Thursday, April 9, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--GENRE SNOBBERY

Today's guest is Clea Simon, author of the Theda Krakow and Dulcie Schwartz mystery series.

“Oh, well, I’m writing a real book.”

Wow. You know how someone can say Snobsomething totally offhand, probably not even thinking about what she has said, and it can stick with you? Well the above sentence was one of those things, and that brings me to a pet peeve: People who think that fun-to-read books aren’t “real” books.

The above is an actual quote, by the way. Tossed blithely out during an otherwise lovely day at the beach several summers ago by the girlfriend of a good friend. We all worked at the same newspaper, and she was writing a book about war atrocities. And I was working on a book about … women’s relationships with cats. Now, her book was (and is) very serious and important, a work that gave readers a sense of connection and understanding. A book that needed to be written and that many people read. But, you know what? Mine might not have been as weighty, but I like to think it gave its readers a sense of connection and understanding, that it touched some hearts. It was very different, but it was also a real book.

Now, if you’re here reading Lorna’s blog, you’re probably not one of those people. But you know who they are: They’re the ones who look at what you’re reading and sniff a little. “I only read biographies,” they may say. Or, “oh, what a cute cover.” As if that were a bad thing. As if genre fiction (for me, that means mysteries) is somehow not as valid, as other kinds of writing.

What these people don’t realize is that we, like all authors, choose our words with care. We spend time and thought on organizing them, on building up to various points, and on conveying various images, thoughts, ideas, and characters. We research and observe. And we write and rewrite and rewrite again, just like “serious” authors do. In addition, those of us who write entertaining books (and I bet romance writers go through this, too) have to work very hard at making it all seem light and frothy. We have to make the same efforts that authors of heavier books make, and yet we have to disguise that effort:

A line may take us hours maybe;
Yet if it seems more than a moment’s thought
Our stitching and unstitching is naught.

William Butler Yeats was talking about poetry, but he may as well have been talking about mysteries, or romances, or SF, or fantasy…

So, come on already, people! Give up the snobbery! Mysteries and their ilk are “real” books. And now I’ll get off my soapbox, and get back to work.
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Probable ClawsClea Simon is the author of the Theda Krakow and Dulcie Schwartz mystery series, as well as three nonfiction (“real”) books. On April 10th, her fourth Theda Krakow mystery, “Probable Claws,” will be published by Poisoned Pen, and in September, Severn House will debut her first Dulcie Schwartz mystery, “Shades of Grey.” “Shades of Grey” has cats AND ghosts AND a murder mystery, so she is expecting to take flak for it. You can read more at her web site or on her blog.