So last week I did Katie Phillips amazing Author Brand Challenge! It was totally incredible and in just five days I learned so much about myself as a writer and my writing than I have in a long time. When she asked us (the participants) what some of our takeaways and breakthroughs were, I said being a part of the challenge has made me take my writing and myself as a writer/author more seriously. It was sort of empowering in a way. Like now that my genre, my audience, my voice is clearer and more specific I feel so much more confident in myself. I'll do a post on this probably next week because seriously the things I learned about myself and my writing sort of blew my mind all week, but for this post I want to talk about a particular breakthrough I had.
Alright, before I start on my rant about the paranormal genre let me clear something up. Paranormal is usually associated with ghosts and that sort of thing. I'm not a fan of ghosts stories and that's why I was hesitant to say I write in that genre. But when I did research and looked up the actual meaning and books associated with the genre, paranormal actually involves shape-shifters, vampires, werewolves and all that. Yeah ghosts are lumped in there too but they're a pretty small portion of the genre. Supernatural, however, (and when I read this it made so much sense to me. I was like how did I not realize this before??) is all about the angels and demons and all that. So like Cassandra Clare's books would be considered supernatural. Though she also has vampires and stuff in there too so I guess her book is sort of a genre hybrid.
Day three was about finding our niche. Katie is so specific and really encouraged us to ponder and think about what genres we're drawn to. In her live video she even said, if you could only write one genre for the rest of your life what would it be? That really got me thinking. I totally agreed with her about how to narrow down our audience and reach the readers who are interested in our work, we have to be specific and consistent about what genre we write. The more I thought about it the more I realized a lot of the authors I love do just this. A.G. Howard writes exclusively YA retellings and NA historical fantasy. Nadine Brandes writes historical fantasy and Holly Black focuses on paranormal fiction (most of which have to do with the Fae). And after doing a ton of research and thinking and processing I came to a conclusion that I knew in my heart was right. I think I've known it for a long time but was always nervous about being so open and honest about the kind of genre I enjoy. Because I'm a Christian and Christians aren't supposed to read paranormal fiction. Or enjoy it. Or watch it. Or have anything to do with it. Fantasy? Sure! Go right ahead. Write all the fantasy you want. Sci-fi? Uh yes! That's safe.
But paranormal? With the... vampires and werewolves and things that go bump in the night? Ummm yeah no. You can't write that. Even though paranormal fiction is a sub-genre of fantasy. But Katie's questions were very specific and made me realize that over the past two years or so I've really grown to know for sure that the paranormal genre is my passion. I enjoy writing in that genre like no other. Yes I love myself a good scifi story and I do love retellings and fantasy. I've written in all of those genres. But the one that makes me smile and excited? The characters I feel truly connected with and the stories that pour out of my heart? Those have shape-shifters and worlds within our world and banshees and djinn and Shades.
What makes shape-shifters and werewolves and vampires any different from the creatures in fantasy books anyways? The elves and orcs and giants and ogres and fairies? Nothing other than the fact that the former is associated with a genre who's writers do a disservice to it by adding in tons of sex and darkness and violence and gore and the latter is associated with great creations like The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
People only see the gore and the darkness and the explicit content in the paranormal genre. I'll be the first to admit it is hard! to find good books in that genre. When I was doing research to make sure this is the correct genre, I couldn't really find any decent books that I would willingly read. Because I don't like tons of sex and gore and violence in my books. But I do love the genre. And I love the broken and needy characters that that genre produces. The hopeful stories and redemption arcs and stories of good and evil and forgiveness and true love that comes from that genre. I love those! It's why I love shows like The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf. Because yes, I love the paranormal elements to them but I love the characters and the world and the themes and stories that come out of them.
And that's where the genre gap comes in. The workbook we used also asked what gaps are in our genre that we can fill? This one took me a while but after a few days of thinking and even after just getting to this point in the blog post I realized there was a huge gap in the paranormal genre! A gap for clean, good books, that yes, still have romance (because I love a good romance, who doesn't??) but that doesn't have explicit content in it. There's a gap for books in the paranormal genre that can really show off the themes I talked about above. That can give people hope and show them what forgiveness, love (romantic and familial) and redemption looks like. Another thing we talked about: message. I'm still working on this one but I do know this: I always want my books to make someone smile and give them hope. And I feel I can best do that through this genre.
I'm realizing as I do more research and brainstorm ways to reach my ideal reader that this is going to be hard because as far as I know, there aren't a lot of Christians actively reading in this genre or looking for good books in this genre. Which means I did do one thing right! I narrowed my audience down just like Katie wanted us to. Waaay down. I have a very clear idea of what kind of reader I want to reach. But now it's just finding a way to reach them. I will, I'm determined to find them, but I know it's going to take some time and a lot of brainstorming as to how best to reach them.
So, yeah, those are my thoughts on this matter. If you can't tell, I'm pretty passionate about this. I really hope this post reaches someone in my same place I am. I hope this post tells you that you can write in this genre and still bring light and good to people. Yes, I have to check myself and watch myself and pray a lot and think over things way more than I'm sure writers in other genres would. This genre can bring darkness and can lead you astray if you're not careful and don't have the strength to pull back and set clear boundaries for yourself. I make a habit of not having any witches or wiccan type magic in my books. There are no ghosts. No explicit content, no swearing and as of right now in the paranormal WIP I'm working on right now, there aren't even any vampires or werewolves. So, yes, be careful and prayerful and search your heart but if done correctly this genre can reach so many people and I hope with my works I can touch people's hearts and inspire and encourage them the same way other works in this genre have for me.
What do you guys think of this topic? Yay or nay to the paranormal genre?