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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Brian Hill & Dee Power

By Dee Power and Brian Hill

       The genre of a book is that neat little label by which it finds a home on the bookseller’s shelf. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, thrillers are all distinct genres and that’s just the beginning. Subgenres include chick lit, lad lit, political thrillers, cozy mysteries, crime novels, English mysteries, erotic romance, paranormal romance, legal thrillers--the list goes on and on.

Genre provides a welcome and necessary degree of organization for publishing industry professionals as well as readers. Booksellers know where to stock the book by its genre, customers know where to find it, and publishers know how to sell it.

How does an author choose their genre? We asked several authors that very question.


“I selected my particular fiction genre (action/adventure) simply as a change from my normal writing, which is non-fiction articles for shooting, history, and collector magazines.

“Why action/adventure? That's easy - they are my favorite reading material when I am kicking back after putting together a long, technical article. The readers I'm aiming for (sorry for the pun) are men and women who are into stories involving guys, gals, and guns (not necessarily in that order). I do research my weaponry, and make sure that the hero doesn't try and screw a silencer on to a revolver (wouldn't work!), or flick on the safety lever on his Glock (it hasn't got one!).

Tony Walker, Snides, the first in a series of action thrillers featuring John and Sally Pilgrim.


“I write suspenseful romantic science fiction. Not your everyday genre. Hard to place a manuscript like that, but that's what I like to read and watch on the screen. Pure Sci-fi is often too technical, pure romance lacks suspense and plot twists. Reviewers compared my strong heroines to a mix of Lara Croft and Agent Scully from the X-files. I fell in love with Indiana Jones and when told it was a romance, I thought, I can write that kind of romance. I think that plot is just as important as character development. I like my readers to turn the pages.”

Vijaya Schartz The Garrison Lockdown, is set in 3033 in the Andromeda Galaxy, on a prison planet. An artist at heart, Rhonda never wanted to be a prison guard and has to team up with Captain Perfect himself, who never trusted a woman in his life. But deep in the underground penitentiary, something has gone terribly wrong...


“I chose Historical Fiction as a genre simply because of an aversion to what is untrue. A multitude of questions lead each of us to research any topic, and my research became a book. It was not begun with the intention of disproving anything, for it was only thought more knowledge would develop. However, upon realizing I stumbled upon important facts that our present historians have neglected to adequately pass on to the general public, I became annoyed. Many will respond to this as though it were unimportant. Not so. We base our current and future decisions on the events that have occurred in the past. If inaccurate information is given to us, for whatever the reason, it only follows that we will make inaccurate decisions. This leads to the concept of history repeating itself, for how can we make better decisions without correct information?”

D.R.Schwerin, General Lee’s Daughter Annie is a behind-the-scenes look at the struggles and triumphs of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s family as seen through the eyes of his daughter, Anne Carter Lee, while he was away at war.” -The Meridian Star


“Why do I write cozy mysteries?

“Murder mystery fiction is not about the crime itself, but about the people who commit them and, more important, the people who solve them. When I read a mystery, I want to be entertained, not frightened into nightmares. I want to be informed, not 'grossed out'. I want a puzzle, and an interesting sleuth who solves it logically and systematically. Also, I want to feel empowered.

“Cozies empower ordinary people.” Anne R. Grobbo, Rural Sprawl and Dog in a Manager feature Gloria Trevisi, a slightly ethnic city journalist stuck in a xenophobic rural community, with a handsome, interesting and absent husband and a family who visit at awkward times. With a journalist's tenacity, she solves rural crime the old-fashioned way, by asking questions and putting pressure on a killer until he, or she, makes a mistake.


“I write Middle Grade/ YA fantasy. The reason I write it is because it is my favorite to read. I've always been a big fan of fairy tales. Some of my most prized books are written by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and variations thereof. I enjoy being able to make anything happen on paper. Fantasy is so much fun, because pretty much there are no limits. As with other genres, it should make sense, but if you can imagine it, you can write it.”

Christine Norris, Talisman of Zandria, LBF books. An eleven year old girl stumbles into a magical world that exists just outside her own and has to fight an evil sorceress to get home.


”About twenty-five years ago I discovered and fell in love with the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain (AKA the late Evan Hunter) but it wasn't until much later that I decided to write my first police procedural. Maybe I was afraid I would never match his talent. I have great respect for police officers and appreciate the opportunity to add to their fictional mystique. My first police procedural was a collaborative effort, released under the pen-name Sutton Miller.”

Maryann Miller, Doubletake Two brutal murders rock the quiet community of Twin Lakes, Texas, and Detective Barbara Hobkins must catch the killer before becoming the target of Doubletake.


”I write both contemporary and contemporary paranormal. I think the genres chose me rather than the other way around.

