Genre Identity

Back when I finished The Land of Grace and began sending it out, I noticed that the first thing publishers and agents wanted me to do is hang a tag on it. Is it a crime story?  a thriller? a romance? a horror story? a comedy? Of course, they wanted to know how to sell it by identifying who to sell it to. Hell, I wanted to sell it more than they did, but as much as I would have liked to have accommodated them, I couldn’t help thinking the book is  all of these things and, at the same time, it was none of them.  For example, the story is chocked full of crimes, but crime is not what the story is about. While there’s action, violence and a rising sense of danger, no one who favors a thriller for a leisurely  read would ever list this as her go-to book. The thread of an attraction between a man and woman runs through the narrative, but the story would fail miserably trying to be a romance.

It has humor. Hey, does that make it a comedy? As I wrote the story, the humor just arose naturally from the absurd circumstances, who the characters were, and the way they viewed their world and interacted with each other. As the absurdly comical layers are peeled from the story, an absurdly horrific core is revealed beneath. That little twist caused me to strike out in this category too.

Horror? Well, now there’s a genre I could almost cram it into because the story includes some creepy and monstrous people doing creepy and monstrous things. But you won’t find any zombies, werewolves or vampires anywhere in The Land of Grace. You won’t find any ghosts rattling chains or demon-possessed children, twisting their heads around, spraying the walls with projectile vomiting.  In fact, there’s nothing even remotely supernatural involved in the story. So a reader of horror, unless she would accept psychological horror as a sub-genre, might be terribly disappointed.

The reviewer at Kirkus Reviews hit it on the head by calling it “A satirical novel about a religious cult built around the worship of Elvis Presley.” The reviewer went on to say, “Overall, the book artfully asks probing questions about the basic human need for mythology of whatever kind and about the point at which the tensile cord of innocent fascination snaps.” Did I start out trying to write a satire in order to “artfully” ask probing questions? Naa! I just began by asking what would happen if an Elvis impersonator was lured into a zealous  Elvis cult. I didn’t try to write a book that a “target audience” might want to read. I tried to write a book that I would want to read. Of course, now that it’s headed to the printer, I hope I’m not the only one.