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What is Genre, Anyway?

Well, it's official--my debut novel The Rose and the Whip will be released on 25 March 2020. If I haven't said it before, it's been quite the adventure . . . and I have a feeling the party isn't quite over yet. This is as good a time as any to talk about one of the things that has been puzzling me. The question of genre. I'm doing a lot of the publicizing myself (of course, what better way to learn the publishing business) and that involves social media. Now more than ever. When I started writing Lidia's story I wanted to write history, and this I think I accomplished, but I didn't wanted it to be appealing to more than just history nerds. I hope this too I've accomplished. Since I chose to tell the story from the point of view of one of the characters, this makes it fiction. Lidia lived in the 17th century and left no words of her own, even in the court transcripts there's no indication that she ever spoke or said anything that the court deemed important enough to transcribe. I had no trouble interposing my own thoughts, expressions, education, experience, culture, etc. as long as I stayed as true as I could to the language and the mores of the time. That's fiction. Always at the heart of it, the history took precedence, the fiction only the means to a plausible explanation and story. This, in and of itself, doesn't really bother me as long a my readers can have absolute faith and trust that the history is good. So, this leads me to the biographical novel or fiction. I like this label better because The Rose and the Whip is a fictional account of a historical person. Does it really matter that Lidia Wardell's name is all but lost to history and she didn't leave a legacy behind in the contemporary history books? My answer would be yes, emphatically, because isn't the point of writing history and biography to ensure the person does leave a legacy? I've read dozens of biographies of famous or relatively famous people and I admit that I enjoy them, especially the ones about authors and artists, but there is something different about a biography of a person you've never heard of, something I can relate to more easily . . . everyday people living everyday lives . . . and why shouldn't they be interesting too? History, check. Fiction, check. Biography, check. But I'm not done yet. Let me say a few words about literary fiction. One thing that distinguishes literary from contemporary fiction is the literary merit versus commercial aspects of the book. Now, I'm far from being a literary writer (though I suppose if I have a goal with my writing that would be it), but when I think of other things that distinguish literary from contemporary or genre fiction, like a focus on human commentary, a slower pace, emphasis on style or complexity, and especially character versus plot-driven, I wonder if I haven't at least hit the target if not the bull's eye. Moving on. The two genres that really make me scratch my head are women's and christian fiction. The Rose and the Whip also fits within these sectors as well. Women's fiction is not just romance or chick-lit, women's fiction is also literary fiction told from a women's perspective with an inner story and emotional perspective, and this, I think, probably describes The Rose and the Whip just as well as biographical fiction. Finally, christian fiction means simply that a Christian world view is woven into the characters and plot of the novel. Well, I couldn't help but do that since the underlying theme of The Rose and the Whip is the struggle between Puritan and Quaker belief systems. But, I surprised even myself when the book took on more than just a view. So, back to the question of publicizing and social media when the genre isn't black and white. At the end of it all, I have a lot more doors to open with my book, and I think that's a pretty cool porch to stand on. Wouldn't you agree?

The Newbury Meeting House Steeple, Newbury, Massachusetts

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