Sunday, 22 May 2011

Genre- does it matter?

Until I published Moon in Leo, I scarcely noticed the genre of any book I was reading. I certainly didn't notice whether it was set in the past or the present. I did notice how well it was written, and if it had something to say. (I hate getting to the end of a book and saying "So what?" to myself.)

I still think this: after a century or two, does anyone notice that A Tale of Two Cities is a "Historical Novel", but Our Mutual Friend is contemporary? Looking back, I realise that many of my favourite books have been historical novels- Mary Renault- The King Must Die, Rosemary Sutcliff- The Rider of the White Horse, Philippa Gregory- Virgin Earth and Earthly Joys, Kathleen's earlier book- Queen of the Lightning to name a few.

When, a few years back,  I discovered two American novels- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, I didn't think of them as fundamentally different: they each gave me a window onto a different world, moved me to tears and laughter, and as all good books, changed my view of the world. All the above have a permanent place on my shelves, to be read again and again.

What I didn't realise was that there are many people who choose historical novels over contemporary ones. It came as a bit of a shock therefore to find out that Moon in Leo cannot be marketed simply as a literary novel. In my naivety I thought it would be sufficient to post some good reviews and lots of people would like it. Now, Moon in Leo has received some excellent reviews, but it's no use my targeting lovers of Sci Fi Fantasy, or gritty Detective Fiction: it wouldn't hit their buttons.

This, and reading some comments suggesting that Moon in Leo is a Romance (for details, see my last post) led me to revisit an earlier post. Just as I was about to revise and re-post it, I came across this article by Emma Darwin (A Secret Alchemy, The Mathematics of Love) on the Romantic Novelists Association Blog: The Perils and. Pleasures of Crossing Genres

Some while ago, I found an indignant review of Kathleen's first book, Bride of the Spear. The writer berates the book for being too explicit for teenagers! I want to put the record straight with regard to Moon in Leo, so be warned:
It is not a book for teenagers. It is not a bodice ripper. It is not chick-lit. It is not escapist historical froth. It is not crammed with sensational violence or titillating sex. It is not an academic study of the socio-political and religious background to the Restoration of Charles II. If you read historical fiction to escape from what you see is a nasty modern world, you will be disappointed. Kathleen's past is not soft focus and rosy.

It's a book for grown up, intelligent people. You will understand the political, social and religious issues of the time better, when you have read it. You may even return to your history books- it is a fascinating period! You will have a good mental picture of that area of England's North-West. You may even plan a visit, if you are not lucky enough to live there: it is a place of great beauty. Above all, you will have read a cracking good story, with suspense, romance, tragedy, laughter, horror, beauty, violence, tenderness, loss, compassion, hatred, a heroine and hero who will stay with you long after you put down the book, and a sense of having shared a richness and maturity of vision with Kathleen.

Now that Moon in Leo is available on Smashwords, at less than half the price of the print version, and will be available soon for a limited period free- download it and let us know by a comment what genre you think it is!

1 comment:

  1. I've always considered Kathleen Herbert's "Northumbria" triliogy as historical fiction. There's nothing soft-focus fluffy about these novels, which have plenty of warfare, violence, vengeance and blood feud to keep the action flowing, even though the stories are in each case woven around a developing romantic relationship.

    I see "Moon in Leo" in the same light. It's historical fiction with romantic elements rather than what would usually be considered straight historical romance. Fiona Mountain's "Lady of the Butterflies" comes to mind here. Also set in post-Civil War 17th century England, it's clearly a historical novel and marketed as such, even though it contains strong romance elements.