”I like writing contemporary because I don't have to think about the details of life as much as with a period piece. I understand the mores, the characters, the times.

”As for paranormal, I've always been interested in magic and its possibilities. My contemporary world might just exist. My heroine is a "magic practitioner" who can't cast a spell on anyone but herself. She makes a good living as a management consultant by spelling herself to be seen as someone who can be trusted with employees' secrets. The hero is not a practitioner, but needs help with his company. And an ancient force operating on practitioners, the soul mate imperative, will bring them together, ready or not.”

Federicka Meiners writing as Ann Macela, The Oldest Kind of Magic


“The old adage goes, "Write what you know", but I think the happiest authors write what they love. And what I love to read is historical romance. I love to be swept away by a dark, rich, sensual love story. I've tried to write a lighter voice or something contemporary and every time my hero whispers that he has a dark secret and my heroine tries to find a gown with an empire waist. I've decided not to argue with them.”

Jenna Petersen, Scandalous, a dark, sensual Regency era historical romance about a woman betrothed to marry one brother when circumstances force her into the arms of the other.


“I write in paranormal and western historical and though I never thought about it I suppose much of the reason is that being part of the first "TV Generation" I grew up with shows such as The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Twilight Zone and of course everyone's favorite late night local show "Chiller Theater". And since I was raised by my dad and older brothers I also got to see a lot of Bonanza, Wild Wild West, The Big Valley and of course many John Wayne movies.”

Barbara Sheridan, Bittersweet Surrender, Indian Territory 1892, Newspaper editor Star Mcnamara would like nothing better than to see all non-Indian “intruders ejected from the territory. Lawman Jason Hillhouse is every it as independent and proud of his Choctaw heritage as Star, but he believes women belong at home and that the future of the Choctaw Nation lies in obtaining United States citizenship.


“When I started reading, things that went bump in the night appealed to me. I was an avid reader of Stephen King. Yet, I also discovered Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and became enthralled with romances. This has mutated into what I write being a combination of paranormal with a huge dash of romance thrown in. Lately, even things I’ve thought of that are contemporary keep heading for the supernatural, so I think that’s where my heart is right now. I love vampires, weres, shapeshifters, ghosts when I read. It makes sense that I would write them.”

Mechele Armstrong, Blood Kiss, Nick, a centuries-old vampire and Sarah, a untrained psychic succumb to passion while a killer watches from the shadows. Can Nick save her from a rogue's Blood Kiss?


“I write romantic suspense with paranormal elements - mainly because writing straight romance didn't appeal. From one scene to the next it was sex/love/sex/love/sex - you get the idea. I tried to write it but couldn't get my characters to behave. They wanted more to happen and so did I. I wanted to see my hero and heroine challenged, make use of their brains as well as their bodies and emotions. And my heroines aren't always the perfect beauties of romance, my GH finaling manuscript featured a blind heroine who needs a makeover to become an attractive woman. And an upcoming book features a heroine with somewhat of a physical challenge. The upcoming book (Rapture of the Deep) features the supernaturals that make up the Haida Indian legends. Where the paranormal elements came from, I've no idea. They just keep showing up--I guess because I like things that go bump in the night.”

Kelsy George, Kill a Painted Pony, Annabelle Oakes who paints and restores carousel horses by day, at night becomes Annie Oaklee--sharpshooter/knife thrower/trick rider of an American paint horse with the rodeo.


“My children’s book came out last December. I had been resurrecting a romance that I had written years ago. I was going through one of those dreaded stale periods when creativity seems to be as elusive as good political leadership. This book just burst from me while I was daydreaming during a breakout session at a conference. It is semi-autobiographical, so it’s near and dear to my heart. The session facilitator just happened to be the Acquisition Director for Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc. She suggested I submit the story. I did and 6 years later the book was in print.”

Tracy Monaghan, New Beginnings, a little girl learns to adjust to life with daddy after the death of her mother.


“My action/adventure book is about wolves and boys, no romance, and is for teens and adults. I raised Alaskan Tundra and Canadian Timber wolves along with two sons and a daughter, so I found that growling and gnashing of teeth works equally well as discipline for both species.”

BetteLou Tobin, Wolfcub


There isn’t any clear cut pattern or method of the how and why of choosing a genre. Authors write what they love, what they know, what they want to learn about, and what fascinates them.

The holiday season is upon us, we all know that books make the best gifts, this year choose a genre that’s new for you. It just might become one of your favorites.

Dee Power (Ms.) is co-author with Brian Hill of
The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them
March 2005, Dearborn Trade, ISBN 0793193087
Coming October 2005, Over Time, the novel, ISBN 0974075418

2005 Past Columns

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