When writers get together, they often talk about writing. When writers get together online, we write about it. Here’s a great piece from the very talented Kate Maruyama, the first of what I hope are many guest appearances in this space by my digital acquaintances
When I turned twelve, I was so excited to be promoted to the grownup library. In that library I was guided to a long, low shelf labeled, “Young Readers” with maybe a few hundred books on it. Unlike the children’s library next door and the grownup part of the grownup library, the books were not broken into categories. They were all mixed in together, ordered alphabetically by author. I would go weekly and start pulling books from the shelf to take home—scary books, silly stories, adventure stories- if the summary on the flap or the back of the book appealed, I read it.
My first published novel, Harrowgate ended up being a horror story. Ended up, I say, because I was more interested in my characters’ predicament than what it was to be labeled. What would you do if the people you most loved were dead, but still around? How far would you go to keep them with you? I followed my characters around inside their story, which soon revealed itself to be in the horror genre.
My next novel, now out to editors, is not a horror or fantasy story, but a multi-generational family drama that starts in 1940s Hollywood and ends up, in all places, 1990s Baltimore. And now I’m diving back into horror with a new book involving the occult and the real Hollywood. The real Hollywood, of course, being a total fantasy I’m constructing.
I’ve never been able to sit down and say, “Well now I’m going to write this one,” with an entire story formed in my head. For me, writing has been chasing shadows, asking questions, finding my way.
Kit Reed has always referred to herself as trans-genred and I guess I fall into that category. I find it’s a bit like belonging to two cultures—the literary world has its anti-genre snobbery, and genre folk are somewhat leery of the term “literary.” When I hang out in either world, I feel defensive of my opposite-genred friends. No, my literary friends aren’t elitist and exclusive, they just write like they write and tend to read what they read. My genre friends are every bit as engaged in their writing and talking about craft as my literary friends. I also get a little defensive when literary folks say, “Oh, well yours is a literary horror,” as if this is extraordinary praise and I get a pass to remain in the literary world because my horror novel is not “one of those.” I’m not sure which “those” are, but I tend to judge my reading on a book by book basis. It all seems as absurd to me as racism or sexism. I just think really?
Can’t we all just get along?
So how can we get past the slurs and dissmissiveness? Past the terminology that was originally coined for library shelving or for marketing?
I’d suggest reading for fun instead of by category. Read more like a twelve year old. See if the idea of a story jazzes you, dive in. Don’t put it down because “I don’t read literary stuff” or because “I don’t read genre work” or, “science fiction, are you kidding?” Does the story appeal? Then read! There are so many good books hiding out there. Books that will flip your lid, blow your mind, inspire you. No one is out there judging you. Or if they are, you probably shouldn’t be hanging out with them.
And writers, I’d suggest following where the muse takes you, because she doesn’t so much mess around. The visit might be brief and if you cast off an idea as preposterous, or “not my kind of writing” you may just be pushing aside the thing that was meant to be written. And, oddly, the thing that might up being a hit.