Right up there with “What is your book about?” the next question that is always asked of authors would be “What kind of book is it?” And while it is nice to have a simple category that adequately sums up the tone and content of your story, the answer is not necessarily so easy to come up with.
I guess there must have once been a time when a horror was a horror and a comedy was a comedy, and never the twain shall meet, but I don’t recall it. Sci-fi/horrors, paranormal romances, dramedies! Nowadays we just love to dip our chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter in the hopes of inventing a new flavor. But it’s not even intentional. Sure there are those who set out to reinvent sub-genres from the get-go, but often it is the case that an author develops a story the way he/she feels it should be, and then has to struggle afterward trying to determine what category it most closely fits into.
Then add to that the problem of dealing with a series, where one installment may stray from the previous one’s prescribed subject matter. For it is as much fun for the author as for the reader to have a running character be suddenly put into a circumstance beyond his norm.
Take James Bond, for instance (the literary creation, not the film series, although there has been some variation there as well). Throughout the course of his novels, he has been involved in grand espionage adventures, but there have been attempts to stray into far-flung territories that have virtually gone unnoticed under the overall guise of its spy novel roots. He has been involved in a Western (The Man with the Golden Gun, complete with shootout on a train), a science-fiction plot (Dr. No, who is more machine than man—an early Darth Vader?), an Asian-themed excursion (You Only Live Twice), a taut thriller (The Spy Who Loved Me—just Bond showing up at a hotel to protect a woman from thugs), a tragic romance (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and more. Giving each novel its unique flavor was what helped keep Fleming’s series fresh and interesting.
So how do I describe my series? I simply call it a werewolf story, but if pressed I would describe it as horror, cringing to do so because it does not exactly fit with what I consider a horror, except superficially. I almost want to call it science fiction, since to me it is more about exploring the culture of an alien (no, not from outer space) species, but I also acknowledge that Book One is very much a paranormal romance, with a great deal of it concentrating on a forbidden love affair. However, the second book is by no means a paranormal romance, and the third (not to give anything away) is actually the closest to being an actual horror story. So how do I describe the series as a whole? ...No, really, I’m asking you: How do I describe the series?
Is it even necessary to describe a series? Must everything be pigeonholed for easy consumption? Don’t get me wrong; I like to know what I’m getting into when I start reading a book or watching a movie. In fact, knowing what genre it falls in helps me decide whether to read/watch it or not. But I also like a little leverage where that’s concerned. I particularly like my sci-fi and horror to blend; in fact, films of the fifties did this all the time (The Thing from Another World, The Blob, etc.). So why was it that the first ALIEN film was treated like it invented the wheel?
What kind of book is it? To me it is so much more than one thing. It has horror elements, but it also has science-fiction elements. It is a tale of forbidden love, but it is also a thriller about a person dealing with emotional trauma. I find it as hard to simplify into one word as I would find it hard to describe one of my sons in one word, but nevertheless an author is expected to be able to do so with his or her book.
I suppose simply saying “fiction” isn’t good enough, huh?