The Word Nerds are always happy to welcome debut authors to the blog. Holly West is a regular on Twitter and when she mentioned there that her book was hitting the virtual shelves on Feb. 3, we immediately asked her to be our guest and she offers good feedback on the questions of genre.
Identity Crisis – A Question of Genre
By Holly West
When people find out the publisher of my debut novel, Mistress of Fortune, is Carina Press, an imprint of Harlequin, they always say the same thing:
“I didn’t know your book was a romance.”
Even people who’ve read the book, who know it’s a rather gritty historical mystery, assume that because Harlequin published it, it counts as a romance. Not so!
Now, I’ve got nothing against the romance genre. I’d certainly write one if I came up with a good idea. In fact, before I finally penned Mistress of Fortune I’d spent years dreaming that I’d one day write a novel. Since I was hell-bent on setting it in Restoration London (roughly 1660), I thought it would end up being a romance.
The problem is reader expectations. Readers who like romance aren’t going to find much of it in Mistress of Fortune. Sure, it contains a few sexy bits but they’re included to intensify the plot and define character, not to titillate the reader (although if they do titillate, so much the better). In general, Mistress of Fortune fits quite nicely into the historical mystery category and if you want to get a little more specific, it’s a hardboiled historical mystery.
I want people to buy my books, but more importantly, I want readers to enjoy them. If someone buys it expecting it to be one thing and it turns out to be another, at best they might be disappointed and at worst, they’ll be completely turned off. That is not my aim. This isn’t to say that readers shouldn’t occasionally get out of their genre comfort zones. But that should be by choice, not by accident.
How important is genre to you in choosing what books to read? Have you ever bought a book that didn’t meet your genre expectations?
Isabel, Lady Wilde, is a mistress to King Charles II who secretly makes her living as a fortuneteller named Mistress Ruby. When a popular London magistrate seeks her counsel about a plot to murder the king, both of her worlds collide in a tale of lust, political intrigue, and brutal murder. Learn more at hollywest.com.