Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jane Austen, You're Not

I write paranormal fiction. The kind that come out in paperback until you have a proven track record warranting a hardback book. The kind that are featured on grocery store shelves.

I do not write books that are likely to be chosen for Oprah's next book of the month.

My stories are the kind that keep you up at night, promising yourself that you will put down the book after just one more chapter until it's 2 a.m. and your eyes are crossing. My stories are fast-paced, entertaining rides that unashamedly make no attempt to dissect and discuss the state of mankind today, solve world hunger, or peel back the layers of society to reveal the blight and beauty beneath.

This is because I write paranormal fiction. I do not write literary fiction. I barely read literary fiction. I have some on my shelves, I've enjoyed it and admired it, but it doesn't speak to my heart the way paranormal does.

I am open about what I write. Most of the reactions I receive are positive - ranging from avid interest to those who don't read my genre but are supportive of the fact that I write. One reaction, however, raises my blood pressure just a little.

I have a friend or two who smile a bit condescendingly over my work and tell me that they only like to read "literature". By this, I discovered upon further questioning, they meant works reminiscent of the classics, such as Jane Austen and Mary Shelley.

They wanted something...well...literary and they are convinced nothing worthy of being called literature comes in paperback on a grocery store shelf.

I disagree.

In her day, Jane Austen was a paperback romance writer. It is only distance and historical perspective on the value of her literary contribution that have ensconced her firmly in the annals of Penguin Classics (which are still, incidentally, available in paperback).

Mary Shelley arguably wrote the first paranormal novel. She wrote in a day when women writers were shunned and many were forced to use male psuedonymns to get published at all. Frankenstein is a work of astounding, entertaining genius but it is, at its heart, a paranormal novel rife with the kind of suspense that keeps the reader up for just one more chapter.

My point is this: today's paperback writer's are next century's literary classics. Only time and perspective will tell which authors endure to become a Penguin Classic. I don't mind at all if a reader prefers literary fiction to romance or paranormal. I do mind when someone is ignorant enough to compare today's romance and paranormal writers with yesterday's romance and paranormal writers and find us lacking because we use current idioms, settings, and situations.

I will not accept anyone implying that I am not a "true" author because I write stories that entertain. I will not meekly stand in a corner of the literary world because I write the kind of books that are found on grocery store shelves. I stand proudly beside a host of authors, past and present, who took the characters and ideas clamoring in their heads, used the talent and discipline at their disposal, and forged a work of literature that kept some reader somewhere burning the midnight oil to read just one more chapter.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting commentary. I stand by a sorta-weird standard when it comes to writers and their work (I deal with playwrights, after all): I think, if you are capable of writing (and finishing) a work that you yourself would go out and buy were you not the writer, then congratulations. You're a writer.

    And, I like to say - who cares what those people think? It's hard, I know, in my business, because sometimes my opinion can be the difference between being a produced playwright and being a...well...just a playwright. But ultimately, I feel that if your work is true to your vision, that hopefully it will resonate with someone else, and it will naturally go to that next level.

    My two cents. Incidentally, I was wondering if you've had a chance to read the TWILIGHT series by Stephenie Meyer...I know she's a YA author but I am obsessed with the story. I don't think she's the best writer, skill-wise, but the characters are so interesting. Anyway, was curious to hear your thoughts.

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  2. Katy: *grins* Thanks.

    Kim: I wrote this more as a response to some posts on a loop of writers who have all finaled in an international writing contest. Many of them don't share what they write (or sometimes even THAT they write) because they fear poor reactions.

    That saddens me because I think there is room on the shelves for many styles of writing.

    As for Stephanie Meyer, she's been recommended to me but I haven't had a chance to read her yet. *runs to add her name to my Books For Free list* I'm looking forward to it!

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  3. Way to put things into perspective!

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  4. Well said!!

    It's beyond belief how some feel the need to brush aside quality, uplifting, emotionally satisfying writing. In my humble opinion, they are robbing themselves of superb novels.

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  5. Love it - and so well said.

    I rather write stories that 3 million people want to read and enjoy, not 37 interlectuals to "dicsuss the merits of"

    And you are so right - Bram Stoker's classic Dracula is a book on desire, sedution, love and sex. Sounds familiar to most of the paranromals I have read. Yet it is seen as literature while the books we love are seen as trash. Go figure.

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