I'm not the type of person who naturally likes being labelled. I'm agnostic, I'm ambidextrous, I'm... well, lets just say if there are two different ways to do things, I'd inclined to keep my options open. I'm very at home in a world filled with shades of gray.
A lot of the writers earlier on in this week put forward the idea that genre labels are not always a good thing. They made a lot of good points. I sort of agree with a lot of them. On the other hand, I think there is something to be said for putting the right labels on books. Here's why...
A few years ago, when I started writing seriously, I finally decided to quit trying to write what I thought other people wanted to read and to write the stories I wanted to tell.
One problem. A little bit of looking around and I convinced myself that no one would be interested in publishing what I wanted to write. I effectively felt like I was writing in a genre that didn't exist.
The stories were all about the development of a romantic relationship. So my books were obviously romances. Right?
Except all the romance publishers I stumbled across were vanilla and m/f. And even the ones that seemed to consider themselves very naughty had submission guidelines saying they expected three sex scenes in a 60,000 word book - some of my characters have chapters with more than that in them! So, I obviously wasn't writing romance.
More sex than romance? I must be writing erotica then. But the guidelines I found for those submissions didn't want romance, they didn't want happy ever after, they didn't want commitment between the characters and most of them only seemed to want BDSM elements for shock value.
I wrote for over a year in the complete certainty that I was the only person in the world writing the sort of stories I wanted to write - and wanted to read.
And then a stumbled across this strange thing called erotic romance. That was closer to the mark. There were writers there who seemed to enjoy writing stories that had a lot more in common than what I was writing.
A bit more searching and I found out that there were writers in that bunch who wrote Male/male stories too, and some who wrote BDSM as well!
I found my genre label.
I write BDSM erotic romance.
So, yes, right now I just like knowing that I'm writing in a particular genre that exists - that people might want to read what I want to write.
Although I'm not saying that all my stories fit in a neat little box.
I write about all different combinations or orientations and genders. So far I've had Mm, Mf, MfM and Mmm accepted. But I write all the others too. And I've got some stories that included a combination of all different relationships. At the moment, most of my stories seem to be Mm - and that's the character combination I start writing about in the first place, but it does vary somewhat with my mood.
I write about people who live a 24/7 BDSM lifestyle in one book, and people who would never let the kinky side of their life out of the bedroom in another. And I write about character who have the exact opposite view on what's the right way to do things. As long as it's SSC (Safe, sane, consensual) it's all good with me.
I write about different paranormal species too. Vampires and Werewolves are particular favourites at the moment, but I've got a few species I created from scratch in the planning.
I've got series that are classical/fantasy, mystery, suspense, historical and damn near everything else lurking around in my head.
All that's okay, I have no problem with the idea of putting six different sub-genre labels on a book.
Next Monday I'll have three stories on sale.
The Gift is M/m and M/m/m, Contemporary, Paranormal Time travel, Christmas.
Secret Service is M/m, Contemporary, Valentines.
Whispers is M/f, Paranormal, Contemporary, Psychic, Vampire. (In the Night of the Senses Anthology.)
They are in the same genre in that they are all BDSM erotic romances. But that's just about all they have in common.
I'm quite content with that.
I've found my genre. A label on my book saying that I write what I write is fine with me.
Because that's what I consider the genre labels to be. I don't find them limiting. I just think of them as simple statement to the reader that if you read this book, you will find X, Y and Z. Maybe some of those labels loose or gain me readers. I don't know.
But I do know what I write now.
I write BDSM erotic romance, usually with sub-genre descriptions tacked onto the end.
It's a bit of a mouthful, but it's a damn sight better than calling the stories I write stories-no-one-will-ever-want-to-publish :)