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Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

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Hello Dear Readers,

A couple of weeks ago, my online friend Laura Best wrote a blog post that got me thinking. Do we choose our genre, or does it choose us?

I read somewhere that authors write the kind of books they like to read, but that’s certainly not always the case. I was once at a conference where someone asked best-selling horror author John Saul what books in the genre he liked to read. Saul laughed and said, “I can’t read that stuff! It would scare me to death.”

As for me, I write psychological suspense, but I rarely read it. While I’m attracted to movies of that genre, most of the books I’ve read have been pretty disappointing. I write the type of psychological suspense that I wish existed, I guess.

When I was younger, I was attracted to horror stories and mysteries…the darker, the better. I’ve always been keenly interested in the dark side of human nature. My mother reads a lot of true crime, and as a young adult, I quickly worked my way through her selection of books. We even shared library books a lot of the time. There was something about the evil committed by seemingly ordinary people that intrigued me. What made a man turn out like Ted Bundy? What drove a woman to torture and kill her own child? Why would one ethnic group wipe out another? The lack of answers haunted me.

A high school writing instructor, who was influential at that point in my life, despised happy endings. He referred to them as “Disney”, and the easiest way to avoid a Disney ending (and thus make him happy) was to write horror. In a horror story, the hero doesn’t have to save the day. Evil sometimes wins, just as it does in real life. I liked the freedom this gave me.

As much as I loved a good scary tale, there wasn’t much in the horror genre that could hold my interest. The Stephen Kings of the world are, sadly, very few and far between. And I decided, based on my growing experience with true crime, that the real evil that lurked in people was much more frightening than a haunted car. I fell into writing psychological suspense before I even knew what it was called.

How about you, Dear Readers? What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you? Do you read books of that genre? Why or why not? Do you ever wish you could change genres? What other genre would you write in, if you could?

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5 Comments

  1. Drew Kozub

    Even though I’m in my mid-twenties I still write and read young adult chapter books.

    Life is busy and while I enjoy reading action/adventure fiction by authors like James Rollins and Greg Rucka, I find I end up having to space a regular book out over the course of 3 or 4 weeks but a book for kids can be finished at my leisure in 2 or 3 days.

    Bring on the Hardy Boys Mystery Stories ANY day of the week!

    Reply
  2. Story Teller

    Welcome to my blog, Drew! I owe you a comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love those books, too. I read both Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as a kid, and I was thinking the other day that they must have been really fun to write. Someday I’d like to let loose and just write something fun.

    Have you tried to get any of your stuff published?

    Reply
  3. Kim

    I’m in my 40s now and I still like to read young adult. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m genre-less. I write what people would define as literary, I suppose. character driving essentially. I’m often told how I write sounds like a diary. Probably because diary writing was my most practiced writing area in my youth.

    I like to write what I relate to. I’m reading “One Day” right now which is a literary “crossover” novel is how I would define it — meaning, it is a character driven novel that will appeal to young adults but also adults. British. It is coming out as a movie in August. It looks at two characters over 20 years of their lives on the same day every year (july 15th) and where they are at and how their relationship is progressing (or not).

    I like interesting premises and I’m not so much caught up in happy endings or not, I’m more interested in the psychological process of life decision making, I suppose. So I also tend to write about the psychological process of decision making and what brings about self awareness and discovery of who we are as people and how we connect with others. And that is a life long process, not just a young adult one.

    Reply
  4. Laura Best

    As well as writing YA fiction I’ve written literary fiction for adults. In fact that’s where I began. To be honest I’m not sure I like being labelled, although I realize that when it comes to marketing our books we have to be put in a category. When I started writing YA fiction I hadn’t really been reading it. Today, I read it quite often, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like reading “grown-up” books as well.

    If a book interests me to read it, I seldom look at what genre it is although it seems I naturally gravitate toward literary fiction. Funny about that.

    And glad my post gave you something to think about..

    Reply
  5. Story Teller

    Welcome back, Kim! It’s nice to see you back here again. Have you rediscovered your writing?

    Although it may be inaccurate, I consider “literary” to be a genre, so it counts with me. But I think good work in any genre can be character-driven. My books certainly are. “Genre” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “crap”.

    @ Laura – Thanks for your comment. You can’t escape the label! They have a label for everything these days, even if it’s literary-historical romance/fantasy. Publishers need to know who to market our books to, and how to market them.

    That said, I do think “literary” authors have the greatest freedom, as they can write about whatever they like, as long as the voice stays fairly consistent. Look at Timothy Findley–his books were all over the map. But if you loved his writing, you tended to love his books, even though each one was radically different.

    Reply

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