I’m not big on labels and categories. I’m not big on having to describe myself as anything other than who I am. Black/white, Republican/Democrat, Christian/Buddhist, male/female. All of this is too confining. As a kid I never colored between the lines or thought inside the box. So, now my books are labeled, pushed into categories, called by something I can’t define.
My agent says my Mad Max series isn’t mystery, because it doesn’t follow mystery norms. To be a mystery, it has to have certain story elements in each phase of the narrative. My publisher uses mystery, romantic suspense and psychological suspense as Amazon categories. There is one point upon which both my agent and publisher agree: I write women’s fiction.
Really? Just what constitutes “women’s fiction?” I have no idea. It has no fixed plot or story elements other than it features a strong woman as the main character. The first time I saw the term I wondered if this wasn’t a catchall for stories that didn’t neatly fit into genre definitions. That may still be the case. When I try to tell readers I write “women’s fiction,” they ask, “Chick lit.” Not hardly.
Being a person who doesn’t like labels, I wondered what “men’s fiction” would be. Would this be darkly psychological stories with social themes? If that’s true, the Mad Max series certainly could qualify, except Mad Max is a grandmother who faces down killers and racists. Or are “men’s fiction” works thrillers and suspense novels? Do these have to be full of blood and gore, gunshots and stabbings, chase scenes and eluding the police? If I drop gunshots out of the extended description, my serial killer book, which is psychological suspense, would be “men’s fiction.” Oh wait, the main character isn’t some macho FBI agent or detective. It’s a female serial killer who hates the anonymity of using a gun to commit her kills. Did I forget to say the story is told in first person from her point of view?
If I try to net this out, I have a strong female character at the lead in this manuscript. She’s every bit as evil as Hannibal Lecter, except she doesn’t eat her victims. She stabs and strangles her victims. She’s as evil as Chelsea Cain’s Gretchen Lowell, except my story is from the point of view of the female killer. There are no chase scenes, yet she eludes police at every step of her career. If my female serial killer, my psychopath who wants people to think she has a conscious, is “women’s fiction,” so be it. Let the games and genre-bending begin.