Thursday, May 26, 2016

Genres, writing, books, authors... (And a question for you.)

Heya folks,

Long time no hear. This post is a little long, but I need your advice / opinion at the end, so you might want to grab a coffee before you get started on it, or save the article on your phone for when you're bouncing around on the subway after work.

Before we begin:
Debt has acquired some pretty awesome reviews. Thanks to those of you of who took the time to tap away on your mobile phones or iPads after reading the book to give it a review.

So, here's the deal: For a while (like - a year? two?) I've been wanting to branch out into different genres. Which ones, you ask? Well, that's the problem. Because the genres I dig are not quite the genres my fans are into. Well, I'm not sure. Maybe they are, maybe they're not. The point is - I'm treading on risky, untested ground.

No one likes to mention that dirty and forbidden word when discussing Books or Art (that word being "money.") But it is an unfortunate fact that one must indeed consider the level of potential sales for a novel before writing it, and then balance that out with one's personal tastes. "Selling out" never works (I know, because I've done it, and failed miserably because of it.) But writing an existential drama about a seventy-year old woman who's got the itch for a seventeen-year old boy - coupled with a vampire in the closet, and a murder-mystery as part of the tale to boot - also doesn't work. There is a fine line between "personal tastes" and "appealing to a market."

"Appealing to a market" is not the same as "selling out."

Well, my three or so years of writing NA Romance were me "writing to a market." NA is not my favorite genre, but it ranks higher than many others for me. I like the language in NA (I swear like a trooper, and always have), provided it doesn't get out of hand. I like that NA tackles subjects of interest to today's world. I don't know about you. but I've always had trouble relating to the "good girl" from the "good family" in the 'burbs, who meets the cowboy... Nyah, right. I didn't grow up in that world, so when the book is about dysfunctional families and making stupid life-decisions - I'm all for it.

I want you to know that I am equally and 100% guilty of what I'm about to say in the next two paragraphs:
The main trouble I have with reading NA is this: More often than not, I find the plots to be so f***ing PREDICTABLE and, hence, BORING (asshole meets good girl; good girl falls in love with asshole; asshole acts like a bigger asshole; they have sex; they have sex; they have sex; cliffhanger.) Heck, the market is glutted with this crap (guilty as charged - I know, I know). There is a difference between sex and sexual tension. Too few NA novels do the latter with enough finesse. I tried to change this in Debt. I'm not sure if I got it right.

So the only reason I don't devour NA novels is because I hate having to pick up ten or twenty novels to figure out if the story is about the CHARACTERS or about the SEX. And I usually don't pick up ten or twenty. Usually I drop it at five and then go to another genre. NA was a response to the sudden burst in the popularity of Erotica after FSOG. But the boundary between the two genres has blurred again. Looking at reviews for NA novels is no good either, because I think I am in the minority of people who enjoys character-driven NA but dislikes sexually charged Erotica. So if the majority of NA reviewers adore Erotica (which I believe they do), looking for stuff to read based off of reviews becomes a pointless exercise for me.

To date, there are very few NA novels that I have loved.
If you're interested:
I loved The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski. Although I felt the scene when he first went down on her a little contrived but, fine, I think Redmerski probably had to throw that scene in to appeal "to the market" because, overall, that novel has very little sex in it and plenty of character-driven suspense. But I did love the novel.

I loved Rule by Jay Crownover. Wow - now this was a freaking perfect novel. And the sex didn't feel contrived. It felt natural and fitting to the story. Truly character-driven. I might even go so far as to say that this novel is close to a "masterpiece" for the genre. I could gush about this book for several hours.

So what about YA?
Well. There's the actual definition of YA which is, basically, a genre "suitable" for a younger crowd, not necessarily about young people. There are plenty of spectacular YA stories out there (try Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show for some awesome YA fiction at a dirt-cheap price; also Cast of Wonders for really cute - and free - short-story podcasts).
And then there's what passes for YA these days: A story so ignorant of the facts that it is nothing but a patronizing condescension of today's youth. The anomalies in "YA" fiction are so glaring that I wouldn't be surprised if the genre won't be responsible for creating a supremely dumbed-down generation twenty years from now, a generation which accepts anything at face-value - even if it makes no sense at all...

Plot Synopsis:
"The World came to an end."
"It just did."
"Oh, OK."

There's more that irks me about what passes for "YA" at the moment, but I will leave it at that.

For the record: I loved The Hunger Games. I hated the ending, but that was because of personal taste, not any lack of skill on the part of the author (I hate downers for endings.)

Contemporary Romance: I love it. 'nuff said. Although I'm not sure if Jackie Collins counts as "Contemporary Romance," but I can't get enough of her work.

Paranormal Romance: See above notes for NA.

Horror: Uhm, love-hate thing. I dig a scary (even slightly gruesome) story. But I freaking loathe a downer for an ending (see note on The Hunger Games above.) Which is why 11/22/63 worked for me, but Under the Dome and Pet Sematary didn't (even though they were magnificently written.)

Thrillers: Love 'em, but I'd never be able to write one. I think Mystery Writers are amongst the top in the game. I truly admire how they can figure out unique plots and twists that are not cliché or boring. Yeah, if I had the skill, I'd be writing in this genre, but I have a long way to get there.

Science Fiction: Not "hard" science fiction (goes over my head) but I love a good cyberpunk story. Again, I don't have the skill to write in this area - but it's something I've considered. I think Sci-Fi has important messages in a world so set on the past instead of the future.

Humor: Has its limits. Satire is good if properly done, and if it has a decent message.


Yup, indeed. (For those of you who skipped the whole article and jumped straight to this heading...I forgive you). 

The point is this: My next novel will likely not be NA. I loved Debt. I put a lot of work into it. It's a massive freaking book. I did my best on it...but I want to move on now. 
Will the next story be YA? If so, I doubt it will contain vampires. 
Will it be a Mystery?
Will it be Horror?

Well. This is a question I've asked myself almost daily for the last two years, but especially for the last year. 

I've skipped a bunch of the "middle-story" here. There's a lot more behind this thought-process than a mere discussion of tastes and genres, but I won't get into that now. Lawd knows this post is long enough as it is. 

This is is just me thinking out loud, wondering what to do next. I haven't been sitting still in the last few months. I've got half a story in almost all of the above genres sitting on my computer as I write this. But now I need to take one of those and actually turn it into a completed story. The question is: Which one? Which genre?

The answer, dear friends, is brutally simple: ALL OF THEM. 

I won't be the first NA author to do it (Jennifer Armentrout, Jamie McGuire, J.A. Redmerski, Tara Brown all write in wildly different genres - and under different names). 

So here's my question for YOU:
What's your next-favorite genre after NA / PNR/ Erotica? 

Yes, I plan on releasing books in numerous different genres. The only question left is which genre to do first?

I hope you're up for dipping your feet into some different-style Rachel Dunning. I'm still not 100% sure if I'll write under this name or under a different name, but I'll definitely let you know on this blog when I'm done with my first book in [insert your favorite genre here]. 

You finished your coffee? Good for you. Thanks for reading. I need to go brew myself a fresh one.