I was going to write, actually I did write, a blog about the joys of getting back to what drives me: writing. But the blog I wrote initially had to be tossed. It sounded so saccharine after the full reality of The Sausage Maker’s Daughters caught up with me.
You see, I spent much of last week preparing for my 2012 taxes, which meant tallying up all my book-related expenses, everything from treats taken to each book store signings to travel expenses around the country, the costs of employing specialists from tax to marketing who’ve advised me, and so on. And on. It was, well, insane I suppose any business person would say. Yep, insane.
I thought about never writing again, finding some lucrative form of employment, doing nothing for as long as I could stand it. And that all lasted about a month. Well into that first month of questioning what I should do, would I write again, and if so—why, et cetera, my mind started spinning on the next novel. My dreams started again (all that ugly money-related business stuff turned off my dreams!), and soon I came to the fortunate or unfortunate realization that I didn’t choose writing. It chose me. So write is what I will do, apparently, must do. For better or for worse.
I also realized and share with you this honest advice: if writing chooses you, if you simply must do it, then so be it. Enjoy the privilege of those wonderful moments spent in your own little world playing God with all the concomitant joys and disappointments and insights and acceptance that brings. It’s the only good reason to write I can think of. But it’s not much of a business model, is it?
The Importance of Being a Genre
One thing I’ve learned and learned well about the book industry since my debut novel released this year is that everyone related to the business of books wants and needs to slot your work and you as an author into a genre. In other words, where does your book(s) fit on the shelves? Everyone from librarians, booksellers, agents, and publicists, and even a large segment of the reading public demand a handle, a genre as it’s called.
This may seem obvious. But what slot or genre should a book occupy if it includes aspects of say, murder mystery and legal suspense? What about aspects of family saga, coming-of-age, period or historical fiction, psychological thriller, family dynamics/relationships, women’s, regional, literary, and many more I’m forgetting about.
Amazon lists over thirty such categories on its website. And trust me, no one inside or outside the industry agrees on any of the definitions that attach to each genre.
I resisted such labels initially as it minimizes all the elements, count them—ten listed above, that go into most works of fiction, not just mine, which arguably spans all of those above. Labels can be tricky. Genre titles can suggest formulaic writing, plot over character or vice versa.
But finally, after months of struggling with this genre question, I had an epiphany about The Sausage Maker’s Daughters. It’s a “character-driven murder mystery and legal suspense,” a succinct enough description that could be helpful more so within the industry. But importantly, one I am finally comfortable with using (although it does leave a lot of important to me stuff out!).
Especially if you’ve read the novel, I’d love to know if you agree, or I’d love to hear what genre you’d put The Sausage Maker’s Daughters into if you could choose. It’s more important than you’d imagine.
Proof that Humas are Capable of Magic
It’s helpful to encourage myself with an inspiration I share not just with fellow writers and readers, but with everyone who from time-to-time needs reminding that we are all truly capable of great, bridging and unifying, and enduring things.
I quote Carl Sagan: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
And we are!