I should have started my list of “Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say” over twenty years ago when I told my youngest child not to bite the family dog on its leg.
Since then, I’ve accumulated a number of noteworthies ranging from, “I know a Category 5 hurricane is about to slam New Orleans, but I don’t really need to evacuate,” to “Someone who tweeted me just added me to her Google + circle, and I can’t find her on Facebook.”
My latest? “I’m leaving my new-ish house in the suburbs to move into one 150+ years old in New Orleans.” I’d like to add to that one something along the lines of, “I’m exhilarated unpacking all these boxes of clutter from hell,” but it’s not happening.
If I hadn’t just finished a six-hour drive and then arrived home to be informed the grandfather clock needed relocating, which required moving the clock’s internal organs, the dining room table, six boxes, and, “Oh, by the way, could you put two ice chests in the car and pick up the food we left in the refrigerator and freezer after your one hour drive to your doctor appointment followed by your turkey day grocery shopping?” …I might have composed a sexy segue way to tying all this to genre.
But, I didn’t. So, here’s the thing:
I’ve experienced similar moments of thinking I had defined my universe, my genre palate as a reader, only to discover I could easily acquire a taste for the unfamiliar if the presentation was irresistible.
I never thought I’d hear myself say I enjoyed nonfiction until I read Bill Bryson, Anne Lamott, Francine Prose, and Sarah Vowel.
I never thought I’d hear myself say I enjoyed dystopian novels until Margaret Atwood and, recently, Suzanne Collins,
I never thought I’d hear myself say I enjoyed historical fiction until Philippa Gregory, and Havah by Tosca Lee.
And, of course, I’m naming just a few authors, but you’re savvy women, you get it…
But as a writer, I’m finding that, instead of developing a genre-palate, I’m being tube-fed. In some cases. force-fed.
If men read my novels that are categorized as women’s fiction, can I start calling them cross-gender fiction? If a contemporary fiction features a married couple, it isn’t a contemporary romance. What’s the message there?
I recently pitched a novel as being contemporary fiction with romance elements. Seriously.
What about dystopian romance? Historical paranormals? (erotic inspirationals are entirely off the shelf.)
And can we wave the white bonnet of surrender and recognize that Amish fiction is a category unto itself? Actually, at the speed of which those novels disappear from shelves, I wouldn’t mind sprinkling a few bonnet-covered characters on my covers.
Genre provides order, definition, and perhaps, for some, a firewall of protection. But it also confines us to certain literary “neighborhoods.” Even though they feature atypical Christian protagonists and subject matter, my novels are shelved in the Christian Fiction section. Not a great deal of non-denominational traffic in that aisle.
Perhaps it’s time to have a genre neighborhood block party, meet a new family. Or two. We don’t have to move in with them. Just open our doors.
Christa Allan is the author of Walking on Broken Glass, The Edge of Grace, and Love Finds You in New Orleans (2012). You can find her at www.christaallan.com, Facebook, and Twitter. When she's not frantically meeting deadlines and emptying boxes, she teaches high school English. Christa and her husband recently moved to New Orleans to live in a home older than their combined ages. Their three neurotic cats are adjusting.