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Friday, 27 May 2011

Escaping from the Genre Box

I want to talk a bit about the different genres of my published books. I have 3 published novels on sale, one paperback and two e-books. Dead Wood and Night Watcher are dark crime novels which some readers describe as scary, although I don’t necessarily agree with this. Maybe I’m immune. A Salt Splashed Cradle, published yesterday, is a historical family saga.
An author who is lucky enough to acquire a publishing contract is immediately put into a little box that defines which genre he or she will publish. So if the first accepted book is crime, you become a crime writer, and vice versa. Many authors are dissatisfied with this but find it impossible to climb out of their genre box, which publishers keep firmly locked. With e-publishing, however, the situation can change. An author has the freedom to write in several genres, and provided their book descriptions do not mislead the reader, this can be quite successful. A word of warning, the author should ensure the book that is on offer is accurately described. After all, a reader might be a bit miffed if they buy a family saga only to discover it is contemporary dark crime.
Up until yesterday, I was firmly in the crime writer box. My first novel, Dead Wood, was published as a paperback after it won the Dundee International Book Prize, so that decided the genre that publishers would be expecting. My second novel, Night Watcher, was published as an e-book and has been doing reasonably well. I’m already 20,000 words into a third crime book with a theme of internet predators. So what happened to make me do a side swerve into historical family sagas?
It really wasn’t a genre changing moment for me. You see, A Salt Splashed Cradle was the very first novel I wrote. At the time I was part of the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) New Writer Scheme. This scheme allows unpublished writers to submit a novel each September for them to crit. If they think the novel is good enough it will get further readings and then submission to a publisher. Well, A Salt Splashed Cradle, almost made it, however it got a rave rejection from the publisher. I think my timing was bad, because that was the year that sagas went out of fashion and several well-established saga writers were dropped by their publishers. So that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, I remembered this novel I’d written, way back in prehistoric times, and thought I’d have another look at it. So it was dug out of the bottom drawer, the place where all unpublished manuscripts languish, and I read it. At that point I realized it was a good story and started on the rewriting, revision, editing process. The result was, I published it yesterday, and was then flabbergasted to discover it had reached Number 41 in Amazon’s Family Saga best selling list by that same evening. No doubt it will go up and down the lists, fall off the bottom and then make a comeback, similar to what is happening with Night Watcher.

I must admit I have a soft spot for this saga, probably because it was the first book I wrote. It’s a story about a fishing community, and the effect a young bride has on it when she infiltrates it as the young bride of Jimmie Watt. Back in the 1830s these small fishing communities were insular, they married within their own community and ‘incomers’ were not welcome. So you can imagine the impact that Belle, a town girl who dresses in silks as opposed to the rough woven fisher clothes, has on this community. She does herself no favours when she falls in love with the laird’s son, and becomes ostracized as well as unwelcome. The story encompasses fisher life and traditions, as well as whaling, and the setting moves between the fishing village of Craigden and the Arctic. And that’s all I’m going to tell you.

But if you’ve read my dark crime books and want to check out whether I’ve been successful in switching between genres, check out A Salt Splashed Cradle. I think it’s good, but do you?


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Excellent post, Chris. As you know, I love writing in different genres and would hate to be categorized for ever in one area.

Well done on getting that saga onto kindle. It has a stunning cover and I'm sure that's one essential for attracting readers. You seem to be doing everything right!

Chris Longmuir said...

I've been having problems with Blogger. It won't accept my comments so have changed my settings and am trying to see if this will work.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Why should we be put in a box when we are capable of so much more? I hope A Salt Splashed Cradle sells loads of copies. (Great title btw!)

Tim Greaton said...

Hi, Chris. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I look forward to lots of conversations back and forth :-)