Crossing Genres by Laura Jarratt – By Any Other Name Blog Tour

In some way, genres are a bugbear for writers. They’re a straitjacket. For booksellers, they make perfect sense – which shelf does this book go on, ah that one because it’s crime fiction. But it makes a writer’s life harder to have to be compartmentalised in that way and a lot more boring. Ask Jodi Picoult what genre her books fall into and she gives this response:

“Hang on while I get on my soapbox. I hate being pigeonholed. I have always been called a women’s author, but 49% of my fan mail comes from male fans, and I think you can legitimately label my novels as legal thrillers, mysteries, romances, or plain old fiction. I think you can consider my books literary, because they make you think, or commercial, because they are a compelling read. Marketing departments like to label authors with just one tag, so that they know how to promote a book, but I think the best books straddle genres and attract a variety of readers. I’d like to think this is one reason my books appeal to people – because I give them something different every time.”

I can totally understand where she’s coming from with that answer. Fortunately in YA – as long as you fit into the YA genre and that’s a whole other argument – then you don’t generally get divided up into sub-genres beyond that, which does give you more freedom. However I still get asked what Skin Deep and By Any Other Name are – romance, mystery, thriller, ‘issues’ books. The temptation to reply ‘Books,’ is always there. Actually I write urban fantasy too– as opposed to paranormal romance…see what I mean here about how silly labels can get – but the YA market is so flooded with vampires that I keep that just for fun because I like my characters. But it illustrates a point that we can be labelled within genres too and that does restrict what you want to write somewhat. We’re much luckier with YA than in the adult market but are these distinctions always helpful? Some writers – usually well-established successes – get away with cross-genre or swapping between different genres but I suspect more writers would be doing it if they could. Swapping genres does potentially confuse your fan base and so some people will use different pen names if they’re going to do that.

Ultimately I want to write books about people and have some stuff happen to them. If that means a few sub-genres get mixed, so be it. As long as it’s interesting for the reader, that’s all I care about. So really when I’m not being facetious when you ask me the question about what I write, I’d say ‘character-driven YA.’ Though I don’t mind the broad brush of ‘contemporary YA’ either. I like books that have a have a tangle of themes in them, because life’s like that. Life isn’t a single issue deal and I like my fiction to reflect that complexity. Which is why a bit of genre-mixing is sometimes essential.

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