Saturday, April 26, 2014

Genre-bending mind games!

When I was trying to find a literary agent for my novel Rest and Be Thankful, I worried a lot about genre: what genre was my novel? Did it "fit" properly into a specific category of fiction? How should I market it? Was it like other novels in that particular genre? My novel is part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, and part travelogue. It doesn't really fit the "cosy" mystery or "hard crime." The main character is 13, but the story isn't solely about the "teenage" stuff other young adult novels seem to be about -- romance, fitting in at school, etc... -- although it does cover some of these topics. It's kind of a mixture!

But mixtures don't always work in the literary world. While writing queries, I struggled with trying to market my book -- sometimes I said it was "women's fiction," since the main characters were all women. Other times I called it "literary fiction" because I felt it was quite literary! But it's also plot-driven and, at it's heart, is an adventure story. I got lucky -- Pilrig Press, based in Edinburgh, chose to publish my novel as "crime fiction"!

Right now, I'm reworking the novel for the American market and am aiming it more for young adults. It still doesn't feel like the "typical" YA novel I see in bookstores, but choosing a specific audience has helped me focus my writing better. After reading one of John Green's YA novels, I realized I had just scratched the surface of my characters' lives -- writing for a younger audience, while telling the same story, made me feel a little freer to dig deeper! So, maybe genre isn't just an annoying marketing ploy by the publishing industry! Maybe it helps writers to really focus on who they want their audience to be. Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What, Why, and How I Write...

Marianne Wheelaghan
Scottish writer, teacher, and entrepreneur extraordinaire Marianne Wheelaghan invited me to participate in the blog tour What, Why, and How I write. Marianne runs the online writing school, which offers classes in creative writing to students from all over the world. Besides teaching and running a school, she's also written two books (The Blue Suitcase and Food of Ghosts) and is working on sequels to both!
Here's Marianne's contribution from earlier this week:

And here are my answers:
What am I working on?
Right now, I'm working on several different projects – a novel for 12+ year-olds that I hope to publish this summer, an ebook about self publishing, and an online course about epublishing for the writing school My long-term goal is to start a micro-press based in North Carolina, which will focus on educational and children's books.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Well, I have a hard time conforming to “genres”! My middle-grade novel started out as a murder mystery for adults, and I decided that because the main character is 13, it might work better as a book for kids. Changing “genres” really freed me up because I felt less pressure to be “literary”! I think writers tend to be very hard on themselves, and writing for kids (who I believe are more open minded) helped me just focus on the story and characters and not worry so much about literary devices or how “smart” I sounded!

I love writing mysteries, but my stories don't really fit into the “cozy” genre or the “hard boiled.” I think my work falls somewhere in the middle – not cutesy enough to be a cozy mystery, but not dark enough to be noir!

Why do I write?
To be honest, I'm not sure! I just know that I like the way I feel when I write – sort of out of time, not constrained by stereotypes and pressures to be and act a certain way. I'm pretty shy by nature, and writing lets me speak my mind in a “safe” way, through metaphor and characters, who can do whatever they want! I also love reading, and I love stories – so, all these things sort of go together, don't they!

How does my writing process work?
It changes, depending on the circumstances. When I was a kid and young adult, I wrote in notebooks and later retyped things on the computer. It took me a long time to actually get to the point where I typed my stories first. Now, I don't have the patience to write long-hand!

When I was younger, I was much more romantic about the writing process – besides writing on paper (which I thought was “better” than on the computer), I only wrote when I felt inspired, etc... But now that I have two children, I know that I must force the inspiration and write whenever I have the opportunity! Otherwise, chores, walking the dog, laundry, and everything else gets in the way!

My nominee for the next "stop" on the tour is Lisa Logan, who co-authored Publishing and Selling Your Ebook on Kindle with me! And she's also written a great paranormal thriller, House of Mirrors, and an excellent collection of short stories called Of The People.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Don't miss out! NC Literary Fest this weekend!

It's that time again -- the North Carolina Literary Festival has returned to Raleigh, and it's this weekend, free and open to the public of all ages! Every two years, the festival rotates between the libraries of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and N.C. State. This year, the festival takes place at the new space-age Hunt Library at N.C. State's Centennial Campus. It's worth it, just to see the library, which has a 50-foot "robot" that finds your books for you! Our State magazine recently published an article about the library.

Don't miss out on this free event, which features tons of authors (including Jill McCorkle R.L. Stine, Junot Diaz, and tons more) speakers, and events for the whole family!