A few month’s back my comments about Gillian Hamer’s The Charter caused a bit of a furore and now Gill is back with another offering which is already on my TBR pile. It sounds alike a fascinating story and here’s Gill to make her case for breaking the genre ‘rules’.
What’s that saying … something about once bitten, twice shy? Well, clearly I don’t know it well, or I wouldn’t be putting myself through the second of two indie book launches in the past six months. But as the other saying goes … I am a glutton for punishment!
You see the main problem is that I have a backlog of crime novels that I’ve penned over the past decade (some in full, others notebooks of random scrawl) that don’t nicely fall into any recognisable publisher’s pigeon-hole, and so will never see the light of day unless I launch then out in the big, wide world myself.
How do I know this? Well, firstly, I could set up my own art exhibition of tasteful rejections letters, and then, when I finally snagged my first agent, the first thing he made me do was cut all mentions of the ghost out of my serial killer novel. When I got my second agent, she strongly advised I remove all mention of druidic spirits from my modern-day detective story.
Hmmmm. I sense a trend. And that should have been enough, right? Being told that no one, never, ever, anywhere in the entire globe will take a risk on a cross-genre crime novel from a debut author, surely should be enough to dent my passion for writing them. Er … no.
I have, however, mended my ways. To keep my long-suffering agent happy (although that’s probably a loose term) I have agreed to write a straight crime detective series. In an attempt to please an editor from a main stream publishing house, I’m actually rewriting it as we speak.
But the stubborn-as-a-mule, desperate-to-prove-I’m-right, side of me is still as captivated by books that interlink modern crimes with hints of paranormal, threads full of historical fiction, ghosts a plenty … and in my next work in progress a whole battalion of Roman infantry.
Will I never learn?
Because you see, I believe in the adage that you have to write what you have to write. You must write what you love to read. I have no objection to writing straight crime. I was raised on a diet of Enid Blyton, into Agatha Christie, onto PD James and all the greats.
But some part of me adores adding the little extras that no one expects to get in a novel dealing with violent crimes and murder. I adore researching into factual history of the surroundings where I base my novels. And I love creating fictional characters to work within some of that historical element, and if I can run a parallel thread with the modern day story, so that the characters effortless interweave right up to the denouement … then to me I’ve got all the makings of a good book.
Besides, even when I listen to publishers tell me that crime readers reads crime, horror readers read horror, historical readers … you get the drift … I’m inwardly shaking my head hard enough for it to fly across the room.
( I sympathise here – so many people want to tell us what we want! -Ed.)
Not everyone will agree, of course, (Ali being one!) and I have received a couple of reviews where readers admit they found it hard to pigeon-hole the book. What to them may have been a negative, was actually a huge compliment to me. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, thank you very much. I just want to tell a beautiful and captivating story.
So far the majority of reviews of The Charter have been amazing, better than I could ever have hoped. Eleven five star reviews on Amazon, with nearly everyone getting exactly what I was trying to achieve. The same on Goodreads. Only one person finding it ‘unbelievable to the point they were unable to finish the book.’ Even after KDP Free promotions, while ready for a deluge of negative comments, I’ve been delighted with the feedback, and I am increasingly certain that publishers have got it wrong. Not everyone wants to know exactly what they’re reading. Some people like the surprise element, they like experiencing that tilt of perspective, when what they thought they knew slips away from them.
I’d like to show publishers some of the figures and comments I’ve received. Over two days last weekend, I’ve had almost 16,000 downloads on The Charter, on the basis of the cover and the blurb and hardly any promotion. And as I mention ghosts from the very off, no one can claim they were mistaken.
So, this month I start the ball rolling again, with my next release via Triskele Books. Closure is another cross-genre. This time the paranormal element concerns spirit guides and the hotly-debated topic of reincarnation.
Again, it won’t please everyone, but if one person who reads the book and studies the research I spent almost a year compiling, changes any preconceptions, I’ll consider it a job well done. If one reader tells me that they were captivated by this little boy’s story I shall be blown away. And if I manage to create characters – both real and spiritual – who impact with readers as much as I achieved in my first novel … well, you just know it’s going to whet my appetite for my next cross-genre adventure.
Many thanks to Gill for her great defence of writing what you want to write, which I think we can all relate to. Since her last visit I have been thinking that ‘genre’ has become a bigger issue than it needs to be. Okay, crime, romance, horror etc do tend to sit in pigeon holes but there has always been a whole raft of non-genre i.e. literary fiction out there of which I’m a staunch defender.
Long live good books of all kinds!
Gill is also kindly donating an e-copy of BOTH The Charter and Closure. Leave a comment to go in the draw.