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Narrowing it down

Since I pretty thoroughly introduced myself in my previous post, I think I’ll jump straight into talking about my books this time.  We’ll get these things out of the way quickly that way.

I make it sound like a chore, don’t I?  “Dang it all, I have to talk about my books now…  …sigh…”  Of course, I am trying to be modest because I really don’t want to be one of those authors who twists every subject back to his own books (“I’m terribly sorry to hear that!  It must be quite frightening to lie there knowing that you have to endure heart surgery in the morning…but do you know what that reminds me of?  In chapter four of my latest novel…”).  But also, talking about my books, and consequently the series they are attached to, always brings with it a number of complications.

First of all, I’m not real good with genres.  I know a horror story when I see one.  It’s scary.  I know a science fiction story when I see one.  It has spaceships.  I know a romance when I see one.  It’s mushy.  And sometimes spicy.  Like chili.  I know a fantasy when I see one.  It has elves and dragons and things in it.  Not like chili…I don’t think…  But then let’s say you have an elf driving a spaceship…what is that?  And then what happens when that same elf finds something scary?  And what if that elf is eating chili?  I get so confused.  Which element is primary?  And did you ever try classifying your frightened, chili-eating, spacefaring elf when your options are horror, sci-fi, fantasy OR romance?  And then you see the “thriller/suspense” option and you say to yourself, “It does keep me on the edge of my seat…I keep wondering…will he finish his chili?  Will he spill it?  Does chili come out of elfin flightsuits?”  When I write, I write the story first.  I let the characters tell me where it’s going.  I don’t start off with a specific genre in mind and what happens is that the story weaves in and out of multiple genres.  The end result is that I sometimes don’t know where to begin talking about my book.  When someone asks me what it’s about, what do I say?  Sometimes I envy writers who can say things like, “My book is a classic, sword and sorcery fantasy with a twist.”  I consider myself a horror writer.  I love reading horror and I am an enormous fan of the supernatural.  My short stories tend to be straight-up horror fiction.  But The Temple of the Blind is not simply a horror fiction tale.  It’s also a mystery.  It’s an epic adventure.  It’s suspense.  It’s also laced with elements of fantasy and science fiction and even romance.  But where do I begin?  Which element rises to the top?  It’s something I’ve struggled with while learning how to market my books.

With all these things to consider, I always end up feeling like a deer in headlights whenever someone asks me what my book is about.  I hesitate, considering.  Are they really interested or are they just being polite?  Either way, they don’t intend to stand there and listen to me ramble on and on.  I need to be brief, concise, to the point, and yet it has to be clear.  I can’t say, “It’s sort of a horror, suspense, adventure, mystery thing.”  Most of the time, you only have a few seconds to catch a reader’s attention and then they’ll move on.  And even if I know for a fact that the person asking is never going to read my book, how stupid am I going to look if I can’t even tell them what it’s about?

Speaking of being brief and concise, perhaps I’ll save my rant about the difficulties of writing a well-balanced book summary for next time.  I’m kind of hungry right now.  I’ve got a weird hankering for chili…

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