Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Genre: A Great Dilemma

So I've turned my thoughts to genre. As I hammer out the bajillionth copy of my query (yes, still), I am exploring the notion of calling my novel a historical romance. The label frightens me really because in my mind historical romance is that aisle at the Barnes and Noble that features scantily clad ladies and gents on the novel covers.

I'm pretty sure I read this one. And yes, I'm blushing.
But my novel is a love story, and I must accept what I have written. While it is also about revenge and redemption, death and life, and most importantly, family honor, it would nothing without Julienne and Alex's relationship. I set out to write a straight historical fiction, and may even deviated (slightly) from the standard romance formula (but yes, there is a happy ending!), but I cannot deny what my book is. If only I could figure it out.

The question has plagued me for some time. I really began to tackle the concept this evening when I realized that one of my favorite historical fiction writers is published under the Mira imprint, which is owned by Harlequin. Then I noticed that even the author refers to herself as a historical romance writer. Well, I'll be.... Her books are romantically driven, but definitely not the standard historical romance. Heck, she doesn't even do sex scenes. To add further fuel to the fire, I was looking at an agent blog wherein she cited Phillipa Gregory and Karleen Koen as historical romance authors. I definitely fit in with those authors.

So what do I do? My query now reads that "REBEL HEART is a historical fiction with romantic elements" but should I just bite the bullet and call it a historical romance? I posed the question to my husband, to which he replied (with his characteristic clarity): "I think you should classify it to the genre that sells." Excellent advice, really.

So what about you? Have you had any genre conundrums?


  1. Well...I call a spade a spade. From what you've shared about Enemy, it's a HistFic spade more than a HistRomance heart (dorky analogy, ok...) And if it's not historical romance, an agent who reads the query and requests more expecting it to be romance will either reject it for not being right, or will ask for extensive revisions to turn it into a historical romance. But--I would attune it to the agent. If she says she likes "historic romance like Philippa Gregory" then by all means, call it romance! Otherwise--I think romance has a really particular set of expectations, and if your book doesn't fit them, I don't think I'd call it romance. I had the same dilemma with the first novel I queried--I stuck with HistFic and let the romantic elements speak for themselves in the query. OK, so I didn't get rep out of that one :) But it did get quite a few requests :P

  2. I must say, it adds clarity to the query you posted a few weeks ago since I was unsure what the main conflict was :)

    Right now I'm writing something I've never written before... MG... and am unsure if what I'm writing is too mature for MG readers. If so, the protagonist is too young to fit into YA, but the story is too short to be regular Fiction.

    So I have my own stressed about genre :)

    Good luck!

  3. I've been following your query journey on the Bransforums - congrats on the full! To me, your story seems more historical fiction than historical romance, so I think your "romantic elements" descripiton is pretty accurate.

    Have you ever read M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions? (If not, you should - it's fantastic!) It's classified as historical fiction, and combines romance with much larger historical world conflicts...which it sounds like you do as well.

    Good luck!

  4. From what I've read though your blog, I'd go with historical fiction. Happy querying!