Friday, February 6, 2009

Becoming My Own Genre

copyright 2009, Pat Bertram

Murderby4 is pleased to welcome Pat Bertram for another guest post. Pat is a prolific blogger and author of More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, which will be published later this year by Second Wind Publishing.
Libraries and bookstores used to be set up with a mystery section, a romance section, a science fiction section, and then all the rest of the novels. That’s what mine are — “one of all the rest”. Though that isn’t a genre. Drats.
When did we become so concerned with genre? When independent publishing houses were bought out by the conglomerates? It makes sense — because of my efforts at trying to promote my still-soon-to-be released novels (”soon” is sometime in January now), I’m becoming aware of how difficult it is to get people to notice a “one of all the rest” novel. Most people seem to stick with a reading a certain type of book, and they have certain expectations. Romance readers expect the romantic couple in a romance novel to have romantic conflicts, romantic interludes, and romantic delays until the final romantic finish. If any of their expectations are not met, they will hate the book even if it is spectacular.
I understand this; it happens to me with movies. If a certain movie is advertised as a comedy (Working Girl, for example) and it isn’t comedic all the way through, I hate it because my expectations have not been met. Later, if I watch that same movie without any preconceived notions, I might like it, seeing it (again, like Working Girl) as a drama with comedic moments. But how many people reread a book they hate?
A friend (James R. from Gather) told me: “Transcend genre, change the rules and the world is your oyster. Lamentably, only a few writers are able to pull that off, but hey, nobody said this writing, promoting, and editing stuff was easy, right?” So I need to build my own audience and then it won’t matter that I have no genre because I will be my own genre. Sounds good.

Now if I can only figure out how to do it.



Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book -- character and story driven novels that can't be easily slotted into a genre -- she decided to write her own.
Bertram's first two novels, More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, are available for pre-order from Second Wind Publishing. Bertram's publisher says: “I was told by some other small publishers with whom I had done research that I was going to get mountains of unacceptable crap for every worthy thing I received. So when I got Pat's manuscript for A Spark of Heavenly Fire, which was like the first submission to Second Wind, I thought, ‘OMG, is this possible?!’ I knew in the first 20 pages that she was the real thing.”


s.w. vaughn said...

Pat, this is great advice! Be your own genre. :-) I love it!

And it's sadly true that publishing is overly concerned with labels. That was the entire problem with the first book of mine that my agent tried to sell - it didn't fit neatly on a bookstore shelf. Alas.

Fortunately, there are alternatives! Just keep looking for that one publisher who loves "your" genre. :-)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Love Be Your Own Genre!

Pat Bertram said...

Thank you for having me on Murder by 4. It's always an honor to be here. I had to pick a genre for my books, so I decided the best fit was mystery/crime, though there is as much romance and adventure as mystery. But, in the end, the crime is the motivating force.

Aaron and I exchanged blogs today. He will be at

Marta Stephens said...

Wow, interesting concept. Ironically, even though I write crime, there are still expectations out there of what that should be.

My books are about crime but are character driven (homicide detective Sam Harper). Readers who expect to read straight crime with all it's gore, better look elsewhere. What I found, however, especially after the second book came out, that several readers admitted to not liking mysteries, not to mention crime, but they were drawn by the character and the writing.

So I have to agree, that it's not so much about the genre but whether the writing shines. A perfect example is a review I wrote this week of A. F. Stewart's "Chronicle of the Undead" posted here in MB4. I'm not inclined to read fantasy, but was totally captivated by her writing. Great post!

Kim Smith said...

You are certainly making a wave with the writing, promoting, and editing stuff. You, I suspect, would make a wonderful genre. Thanks for being here!

Ana said...

Hi Pat, I am just a reader and I read all kinds of books. Your books sound great, has a little of everything that I like in a story.

Dana Fredsti said...

Pat, you are one of several talented writers I know with the 'what's my genre' issue. With your attitude and your chutzpah, I've no doubt you WILL create your own!

Sheila Deeth said...

Seems like the genres are splitting so fast into sub-genres, you're probably just one step ahead of the trend in creating your own.

Anonymous said...


Nice to see you talking about this theme on the Murder by 4 blog; it also serves as my introduction to the blog itself, though I'm already pretty familiar with Aaron Lazar through his posts at Gather and his fine book "Tremolo - Cry of the Loon".

Whether the goal is to create your own genre or develop a new one, it offers the potential to change the game for a writer. Definitely a direction worth pursuing.

Anonymous said...

It will be a shock (not so much) to anyone that knows me, but I hate being pidgeon-holed. If I was in a genre-box, I'd beat on the walls until they all fell down. Unfortunately, the question comes up over and over and you must have some kind of answer. Action adventure? Crime? Speculative fiction? What am I? I usually say I write literary thrillers and hope no one calls me on the embedded conceit. I hope people will be attracted to my stuff based on the wild, thought-provoking adventure I offer and not the genre box I might be trapped in.

aries18 said...

Pat, if anyone can find the way to become their own genre my money is on you! Not too long from now I can envision comments from reviewer like, "This book reminds me of a Pat Bertram novel. You'll love it." And when you figure it out, please share it with us, we'll be eager to follow in your footsteps.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Great article, Pat. I think humour is so valuable. Especially in a dark piece. Transcending labels would be a good thing. I'm battling that in one of my unpublished books. I'm still not sure whether it's a political thriller or something else.

Pat Bertram said...

Thank you all for stopping by. Not that being a guest blogger on Murder By 4 is a harrowing experience, but still, it's nice to have the support. :)

And thank you for the nice things you said. I hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoyed writing them, no matter what genre they are.

Marta Stephens said...

Pat, it was great hosting you today at MB4. Thanks to all who stopped by. Hope to see you here again soon. :)

A. F. Stewart said...

Hmmm, the Bertram Genre, for all those books that can't quite fit the established genres. Sounds good.

Unknown said...

Now the JOHNSON genre might pose a problem. There are too many authors with the last name JOHNSON out there, lol. Nice article Pat.

Meg Westley said...

You guys are fantastic. Great writers, very cool blog. Thanks for sharing! I suspect I am not leaving this comments in the right place, but happy anniversary anyway!