What if My Mysterious Historical Ghost is in Love? (Finding Your Genre)
I’m in love with my ghosts. I really am. I want them to be happy, and fulfilled, and with their significant other. Is that too much to ask? For a ghost to have a happy afterlife? I think not.
I started my writing journey by researching some of the legends and haunted castles of Scotland. There are a lot to choose from! I found a lot of tales, but they all had one thing in common: the ghosts that were haunting these ancient keeps had come to a bad end, died by violence usually not of their own making. Tragic. And I became incensed on their behalf, and determined to do them justice.
This was my mindset when I set out to write my first novel. I had a legend that consisted of one paragraph in any source I found. Because it was so long ago, there was little known about the event, but the castle ruin still stood as testament that something happened in 1442. The ghost was a girl who chose love over duty with horrible consequences. It was perfect.
I quickly realized that just writing a paranormal story wasn’t satisfying enough. I needed a modern counterpart to my ghost. Then, a mystery started weaving itself through the story, and suddenly I had a paranormal-romance-mystery-history-thriller on my hands. A multi-genre nightmare.
I went to the Philadelphia Writers Convention, ready to sell my story to an agent. After two sentences, she said “I don’t think this is paranormal romance. It’s women’s fiction, and I don’t do women’s fiction.” (cue door slam) Miffed on behalf of my incorporeal lovers, I said, “But it has ghosts…and romance!”
It was not an auspicious beginning, but fortunately I decided to persevere. The result is The Comyn’s Curse, and here is the Kirkus review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/m-mackinnon/the-comyns-curse/
Did you get that last line? “A pleasing cross-genre novel.” My genre confusion was over; I had been vindicated. I had a paranormal romance with a mystery sub-genre and elements of history. And that’s okay.
My second novel in the series is also paranormal romance with a mystery sub-genre. And it’s been accepted for publication, so I guess I’m on the right track. As Chuck Wendig puts it, “The key for me is that, when I seek a book by an author, I want that book to be a book nobody but that author could’ve written. That, for me, is what voice—and “branding”—is all about.”
And I hope that’s what my books are–something only I could have written.
And so I say to the agent who dismissed my idea so easily, “Take that, oh entity whose name I have forgotten! The only genre not mentioned by anyone reading or reviewing my book is women’s fiction! Ha!”
Of course, genre–and knowing your genre–cannot be dismissed so easily. It’s important to pick something to be going on with. A guiding question might be–what is the primary focus of your book? What is its base? Romance? Horror? Mystery? And then when you’ve decided that, what is (are) your sub-genres?
In the case of The Comyn’s Curse, at the base is an ancient curse and a ghost who still haunts the ruin. So, paranormal. Said curse came about because of love. So, paranormal romance. A modern woman is haunted by the curse, and a present-mystery threatens her life. So now we have paranormal romance, subgenre mystery. The entire story takes place in Scotland, whose rich history is key to the action. So we end with paranormal romance, subgenre mystery with elements of history. Voilá!
Oh, and I might direct you to DartFrog’s website: https://dartfrogbooks.com/, My publisher doesn’t seem to mind crossing genres. The Comyn’s Curse is featured in both the Romance and History sections of their site.
Around the Site
I love fantasy, and when a book comes along that evokes Harry Potter and Dr. Who, I’m there. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is just such a book. Check it out in the Book Corner.
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, doomed to die on her twelfth birthday. But intervention by a copper-haired patron named Jupiter North changes everything. Harry Potter would be proud.
Links for Writers
Should Novelists Stick to One Genre? https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-i-wont-stick-to-one-g_b_11779290
Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/11/thinking-about-writing-in-multiple-genres-heres-what-you-need-to-know/ Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know:
What if Your Book is the Child of Two Genres? https://www.thewoolf.org/2018/06/01/what-if-your-book-is-the-child-of-two-genres/
M MacKinnon’s World
The Piper’s Warning has been edited and is in the formatting process, and work on the cover has begun. Exciting times ahead!