Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Well, nobody asked an Enchanted, Inc. question, so I guess everyone knows everything they want to know (aside from what will happen next). I guess I'll skip that feature this week, since I have book brain and ballet legs. The music for last night's class went with a "stage and screen" theme, so some of us were attempting to sing along with the songs from musicals and were playing name that tune. And then there was the exercise we did to the Oompa Loompa song, which was awesome, except it involved going up and down from bent knees to on the toes a lot, back and forth, and I suspect that I'll be really sore from that by the end of today. We usually stick with the same music for a month, so if I keep this up, maybe I'll be able to sing and dance at the same time, which will help if I get the nerve to audition for the community theater's summer musical.

I didn't quite get to my page count goal yesterday, which means I have to write a little more each day the rest of the week, but I'm hoping that I can mostly make it up on Thursday, since I have nothing going on that day. I've learned that I can't plan on writing after ballet because it exhausts me, but I can usually write after choir because that tends to rev me up. I think the deep breathing for the singing must send extra oxygen to my brain. Maybe I'll start singing a bit before I sit down to write every day. I can practice potential audition pieces.

I guess I can still talk about my series, even if no one had any specific questions. I've been thinking a lot lately about classifications, since it's an issue that's coming up again with my work, and it is something I get asked about in general. Although the series is based on a fantasy premise and uses fantasy elements, it's shelved in general fiction. There are works with fantasy elements that get shelved there, but when literary fiction uses fantasy elements, the fantasy elements tend to be a metaphor for something else. In my case, though, the magic is magic. You could probably find a metaphor in there somewhere, but it's not really intended. My books are shelved in general fiction not because they're literature using magic as metaphor but because they were considered "chick lit." Back at the time when the first book sold, in 2004, that was the hottest genre in the publishing world. Publishers were grabbing all they could get and were starting to look for new twists on it, like fantasy elements. Meanwhile, "urban fantasy" hadn't quite become big yet. It certainly hadn't turned out to be as female-dominated as it's become, with the huge crossover with paranormal romance and the emphasis on sexy creatures of the night. Although I've been trying to distance myself from the chick lit label and have been calling my books "light urban fantasy" or "humorous contemporary fantasy," they really do have a lot of chick lit in them.

That's declined as the series has progressed, but the first book I think really straddles the line between chick lit and fantasy. It's what I would call "relatable fantasy." There is a fantasy world, but the characters also go through the same kinds of things readers go through, with the fantasy elements intensifying the situation. I did write it thinking in terms of using a chick lit framework to tell a fantasy story, but when it came time to market it, it really could have gone either way. My agent and I decided to market it as chick lit, since that was what was hot at the time and it would stand a better chance of getting a push there. That may or may not have been the wrong decision. The chick lit market did start to tank right at the time the second book was published, but I'm not sure the first book would have sold as a fantasy. Maybe it would have sold a couple of years later as fantasy when urban fantasy took off, but then again, by that point, urban fantasy was being associated with dark and sexy, so it still wouldn't have fit in. It seems like more of my readership comes to the books as fantasy than as chick lit, and I think I'd have a bigger readership if they were shelved as fantasy where fantasy fans could find them, but now with e-books and Amazon having such a huge role, and with the books being classified as urban fantasy on Amazon, maybe shelving doesn't mean so much anymore. On yet another hand, publishing decisions still have a lot to do with orders from the major chains, so all those Amazon and e-book sales don't help much if Barnes & Noble sees the books as chick lit and thinks chick lit is dead.

But there is some logic to classifying them as either chick lit or fantasy. The one that surprises me is that I hear from a lot of people who expect them to be classified as romance. Yes, there's a romantic subplot, and that does seem to be the part of the books that most captures people's imaginations, but I can't imagine that these books would have been successful if they'd been shelved as romance. A romance generally requires that a relationship begins before the end of the book. It took two books to start getting this couple together, and romance is never in the forefront. Apparently, I do the romantic elements well enough that they capture readers' imaginations, and I even get suggestions within the industry that I ought to write romances because I'm so good at that part of the books.

The thing is, I have done that, and I was terrible at it. I guess I was good enough to get some published, but it was a constant battle with my editor because I like the subtle, slow build, and that doesn't work in the romance genre. It's not even about being able to write sex scenes or sexual tension because I also bombed at trying to write inspirational romance, even though the publisher tried to recruit me for that. I think there's a distinct difference between a love story in another genre and a romance novel, and the fact that I seem to be good at weaving a love story into another plot doesn't mean that I'd be good at a romance novel. A romance reader expects the hero and heroine to get together at the end of the book, not at the end of five books.

Maybe I should move into yet another category and write young adult, where there's no dividing line between fantasy and romance and they like the slow build, triangles, and all that. Not that I've had much success there, either, as my voice seems to be too young for regular fantasy and too old for young adult. I think my main problem is that I never really was a teenager. I thought and acted like a thirty-year-old when I was a teen. I didn't do teenage-type stuff until I was in my twenties. I was looking through some photo albums at my parents' house, and I looked a lot younger in the pictures taken when I was in my twenties and thirties than I did in my high-school pictures. I look younger in a picture taken at my twentieth high school reunion than I do in a group shot taken my senior year in high school. I think that makes it tough for me to write about teens, even though I spend time with teens. It's the non-typical teens that tend to gravitate to me -- the ones who are older than their years in some ways and younger than their years in others. I guess they recognize the kindred spirit.

So, there I stand, writing fantasy that's not typical fantasy, with romance that's not enough for it to be in the romance genre, too "young" and innocent for adults, but not young enough or with whatever other quality they seem to be looking for in teen books. I have a potentially huge audience with all that crossover, but it also makes it hard for all those people to find the books, and it makes everything I write hard to classify.

I dreamed last night about working at the grocery store. Maybe I should put in an application.

1 comment:

Denice Brown said...

Don't change. I think it is very refreshing to read an adult book that is written well and does not have a graphic sex scene in it.