Ever since reading Amy’s great post on making sure you understand your genre I’ve been wondering what mine is. I didn’t think about it when I started writing. I wrote what popped in my head.
Awhile back Amazon sent me an email saying I was one of their top 1,000 horror writers and I accepted the label, but it didn’t feel right. I’ll admit it felt good, and my head did indeed swell, but even then it felt untrue.
For one thing, people say you read what you write. I don’t read horror. I used to love Stephen King, but in my mid twenties I decided the world had enough horror already. No need to read about it.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but if I have a chance to curl up with a good book and read for pleasure (not seeking information) I pick Edgar Allen Poe, Hitchcock, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dickens. I like Oscar Wilde but sometimes he grates on my nerves with all his superior intellectual attitude. For comfort I lose myself in Dickens and Little Women by Alcott. I’m worse than a nerd… I’m classic.
The other day I was likened to Edgar Allen Poe in a review and I was incredibly flattered. Right there that should have clued me in but I’m stubborn. I still struggled under the burden of the “horror” label. Feeling like I’m pretending to be what I’m not but not knowing what I am, even telling people I was “a horror writer” made me feel false.
Tonight I picked up a favorite movie from the library, Dorian Grey, and was thinking about how much I love the story. “This is what I want my stories to be like,” I thought. “Dark and full of moral dilemma, sometimes frightening but in a slow eerie way that makes your soul slowly chill inside your chest as you realize the monster you’ve been reading about is yourself.” Suddenly it all clicked. I had an epiphany. I realized my genre.
Finally, I can stop trying to force my square self into the yawning hole of horror. Finally I can stop mentally whipping myself as I write. “More gore!” my inner self would demand. “The monster needs to do less reflecting on the state of evil and more slashing!”
Now I can tell the inner wanna-be horror writer in myself to just go away. Nothing wrong with a nice hack and slash tale, but I like my darkness to creep slowly and stick in the back of the mind like a phantom you sense but barely see.
I’m not crazy about genre labeling, but it is important for marketing. Romance readers will find me unsatisfying, fans of horror will have their bloodlust unsatiated. But those who love Poe, Rice and A.F. Stewart might enjoy my books as well.
I’m happy to finally have a true label – modern gothic. Not surprisingly, as I looked up books in the modern gothic genre I had a lot of, “Oh I loved that book!” moments and it makes total sense.
Now that I know… back to writing. The next End of Daze book awaits, End of Jewel Eye, and it will not be horrible. I promise.
Here’s some interesting posts I found on “modern gothic:”
Angela Yuriko Smith is a regular contributor on Dandilyon Fluff and the author of several modern Gothic books including Mr. Bonejangles & Other Tales of Dark Karma and the End of Daze series which includesEnd of Mae and End Joon. She pays her bills by working as an editorial assistant for a weekly newspaper.