What Is My Genre?

I’ve thought about this a great deal in recent weeks. Particularly since, right now, I’m thoroughly enjoying my read-through of Silk Over Razor Blades (Mach 3) in preparation for its last batch of edits.

I started reading having forgotten (almost completely) who my characters are and what the plot was. I felt as though I were coming to the story for the first time and that is a feeling I love. It makes editing so much simpler as I’m distanced enough from it that I can easily making chopping decisions which would have been hard had I started in December or even earlier this month.

But what about genre? Silk Over Razor Blades will be published this year, come hell or high water, so I need to know how to define it. Where does it lie on the general spectrum of genre fiction? What other authors would I expect to see alongside this piece in a bookshop?

Ugh. Horrible question.

fantasy button by algotruneman at open clipartWell… I read lots of Laurell K Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and Kelley Armstrong. So I would love for my books to fit amongst the ranks of these women; it would be a massive honour! The books by these women feature strong female characters, ongoing story lines and rich, fantasy worlds based in our own but different enough that you’re forced to call these books fantasy. And they are. These women write urban fantasy among other things.

But these books also contain a romantic element. Books like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight blasted the lid off vampires and turn them into something new. I’m sure the mushroom-like sprouting of paranormal romance sections across all my favourite book shops is down to her sparkly, angsty series. So are they urban fantasies with a dash of paranormal romance? And where does the paranormal bit come from? Is that the vampires, or is that something else?

My writing buddy Maria is editing a novel right at the moment that I would call paranormal. But there is no romance in it (that I know of; I’ve not read the whole thing). So is there a separate pile for just plain paranormal? Is this where the other fantastic creatures of the night come in?

I used to think that what I wrote was horror. Mainly because, in my mind, vampires are scary. Watching Buffy when I was a teenager relieved me of that illusion pretty quickly (there is NOTHING scary about Angel; he was a wet blanket!). So I know it’s not horror that I write. The more observant of you may have noticed that I’ve already removed that from our shared tagline. *points to top of page*

lady vampire by OlKu from Openclipart.com

But Ileandra doesn’t look like this… honest…

But my vampires aren’t scary. No. Correction. They are scary, but the Silk Over Razor Blades story isn’t just about vampires. That Ileandra happens to be one is integral to the story, yes, but for the most part, the story is about her growth as a person. Learning that being selfish and material will cost you in the long run. She learns to care about others and put them and their needs first, not only because she can, but because it is her responsibility to do so.

So now what? Does that move my story right out of genre fiction completely and drop it back in the land of general fiction? I bloody hope not!

At the end of the day, pinning down genre is a sticky mess, but very much necessary. It helps people understand what they should expect from your book and, if you plan to publish traditionally, allows publishers to figure out where they should put you in stores. How they should market you. What sort of cover best suits the market you’re aiming for.

Thinking about the range of characters and the broad scope of the larger trilogy, I would have to say that Silk Over Razor Blades is an urban fantasy. It takes place in a city. It is contemporary. There are fantastic elements to the world and people that just aren’t real and therefore must be classed as fantasy. There are supernatural elements and weird creatures (less in the first book and more in the third) that cannot be explained through anything other than magic. So that must make it fantasy. Right…?

How have you guys come to the decision on what your genre is? Does it change across different stories that you write? Are you somewhere in the middle? Is it so difficult to define your genre that you’ve come up with a brand new one all for yourself?

I’d love to hear about it. ^_^
new ileandra signature,

About Ileandra Young

I'm a thirty-*mumbles* year old (purple loving, cheese worshipping) author of fantasy, juggling a pair of beautiful twin boys with my burning desire to make up stories and write them all down. When I get the chance, I play games, listen to music, and in days long past I even ran a radio show. Though I occasionally write non-fiction, my heart lives in fantasy and my debut novel, Silk Over Razor Blades is now available through Amazon along with part two of the trilogy, Walking The Razor's Edge.
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2 Responses to What Is My Genre?

  1. The broad genre categories that publishers use are a bit… well, old. They should be recognising new niches and giving them some room to breathe.

    Your story’s description is really where you can define your subgenre. That’s what the reader is going to see before they read the book and if they are looking for something a bit different than a story which stays firmly within the bounds of one genre, that’s how you’re going to win them over. In fact, you can use the argument you have already presented as a reason why they should read your book.

    Of course, they have to actually see the description first. Which means that if they are browsing new books (and for example, browsing new releases in a particular genre) then getting the broad genre right is still crucial.

    Oh yeah, and something’s wonky with the comments, I can’t sign it at all with Twitter. Aagh!


    • I’ll say they’re old! Things just aren’t as they used to be any more and it’s taking publishers waaaay too long to catch up. They are, but it’s almost a case of too little too late; lots of people are realising they can go it alone.

      You’re right about the description too. It’s one of the reasons I hesitated so long, I think. Trying to wedge myself into a particular hole isn’t always going to be as easy as it ultimately was with Silk Over Razor Blades. I’ve got an epic, Robert Jordan style fantasy piece on the cards but it isn’t just fantasy in that sense because the last chunk of the story takes places in contemporary England. So… wah…!

      Fortunately self publishing gives you a little bit of freedom with genre as you need to fit into categories which you can slowly whittle down. But traditional publishing…? Harder. Very much so.

      Thanks for taking the time to come and comment here; I really appreciate it. ^_^


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