How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #6

“You write _________________? Oh, I don’t read that. It’s kind of __________________.”

You can fill those two spaces in with a)whatever you write, and b)whatever negative adjective you’ve heard before. But generally, this statement is rather insulting. The questioner may not mean it that way (or they might) but it’s about one thing.

The genre ghetto.

I don’t know if people who write Romance are as familiar with that term as most Speculative Fiction people are, but the genre ghetto is the term for any genre that’s considered lower than some other genre.

You know…people who read Literary Fiction think all the genres are lame. Romance readers think Science Fiction is only for boys. SciFi people think that Romance is stupid and predictable. Suspense writers think that Cosy Mystery writers are clinging to Agatha Christie’s skirts. The Mystery people think Fantasy is either all about Sex Fantasies, or Elves (or both.) And everyone thinks Erotica is poorly written and not up to the story-telling standards of their own genre.

Can’t we all just get along?

No reader (or writer) can read everything that’s out there. It’s just not possible. But it’s also true that a lot of us read a lot of different things.

I never read Romance until one of my college roommates handed me Dorothy Dunnet. But now I read it quite regularly. One of the things that I love about it is that it’s predictable. I know what I’m going to get when I open Mary Balogh’s newest novel. (When does that come out, BTW?) I LIKE THAT. It’s comforting.

I read Mysteries. I read YA. I occasionally hit Science Fiction. I read tons on Non-fiction.

All of those areas have their value. But a lot of readers don’t read everything.

So I’m humbly suggesting some revisions of the above statement. How about these:

“You write ______________? Oh, I’m not very familiar with that. What makes a book _______________?”
“You write _________________? Oh, I haven’t read much of that. What is your book about?”
“You write _________________? Oh, I should give that a try. It sounds interesting.”

So what have you heard about your own genre from someone who’s never read it?


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