The Question of Genre…

I got asked a question a day or so ago on my Goodreads authors page


As I don’t get asked too many questions on Goodreads (this is the first time ever), I took my time trying to answer it, and did so probably a little more fully than was expected by Mr Dewar. I know it will come as a shock to anyone who reads these blogs that I gave a longwinded answer… But its a complex little question to me.

As it seemed somewhat wasteful to just answer the question on Goodreads where only a few people would ever be likely to see it, let alone read it I decided I may as well answer its again here. Though by the time I finished posting it over it had got a little longer and been tidied up a little… But anyway, what follows is the answer to James’s question…

Hi James

At the end of the day its all down to the stories I want to tell. I don’t, and never have, actually write in one specific genre. Fantasy or speculative fiction makes up a large portion of my bookshelves as does science fiction. But I read extensively in all genres because it is stories that interest me.

Stories explain the human experience, as such, humanity has been telling itself stories since long before they invented the written word. I like all the fantasy genre’s and like to write in them, simply because they enable you to tell more interesting stories and explore the human experience in ways that other genres just don’t allow. Vampires, dragons, werewolfs dwarves, elves, and the myriad of other strange creatures give you plenty of scope to play with, as does genres themselves be they steampunk, dieselpunk, hard sci-fi, horror, westerns, alternative futures, dystopias, time travel, high fantasy, grimdark etc. But more importantly from my perspective they also allow you to explore that strangest of creatures in all creation, humanity, and the darkness, light and so many shades of grey at its core.

My view on fantasy is much the same as Terry Pratchett’s in that regard. He once said, and I paraphrase slightly. ‘I wrote a story about the struggles of a man against his inner doubts and struggles with his flaws against the desire to do what is right, rather than just what everyone expects him to do. Then I put one damn dragon in it and they told me it was fantasy’

At the end of the day, I can never resist an impossible bar, a good dragon or an airship or two for that matter. I just don’t let them get in the way of the important stuff, the story.

I hope that makes sense


To explain a little further, for those who have never read my novels, and briefly.


Cider Lane is a contemporary novel, if you want to tie it down to a genre it is possibly a thriller or a romance. It doesn’t really fit neatly in either of those. At its heart, it is a love story set around two broken individuals who have fallen off the fringes of society, helping each other back from the brink

Passing Place is part sci-fi, part fantasy, part horror, occasionally time travel, or perhaps alternative history, but mostly it is the story of one man’s journey through grief, and his quest to find the answer to an impossible question, which leads him to a job as a piano player in a very strange bar. So pick a genre for that if you can.

A Scar of Avarice is a passing place story wrapped around a steampunk tale, and hammered into a novella. With a few extra short stories thrown. It is in exactly the same genre as passing place for the most part so is by its nature both many genres and none.

A Spider in the Eye, my latest novel, is a pure steampunk genre novel. Mostly. Though unlike ‘traditional’; steampunk it is set in a close approximation of modernity, as someone has tampered with the timelines and history followed a new and heavily steam base course when queen Victoria neglected to die.

None of these is traditional genre fiction, though Spider comes closest. I don’t want to write traditional genre stories because once you set walls around something, you tame the wild. I like the wild.

There is nothing wrong in writing in a set genre, many fabulous authors spend their whole careers in a single one. I just never want to be constrained to writing in a single genre myself. Stories are everywhere, after all.

From Russia with Tassels, which is hopefully going to be finished by summer is the second Hannibal novel so will also be steampunk. But I won’t be staying in the genre alone from now on, there will be more passing place stories to come, and I still have evolving plans for a return to cider land one day, and I have not even mentioned Maybe’s Daughter, though she briefly passed through the passing place when no one was paying attention, because I like to plan ahead…


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2 Responses to The Question of Genre…

  1. I came by here and noticed that you mention details to do with a question that was published on your GoodReads page. You describe the subject based upon some of your thoughts that you have about it that brought you to consider the matter of fact that not a very big proprotion of people who read blogs would go and have a read of the questions posted in the ask the author part of a website like the one mentioned. I would like to say that I was the person who posted that question. I haven’t read content published here referring to subjects like this recently so to have something given attention in this way that I have published as part of my discussion participation on the book related website I regularly use to communicate about books and related subject matter is something I would like to express my compliments towards publishing the comment that reacted to the question I posted. I would say that I didn’t necessarily consider that it would be answered in such a way that was expressed slightly too fully than would be sufficient. I want to point out that I find the wording of the response to the question was good enough and I would generally be happy with any answer.


  2. I didn’t necessarily consider a particular thought that only a small number of users who use the features as such as that on the website like that would be likely to read the posted content that appeared there and pay attention to it. Whether or not the most part of the users who use it have a level of knowledge and expression of interest in books and other things like it such as fiction writing as I have myself and have the same purpose for using the site. But to bring across content that is printed on that site over to this platform suited to people publishing content on a bookish kind of subject matter is going to bring a different kind of attention in the kind of purpose the posting is expressed by. Whatever the kind of discussion that is made and whatever the style of the website where it is published is useful to people who have particular interests such as reading books. But other people would be more engaging than others and perhaps more importantly that your comment suggested that there is a sense that the engagement is different on other websites that provide something similar.


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