also want to be commercially successful, but well written. So well written, that my commercial fairy tale fantasy would be considered literary.
Then there are the sex scenes, which reach the explicit standard of erotica. But I treat sex with a lot of reverence. So in those scenes, I do my damnedest to write them beautifully in as poetic and lyrical fashion as I can, in the hopes that one would consider this literary erotica. But if the main genre is “fantasy,” some readers may not see that coming and…
For erotica to be literary, this must center on a love story. But it doesn’t fit the romance genre because romance requires the happily-ever-after ending, and my love stories don’t end that way. Oddly enough, the second novel I’m working on right now in a series of 4, is far more of a love story with a lot of erotica more than fantasy. It even has a HEA ending, but the two love stories within that end in abandonment and heartache. There is some magic there, with a Sorcerer who turned an angry, ugly peasant named Addie into Adrianna the Beautiful, a courtesan who only gets better with time. But other than that and a couple of other scenes, magic plays very little in this fantasy novel that is much more about love, sex, intrigue, and rivalry than a fantasy world of magic.
The question of genre irritates me because it is so confining. As a writer who blends styles, who prefers to do some of this, a little of that, a bit of this here, and touches of that there, why can’t there be a space to write outside of the limitations of genre? Isn’t that what creativity is supposed to do? Isn’t that how we grow and evolve what is art and literature?