THE TROUBLE WITH GENRE
Despite having a number of books under my belt and spent years working in the children's book industry, when it comes to my own books I always struggle with the elevator pitch. The stakes seem impossibly high—you have one minute (or 144 characters) to hook someone on this book you've spent all this time and energy on—GO!
This gets trickier when you decide to dip into genre. We talked a lot about this for The Winnowing. Is it adventure? Sure, but that can mean anything. Is it a thriller? Sure, but is it FIRST AND FOREMOST a thriller? Speculative Fiction is very broad and often angers people (just call it science fiction!) Lots of people conflate science fiction with space opera, or hard science fiction. It's not exactly dystopian, more of an alternate history, but it's really a bit of both. But alternate history dystopian feels ridiculous. And what about the relationships in the book? This is really a friendship story, set against a big concept world. What do you call that?
Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.
Lately, genre-blending has become more popular, particularly in YA fiction. The Hub and School Library Journal tackle this trend and give some great reading suggestions. One of the best things about YA readers is they are a very open-minded bunch. They don't define themselves by genre. People love Nicola Yoon and Marie Lu and Ruta Sepetys equally. They don't consider one genre more acceptable, accomplished, or literary than another. Story and connection are what matters, how the author delivers it is secondary.
Canadians in particular have always been good at both genre-blending and jumping from genre to genre with great success. Consider Margaret Atwood: strictly on the basis of genre, The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid's Tale are about as different as they can get. Kidlit star Kenneth Oppel has written and received acclaim for a wide range of books that could technically all live under the fantasy umbrella, but Half Brother, Silverwing, Airborn and The Nest (to name a few) occupy very different spots on that spectrum. Rising YA star E.K. Johnston has never met a genre she couldn't tackle, and combines a number of them beautifully in her upcoming That Inevitable Victorian Thing.
Here are some of the ways I have described The Winnowing:
"An episode of The X-Files, for tweens!"
"Puberty conspiracy novel" (thanks to author Vicki Grant for this one)
"The Winnowing lives in the space between The Giver and The Maze Runner"
All of these descriptions are true, as validated by the extremely biased author. Here is what we settled on officially: The Winnowing is a YA novel about a global infertility crisis and one girl's discovery of the complications that arise from an administered cure.
This is true. But is it THE MOST true? Give it a read and let me know you think on twitter: @vikkivansickle.
Thanks so much to Vikki for stopping by to talk about both genre-blending and her own struggle to (hopefully) accurately summarize what The Winnowing is all about. The Winnowing is out now so go check out your local bookstore or library and pick it up. And check out Vikki's previous books, too!
Also, if you're interested, you can head here to check out my review of The Winnowing. :)