Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On Writing, Reading, and Loving Different Genres

Get to know my Guest Blogger Selah Janel author of In the Red
I’ve said it ten million times and I’ll say it again: I love stories. Stories entertain, stories teach, stories warn, stories comfort, stories tell us where we came from and they give us varying answers as to where we’re going. I grew up lucky enough to have a lot of different influences: a mother who insisted I spend a lot of time at the library, local access shows featuring storytellers, Reading Rainbow, people in the community who could tell a good yarn, and all the glorious and outrageous programs of the 1980s.

Through the years I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of different forms and genres. I read a little bit of everything, from all types of fiction to comics to nonfiction. I love that there’s always a fresh take on an idea to experience or a new concept to learn. That curiosity has probably kept me going more often than not, especially when it comes to my writing. I’m one of those authors that has a hundred ideas gnawing at me at any given moment, and they don’t pay attention to what I think my strengths and weaknesses are. In their primeval little minds, a story is a story is a story. So what am I? A horror writer? A fantasy author? A speculative fiction-type person? A writer of young adult and children’s stories? A literary writer? A chick lit author? I usually answer yes to all of the above. It’s a great thing to say at parties; people never know how to respond.

The thing is, I get why we’ve divided ourselves up into certain types of authors, but a writer is a writer is a writer. We all go through similar processes, we all care about the stories we’re writing…I don’t understand why some genres are held over others as being “real fiction,” “real literature,” or “harder” to write than anything else. I get that people may like reading certain things over others, and some authors like writing only certain genres. That’s awesome – I’m all for people going with what suits them. For better or worse, I’m one of those people that likes to get into everything. If an idea wants to happen, it’ll happen.

I’m curious about a lot of things, and even just going about my business on a given day can inspire me. You never know what would happen if the flowers you pass have fairies living in them or if a vampire resides in the old abandoned barn off the side of the highway. Sometimes all it takes is a certain turn of phrase from someone to kick my brain into high gear. I may test the idea out on a trial basis, but if it’s persistent, I know I’ve got to find a way to do justice to it. I usually know pretty fast where it belongs, though: horror, fantasy, urban fantasy, and on and on. It helps that I genuinely like a lot of different genres; I don’t think there’s anything that I absolutely hate to read.

I admit to having varying comfort levels, but I think it’s important to not be biased about genre. Horror can entertain, but it also sheds a lot of light about the nature of fear and can act as a powerful metaphor. Fantasy in all its many forms connects us to something deeper, to legends that go back both to older tales and the invention of new myths. Sci-Fi makes us think about where our world is headed and what we’re doing to get it there. Literary fiction gives us a look at a lot of real-world situations and the emotions that go with them. Kid lit and young adult fiction not only help kids learn and grow, but they also provide a safe haven for us adults who like to curl up with some nostalgia from time to time and remember what it was like to be a kid. Chick lit and all forms of romance definitely give us a chance to live vicariously, but they also make us think about how we would act in some of those situations. What I love about all these is that they can all start off as entertainment, but they can be used for so many other purposes. I’m not about to look down on readers of any of them just because it’s the genre they like. I may not agree with an author’s ideas or execution, but it works and people connect with it, then the author has obviously done their job well.

The thing is that all have their place, and I like being able to play in all of those playgrounds. Sure, it may be a little harder for people to categorize me, but I can’t help but think that it’s a benefit if I’m popping up in more than one place. It’s good to have a lot to say and a lot of options to express it… …And if being diverse keeps the little nibbling ideas from gnawing me raw, then so much the better!
Catch up with Selah and all her ongoing projects at the following places: Blog – Fandom Scene Column – Facebook Author Page – Facebook Book Page – Goodreads - Amazon Author Page - Twitter –

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