The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Switching Genres: Anticipating The Casual Vacancy

See how there’s more blog time now!  The freelancing-office-fun-time job has ended and I once again have the time to use Barnes & Noble, Caribou or Centennial Lakes as my office space.  Yes, instead of sitting in front of a computer making money, I’m spending money on tea and those yummy lemon-raspberry squares; but $4 dollars a day is cheap rent considering how much time I can spend in these locations.  A horrible, really bad day at the part-time job hobby can be totally eclipsed by walking across the street and pulling out my laptop!

Now down to business.  Geeky book business that is imperative to the world as a whole; I tell you.  Who is going to buy, read, or borrow the new JK Rowling book?  It arrives on September 27th and is apparently already the #1 bestseller at Amazon this year. Thoughts on diversifying your rhetoric as an author – specifically one who writes for a sub-genre (albeit huge…mostly because of her) like fantasy YA?  Goodreads says this book, The Casual Vacancy, is illustrated by Joel Holland.  Who is that?  I think I fell off the information train at some point during the last year.  Who wants to fill me in? Anyone? 

Here’s the goodreads (A site I am addicted to - you know - like tennis and tea) description:
 When Barry Fairweather (hideous name, but also tongue-in-cheek funny) dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey (Was she on the set of HP when they were filming in Lacock?  Because that is an excellent description of both town and abbey and now what I will picture when reading this book.), but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils (At first I thought every Roald Dahl book ever, but then I went to a Hot Fuzz place, and there I’m staying. Simon Pegg and all)…Pragford is not what it first seems (Look, someone more cliché than me!!).

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.  (There's a lot of war in this book.  I do not think it means what they think it means - or this would be a very dark book indeed.) Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? (OK? I’m a lot afraid, not going to lie.  But, much like sitting through The Hobbit in three movies; who’s not going to read this, really?) 

And here is the Barnes & Noble blurb they sent to my email account. (Owning a nook means I get more email from B&N than any actual person I know and correspond with.):
A councilman’s death is the catalyst for a cascading series of intrigues in “A Casual Vacancy,” the first novel written expressly for adults by JK Rowling (You say novel but then you put the title in quotes…I expect more from you B&N emailer/copy lackey), creator of the Harry Potter series.  Not everything is as it seems in Pagford, the English countryside town where this irresistible novel is set. (At least the cliché is not lacking from you, B&N lakey).

The actual description on the site is the same as the goodreads site, so I’m assuming this has come from the publisher (Also, I’d do that job and probably love it.  Proudly call me a copy lackey then).  B&N has left in this gem that goodreads removed: Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is JK Rowling’s first novel for adults.  (Is ‘thought-provoking’, especially combined with ‘constantly surprising’, the kiss-of-death for book blurbs?  Like ‘have a nice summer’ or ‘stay sweet’ is for yearbook signings?)

The goodreads readers seem to be seriously disappointed in the cover…reminds me of the infamous hanging chad on the 2000 ballot and also old school Agatha Christie covers. I think I'm just fine with it and probably it is showcasing Joel Holland's illustrations.  On a side note, why does a book written "expressly for adults" need an illustrator?  Oh, publishing world and your confounding, fair weather ways.

I want to have a serious opinion about this entire thing, but I find I don’t.  I’m not as excited as I usually am when a favorite author pens a new novel.  And really, besides YA I read a lot of mystery (I really need to own more cats to establish my quirky crazy lady vibe) and I’m fine with the cozy, it’s what I grew up on.  I don’t think they are always well written – although Ms. Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers certainly had it going on in the writing department – but HP is so very epic.  The kind of thing you end your career with; not start it with.  JK is possibly just working in reverse.  For all I know the publisher and press kit have ruined the actually book to get it out there; maybe it’s not at all like I imagine from these quick blurbs?   Possibly it’s not a mystery or a cozy either, but just feels that way from the cover and blurbs I’ve looked at. Maybe I'm putting too many of my own  preconceived notions onto a book that I haven't read and know very little about.  No, that can't be it! Oh, wait...

I’m not entirely sure I have a strong opinion about switching genres either.  I write YA.  I read YA because I write it and also because I like it.  The book that is closest to being ready for a publisher to look at - in other words, the one I use when querying agents - is a mystery YA, so a sub-genre.  My first and probably most epic like novel (see I’ve already contradicted what I wrote up there about JK and HP?!) is strictly not YA according to a YA publisher I’ve chatted up.  He’s not willing to see anything with a protagonist older than 18 – and I think even that might be pushing it.  Proving once again that everything in the writing world is in the eye of the beholder and mostly based on a whim.

Ahem, I feel like this has turned into a rant about the book publishing world.  Sorry, sometimes I get a little carried away.  All the time in my head, but only sometimes in the blog.  Promise.  

Where were we?  Yes, I’ve thought about writing a few other things/genres, even a cookbook or travelogue to break into print.  But once I’m a writer, who doesn’t need a part-time job hobby, (I just snorted into my tea) would I switch genres?  I guess if the muse took me there.  As long as you have something to say and it’s worth putting out there, why not?  

Oh, I can feel the publishing world rant coming back.  Briefly, I think categorizing is one of the biggest issues/problems facing an unpublished author.  We've been told to put ourselves into these boxes and they don't always - might I even dare say, rarely - fit what we're actually writing.  In recent events like the self-publishing/big house publishing crossovers arising (I'm talking about Penguin Group recently acquiring Author Solutions Inc - a self-publishing service provider) I'm not sure it works in the publishing world anymore either.  The hard part is figuring out when to mold and twist to fit into the publishing pocket and when to hold and stand firm with your convictions, your writing and your characters.  I'm really done now.    

Thoughts, ideas, plot points you’re willing to share? About any or all of that?

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