I hate when people ask me what I write about, because answering makes me feel like an idiot. I write urban fantasy and paranormal romance, but really, most people outside publishing circles don’t have any idea what those genres mean. People understand authors. Or book series. Or themes, like vampires or true crime or emotional drama.
Maybe if I wrote women’s fiction like Jodi Picoult, I wouldn’t feel like such an idiot. Or legal thrillers like John Grisham. Or gripping mysteries like Janet Evanovich. If someone asked me what I wrote and I could say, “I write mysteries set in the back alleys of Annapolis,” I don’t think I’d feel like a fool. People get it.
Instead, when I say I write urban fantasy, people ask me if that means I’m writing about fantasy set in the ‘hood. (Get it? “Urban.”) I’m not even kidding. They ask if I’m writing about fantastic creatures living in the gritty underbelly of the city. And it’s hard to qualify it so people can understand.
“It’s kind of like Harry Potter, but for adults!” I cry. Then they kind of frown and wonder if I’m writing some kind of “dirty” novel about a boy wizard. Ew. I mean, yuck.
But it’s worse when I say I’m writing paranormal romance. No matter how good the writing is in the romance genre, it’s never going to lose that stigma of being romance. Never. People are always going to imagine books with racy covers read by fat, lonely housewives who need a little excitement while their husbands are away on business trips.
And for some reason, when I say “paranormal,” people always assume I mean ghosts.
“So…” they say, looking like they want out of this conversation, “the heroine has a relationship with a ghost?”
“No,” I respond. “It just means there’s some kind of supernatural element in the story. Kind of like…Twilight.”
“Oh!” Understanding dawns. Relief blossoms as they feel comfortable categorizing me. “So you’re writing about vampires.”
But I can’t really blame them. Sometimes I feel like all my ideas are ridiculous, and I have a hard time reading over passages I’ve written. In A Wicked Little Rhythm, the main character is the son of Apollo. Yeah, yeah, the Greek god of music, the sun, all that. Do you know, the day I wrote the scene where he tells the heroine that he’s the son of Apollo, I had to close the laptop and walk away. I felt like a moron. “People are going to think this is lame,” I said to myself. “The son of Apollo. I mean, really. Did I just write that with a straight face?”
No matter how hot Jack was (and let me tell you, he was hot), I had a hard time talking about his dad being a Greek god. It just felt stupid.
It’s hard to speak with confidence about things like this. Most of us give up fantastic ideas by the time we hit middle and high school. I work a very corporate job, and I rarely talk about writing at work. People just don’t get it, and I can’t blame them. It’s tough to segue from marketing and branding into things like Greek mythology and swordplay.
Maybe I need to write about an elfin lord who gets stuck working in an office.
Yeah, then people would get it.