I like to think of all writers' creative DNA as a brick wall. No, no, not the one you hit when you run out of juice—this one is blank when you look at it, but it's made up of all of your experiences, brick by brick.
I started my wall at a young age. I have always written. I forgot how much, until I went through a box of childhood items my parents had kept for me and found my attempts at grade school newspapers, magazines . . . I even attempted a novel circa age eleven. My parents recently gave me another box of treasures: my report cards all the way back to kindergarten. What surprised me (though not by much) was that the things I'm good at, I've always been good at, and the things I'm terrible at, I've always been terrible at. The only shock was that my Kindergarten teachers declared me very critical of other children. And here I am an editor by trade (Isn't this line just screaming for an emoji?)
Along the way, I read literature of all stripes: the classics, contemporary fiction (both mass market and literary), high fantasy, urban fantasy, thrillers, and mysteries of all kinds. I have similarly broad taste in music and in movies. I like a bit of everything. I love a bit of everything. When asked to whittle down my favourites, I have a hard time choosing because I feel as if, in making those choices, I'm classifying myself. Defining myself. I'd be lying if I said I didn't care what other people think, or I didn't care where I "fit," but, most days, the truth is, I just don't know.
Genre identity isn't a problem when you're simply trying to decide on your next book purchase or movie rental, but it feels like a problem when trying to map out a writing future. My longest-running work in progress is a trilogy. I have the first book and a half written—not polished, but written. It's gritty, dark, urban fantasy that draws from Greek mythology. At their hearts, the stories are mysteries. Imagine my surprise when, in the midst of this angsty pusuit, a lighthearted, ridiculous mystery about a Beverly Hills dog walker/struggling actress burst out of me, fully formed and with series potential. Add to this the fact that I desperately want to write a book about middle-grade kids who attend school on a repurposed pirate ship pursued by treasure-seeking bandits, and you have a marketing puzzle. What should the website for a writer like this look like? Gritty concrete background + 90210 palm tree image + cartoon pirate ship animation = hot mess.
How will an agent—or a publisher for that matter—deal with this genre blender? This case of genre identity disorder? Will readers follow me across borders?
Don't get me wrong: I don't think it's a problem to want to write in more than one category or genre. I think it's natural. We are the sum of our experiences and interests. But I do wonder if my eventual literary agent will find it inconvenient. As my hoped for career plays out, will I get to be my authentic self?
How do you view genre identity as a reader, writer, agent, or publisher?