Most of us know what we like in life, what makes us happy, what we know we will enjoy. Be it the films we watch, the countries we visit or the foods we eat. We have, through experience, come to know the things we love and enjoy, equally, the things we dislike, even if, sometimes, we have not even tried them.
It’s a bit like that with our reading tastes and before working in a library, I certainly was drawn to the same type/genre of book. It started when I was a young lad and first discovered the genre of fantasy, with The Lord of the Rings. Gone, rather quickly, was my youthful desire to explore all that was science fiction (thanks to Star Wars/Flash Gordon). No longer the light saber, the lazer pistol – no, in the hands of my imagination now was firmly held the longsword and longbow.
That love, discovered so early on, quickly saw me entrenched in one genre, fantasy. Dungeons and Dragons followed, further fueling my imagination and laying the foundations for the writing that would one day (many years later) follow. I loved all that was fantasy and, quite frankly, the only other thing I picked up with pages, were the newspapers I delivered and, ahem, other types of magazines that a young teenager was discovering.
The library has opened my eyes and the pages to the literary world. Since publishing my first novel, I have broadened the range of books I am willing to try, far beyond anything I ever thought possible. And I am loving it!
To be honest I don’t like the word ‘genre.’ It pidgeon-holes books into groups/onto shelves they sometimes should not appear on. Working in a library, of course, I know we have to have such order – but, as someone who spent many years stuck reading one particular type of book, I know it makes readers less likely to choose something different. I see it daily in the library, the legions of James Patterson fans coming into the library to read his hundreth release that year – never picking up anything else, missing out on so much more. They know what they want, what they like and are happy with that.
I have plans to write, hopefully, many novels in the future. But for now, I am focused fully on completing the Storm Trilogy. Since becoming a writer, I have come to realise that I have chosen a genre, that although has many, many readers, is a hard one to sell to the casual reader. The legions of fantasy fans that read the genre, much as I used to, are voracious with their appetites and loyal once they know you are there- so much so, that it is hard to stand up tallest and shout the loudest in a field full of talent.
Equally, it is even harder to sell yourself to someone who has never tried the genre. This happens to me quite a lot:-
Reader: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “I am a writer and assistant librarian.”
Reader: “A writer! Wow! What do you write?”
Me: “Medieval fantasy.”
Reader: (Smile fading, eyes losing their lustre) “Oh! That’s great. But I don’t read fantasy.”
I find myself then, rather sheepishly, trying to explain that although it is set in a fictional land, the story could quite easily be set in modern times. It is a political thriller, that just happens to be set in a ficticious, medieval land. Some people are willing to give it a go, especially if they are library users and they can ty it for free.
Although I have never read his novels, I have also started to explain that my novel is ‘a bit like Game of Thrones.’ Thanks to HBO’s adaptation of George R.R Martin’s epic series, people are more willing to try something different and I am thankful to them.
Of course, most people are still thrilled to talk about my book with me, even if they will not try it and, I am happy to say, that a great deal of my readership has come from word of mouth and from people who don’t, as they kindly say ‘Ususally read that kind of thing, but…’
It pleases me no end! I actually wrote Whispers of a Storm to appeal to everyone – I tried to fashion a tale that would, if you can see past the genre label, draw the reader in, no matter their tastes and send them on a journey full of excitement and adventure. Escape it all for a little while.
The author Catrin Collier posted a wonderful review on Amazon some time ago, that sums up how pleased I am that my work has appealed to fans of the genre and further afield:-
“Brilliant fantasy – just like another reviewer, when I picked up this book I thought “Mmm not really my type of novel.”
I was so wrong. If you like exciting well written, well constructed plots this book is for you. The author has created a world so real, so tangible you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell it.
I can’t wait for his next work.”
I have just finished reading the wonderful novel ‘Imperium’ by Robert Harris, a book, several years ago I would never have contemplated even picking up. Before that, I finished ‘An instance of a Fingerpost’ by Iain Pears and ‘House of Silk’ by Anthony Horrowitz. I have just started reading ‘Doctor Syn’ by Russell Thorndyke.
If you usually stick to one type of book, why not try something different this March. If you are in a book shop – perhaps pick up a book from the fantasy section and read the first few pages, don’t be put off by what’s on the cover – or perhaps try a sample online. You might be surprised and, much like myself, be whisked away to adventures you never thought you would enjoy!