Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To Pigeonhole or not...

By R.J. Harlick

As we know, there are many different sub genres for crime novels, from cozy and amateur sleuth through to police procedurals and noir. How would you characterize the kind of mystery you like to write and why did you chose this sub genre?

I’ve never been a big fan of pigeonholing and prefer to think that I write stories that just happened to be mysteries.   When I started out on this writing adventure, I only wanted to write a good mystery novel that captured the imagination of my readers and kept them guessing whodunit until the very end. I didn’t think of the kind of sub genre I should write. In fact, it was only after I was caught up in the world of the mystery genre that I discovered there were many labels for the many different types of mysteries. And now I find when I register for conferences or talk to booksellers, even readers, I’m asked to give Meg a label.

When I started out it seemed natural to write in the voice of Meg Harris. Sure she wasn’t a cop, but I didn’t feel comfortable writing from a cop’s point of view. I knew nothing about policing techniques or how cops think.  Besides I felt my protagonist would have more freedom, if she wasn’t limited to the constraints of police procedures. Though, Meg will draw on their expertise as the need arises. So I suppose Meg could be called an amateur sleuth, but that doesn’t mean that she sets out to solve the murder like a detective. Rather she is more intent on trying to help a friend or family member and fight an injustice.

Though Meg has a life and friends that go beyond solving murder, I wouldn’t call the series a cozy.  I delve into issues, sometimes raw and visceral, that would never be called cozy. My readers often comment on the edge-of-seat suspense of the stories, something not usually associated with a cozy.  And there is lots of adventure and lots of wilderness. I suppose one could call it a suspense adventure wilderness series.

But having said I didn’t chose a particular sub genre to write in, I’m afraid with my next book, the 7th Meg Harris mystery, I set out to do something different. I wanted to put Meg in dangerous situation and see how she handled it. So A Cold White Fear is a thriller. And I tell you, I have had great fun writing it.

To end on a more somber note. Most of us have been affected by war in some way, have family members or friends who fought and possibly died in a war. My father spent two and a half years in a prisoner-of-war camp in WWII and my grandfather lost a leg in WWI. Let us today on this day of remembrance, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month spend a moment of silence to remember those who sacrificed to fight for our way of life.


Meredith Cole said...

It is challenging to dodge the subgenre labels, Robin... They can often be very limiting. As you say not every amateur sleuth is a cozy, and not every PI novel is hard boiled. And most mystery readers don't really know or care--they just love mysteries!

RJ Harlick said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Meredith. Thank goodness for those readers who love mysteries.

Anonymous said...

As a reader, I never worried about categorizing what I was reading into a sub-genre; I just want a good mystery story with compelling characters. Thanks to the authors who fill that need.
(Nancy R)