29 April, 2010

On Genres

SO, I was writing a query yesterday for an agent with very specific guidelines on what she wanted to see from a fiction author. (Note to all the agents who are not reading this blog right now: I LOVE THIS! Because of all the English Lit majors I'm competing with who don't know how to follow directions.

*dodges barrage of dogeared Strunk&White paperbacks*

Anyway, the agent did not list Historical as a valid genre. Since my story happens (but it really didn't happen) in the 9th century AD I've been thinking of it as historical fiction.

But really, is historical fiction a genre? SHOULD it be? Calling every story that happens before the present day historical is like calling every novel that takes place in the present day contemporary. There are mysteries, romances, horror stories, etc. written in all time periods.

And so, I picked Thriller (heeeee- heee! jam on! see picture) from the available labels. Hey, I've got knife fights, brothel brawls, hiding from pirates, political intrigues, and the odd strangling happening as quick as the pages turn. But no zombies..... in THIS novel.


  1. I certainly don't think that all historical novels are created equal. You're absolutely right in saying it's too broad of a category. Sure, there are very traditional historicals (you all know the ones I'm talking about), but to me at least, there are historical mysteries, historical capers, historical adventures, literary historicals, historical war novels, etc.

    I had a surprised beta reader once tell me that I'd misrepresented one of mine as a "historical novel" because it was nothing like a Phillipa Gregory book or anything. And I can see what the reader was saying. It's a decidedly more literary book than the sort of traditional historical telling a slice of a well-known story, peopled with big, marquee names. A further distinction had to be made.

    I do think, though, that the "historical" addendum is necessary. A "historical mystery" isn't the same as just a "mystery". The former will have elements of both genres.

  2. I love YA history Ann Rinaldi is a favorite but the ones with boy protagonists are more interesting because a lot of YA historicals aimed at girls is mostly more romantic than anything else.

  3. I agree completely... and yet my next project has a female protag. Hopefully to be adored by boys and girls alike.