There’s a place for all types of literature in this world. Where there is an audience, there is a writer eager to deliver. However, if someone cracks open one of my books expecting a damsel in distress, a cookie-cutter hero with abs that could slice open drywall, and gratuitous sex, they are going to be disappointed.
Let me explain. I am not placing judgment on writers who write these types of books, nor the readers who choose to read them. In fact, I have many friends who write books along this genre, whom I will support and encourage until my dying breath. I will even read their books, appreciating the effort and creativity, though they don’t fall within my typical reading preferences. I love them, and respect them. But I don’t write those stories myself.
Personal preference does not make one better than another. This applies to all aspects of life (dress, sexual orientation, career, faith), not just literary choices. I may not have any desire to read Fifty Shades, but I am grateful for any book that opens the world of reading to a wider audience. An upsurge of the “mommy porn” genre has certainly changed the publishing industry as a whole, and most especially the indie community. It’s a sort of escapism that fits well into a time and culture where we are struggling with our economic standing, social belief systems, and a world that all too often feels as if it might crumble apart.
To be clear: it’s not that I don’t enjoy a good sex scene. I do. I write them, with great relish, when they make sense. Shower scene from The Storm and the Darkness, anyone? 😉
Writers write what they want to read…mostly. My favorite genres are ones I will never write in. I enjoy historical fiction and non-fiction, but lack the focus to sort through the immense research required to make it sufficiently accurate (and my standards of historical accuracy are high).
Exhaustive research aside, I do write what I would want to read. I write about characters who are not predictable. People who make bad decisions, or illogical ones, because, like the rest of us, they are real. Dimensional. Flawed. I look for themes in decisions, and circumstances. I make choices in my stories not because they are convenient, but because they are natural. As a result, you might find my heroine is not entirely likable. My antagonist may make decisions that cause you to want to put the book down. My characters don’t always get happy endings, because we don’t always get them, either. Moral ambiguities exist all around us. As an author, my goal is not only to introduce complex themes but to help myself, and my readers understand them. Why do people do what they do? Sometimes the answer is, we don’t know. But shining a light on a dusty corner can often bring up some very ornate cobwebs.
I’ve always struggled with how to best categorize my books. Where “Literary Fiction” always felt cozy and right, encompassing the huge range of subjects I bridge, I realize that my audience likely includes Contemporary Romance readers. The challenge is that my books perhaps do not contain enough of the standard elements to keep the average Romance reader engaged. Not enough kinky sex? Not enough empowered businesswomen looking for love? Not enough well-muscled bad boys with a heart of gold? There’s nothing wrong with those things, but you will not find them in my books. So if you opened one looking for that, I am sorry.
I realize that this post could be very polarizing. There are those who may take offense (though I sincerely mean none at all). Others who might think I’m an elitist jerk (which is also not my intention). Those who know me well will understand where I am going with this.
Why am I risking censure? It’s really simple: I can’t solve the genre confusion. I can’t (nor would I want to) change reader’s tastes. But I can set proper expectations.
As an author, I will give you 100% of myself in each and every book. Unfortunately, my 100% may not be your cup of tea, and I can live with that. Variety is good, right?