Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Three's the Charm, by Catriona

Craft: Okay, we write about crime, but if you had to dip a toe into another genre, which would you add to the mix, and why?

Hmmmmm. Well, it wouldn't be poetry. I love poetry - read it, learn it, recite it (when alone - don't worry), buy slim volumes by my favourite poets. But it doesn't come out of me. I am prosaic to the marrow. Recommendation: Kathleen Jamie, whose poem about Ospreys arriving in Scotland, or rather in Scottish weather, begins "You’ll be wondering why you bothered: beating up from Senegal" and brings me to tears every time I look at it.

But wait. Is poetry a genre? Google says crime, romance, science fiction, fantasy, westerns and horror. Okay. It wouldn't be romance. I'm getting better at reading romance - after neglecting the genre for many years - but it always feels like a ride on a waltzer (tilt-a-whirl?) because I don't quite get the structure. And, since I'm such a pantser, I don't think I ever would. Recommendation: Alyssa Cole (with her other hat on) / Jenny Colgan.

Nor would I attempt science fiction or fantasy. I know I'd end up bombastic and embarrassing if I didn't have bus lanes, doughnuts, and wet washing to keep my stories grounded in the oh-so glamorous real world. Recommendation: NK Jemisin (if you liked Lovecraft).

Westerns . . . I don't think I could write an authentic western. And this is definitely the genre I need to work on reading too. I don't think I've ever read a single one, unless Little House on the Prairie counts.

I've been accused of writing horror even though I don't think any of my books qualify. And I've been congratulated in an email on the success of The Last House on Needless Street, by Catriona Ward. (I wish! And I recommend!)

That's all the actual genres, according to Prof. Google. But what about the other kinds of book?

Like YA, MG, chapter books and early readers. Nah, you have to know far too much about how to pitch the language to an age group. I'd have to study. I mean, okay, the studying would be reading books but I don't feel at all confident that I'd ever crack the code. Recommendation: Angie Thomas, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Roald Dahl, and the spectacular . . . Baby Monkey, Private Eye. (He's a baby. he's a monkey. He has a job. He's . . . )

Literary fiction? Or women's fiction? (Literary fiction written by the likes of me - Grrrrrrr.) I've tried to write a book that wasn't in any particular genre. Someone dies at the end of chapter two and we found out whodunnit on the last page. So that was a bit of a failure. Recommendation: Anne Tyler

Then there's non-fiction. Ooft. One of the best things about giving up academia was giving up facts. I suppose I could write a memoir, but it's all in the novels anyway. Biographies of other people? Who? I don't know anyone. Travelogue? I never go anywhere. Self-help manual? Bwah-hahahahahahahahahahaha. I could maybe write a cookery book, but the world doesn't need another cookery book. Recommendation: UK national treasure, Clare Balding's, My Animals and Other Family.

But thinking about books full of beautiful artwork I wouldn't have to produce, I have written the text for three picture books - The Plucky Buckets, Call Me Annie, and That Ginger Cat - but none of them was published. It's a tough corner of the industry, or at least I'm telling myself it is . . .

Aha! That reminds me. I've also written two sitcom pilots. One of them went into development and never came out again. So I sent the second one in after it, and now they're both lost forever. Nevertheless, if I had to write something that wasn't a crime novel I'd honour the rule of three and make it a hat trick, with a third failed pilot for a sitcom. Recommendation: Detectorists, Derry Girls, Black Books


Note: I'm still in Scotland and most of my books are in California, hence the Amazon jacket pics.


Susan C Shea said...

That line of poetry knocked me out. Will have to find her work. Meanwhile, as a survivor of the academic world myself, "One of the best things about giving up academia was giving up facts" is so definitely and so thrillingly true! I only met your parents once, but say hello to them for me anyway!

Susan C Shea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catriona McPherson said...

Oh, she's wonderful, Susan! And I will do. Cx

Dietrich Kalteis said...

There seems to be wiggle room inside the crime/mystery genre to sneak in a little bit of another genre without leaving it completely.

And thanks for the recommends. I liked Derry Girls, and I'm going to check out Detectorists and Black Books.

Catriona McPherson said...

Dietrich, I am so envious of you having those treats in store.