Monday, February 13, 2017

Light vs Dark: Writing in different sub-genres

By Vicki Delany

Crime novels fill the entire spectrum. Everything from the lightest of cozies to the darkest of noir.

Most writers stick to the style that they like, and that they know they are good in. Some readers do also but many like to try new things.

I like to mix up the moods and styles I write in. I’ve written psychological suspense (Scare the Light Away), modern Gothic thrillers (More than Sorrow) historical fiction (the Klondike Gold Rush series), gritty police procedurals (The Constable Molly Smith series) and cozies (The Lighthouse Library series by Eva Gates and the Year Round Christmas mysteries).

I’m now pretty much established writing cozies, and will continue to do so mainly because I enjoy writing them. They’re light and funny, and they take me into a good place, rather than spending a lot of time in a dark and frightening world.

I’m glad I’ve written about dark things though: it’s important that we all (readers as well as writers) get out of our comfort zones.

When I say dark and frightening, I am not talking about graphic violence. If anything, I believe that in the world today we are in danger of becoming immune to the effect of violence by the plethora of it, in books and certainly in movies and TV. It’s the aftermath of the crime or the situation that can be the deepest and the darkest. How people, – victim, family and relatives, police, even the perpetrator – react is what interests me.

I’m not interested in writing or in reading or in watching torture porn, thank you very much.

I’m very lucky to be able to continue mixing up styles and sub-genres.  Case in point: I have two new books coming out soon. Elementary, She Read is a light, funny (I hope) cozy set in a Sherlock Holmes bookshop and it’s been enormous fun trying to write a Sherlock-ish character. It will be out on March 14. Then in April, the Rapid Reads imprint of Orca Books is publishing Blood and Belonging, the third Sgt Ray Robertson novella. These books are most certainly not light. They’ve dealt with some dark topics (again, nothing graphic on the page. It’s not needed and can be counter-productive). In Blood and Belonging, Ray, an RCMP officer working for the United Nations in developing and dangerous countries, is on vacation in Turks and Caicos. Needless to say, his peace and tranquility is interrupted.

I’d be interested to know what sub-genre our Type M readers like. Do you have a preference or do you love them all?


Anonymous said...

Coming to this post a little late, and am thinking about your question, only to answer with another: do you think the sub-genres can be too restrictive? I like knowing I'm picking up a book that's more "hard-boiled" versus "cozy," yet when others ask about my own mysteries, I hesitate to say they're "cozies," though that's the sub-genre they most fit. No graphic sex or violence or language, a bit of humor, quirky characters, but they're a little more true-to-life than cozies. My concept of a retired couple traveling full-time in their RV, solving mysteries as they traverse the countryside, doesn't fit the quaint, small-town setting, for example.

I like the idea of challenging ourselves as writers, but how do we label our work in ways to attract the readers who'd enjoy them?

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm becoming very very turned off by cynical potty-mouthed "heroes" who are not decent human beings by any standard.

Vicki Delany said...

Good question, Alearning. The thing about sub-genres is that it gets to the point in a word or two. I brand my books cozy, or whatever, for instant recognition. for example on twitter. However, certainly in any conversation, written or verbal, you are free to expand with an explanation.

Vicki Delany said...

Charlotte, I agree with that.