Tag Archives: genre

Gran Lit. Are you serious?

How very dare you? You mean, it’s only for Grannies?

Nonsense. Hilary Boyd writes for people not for bookshelves. (My words)

Don’t call it Gran Lit

I’m so heartened by her attitude to publishers’ need to classify fiction into genres.

“Bollocks,” she said when the Gran Lit classification was first suggested to her.

Gran-Lit writer

photo by Quercus

Oh, Hilary, please come to France and be my honorary sister. Who says people don’t want to read about older women?

Not me.

Who says you can’t have romance and sex with older characters?

I didn’t say that.

I’ll tell you who said it: Publishers. To be exact, their readers. You know, the ones who hold back the gates from the likes of aspiring novelists such as you and me. They are the ones who are in charge of the slush pile. They pass on to the people who really make the decisions only the books that excite them.

But they’re all teenagers, darlings. They only know about fantasy: werewolves and vampires and robots and spies and spaceship ghosts and the like. They also read those books with photographs on the front of men (boys) who are built of muscle and iron and their women nearly wear red or black satin. Or else they read titles like Carlotta’s Christmas at the Cup-Cake Café and the cover looks good enough to eat if you’re into sweet and sickly Candy Floss.

See? Fantasy. Do I sound full of sarcasm? Of course I do.

When they’re older, they’ll get a life. In the meantime, I mustn’t be too hard on them. They got it SO wrong, didn’t they?

Who makes up the majority of the reading population?


We’re still here. We’ve had our kids and years of sleepless nights. We’ve looked after ageing parents during their last days. We’ve lost sleep all over again when the grandchildren were unwell. We’ve had our own illnesses and close shaves. We’ve had a life. And, let me repeat myself, we’re still here. And we’ve got a little money to spend on small treats like a damned good story to read.

We’re old enough and wise enough to read all manner of different kinds of books. We have open minds. We’ll read about police detectives, little girls in France, 6ft 5″ ex marines on a one man mission to rid the USA of scum bags, widows with autistic sons, kids in a fight to the death struggle – you understand me – and once in a while, we want to read about people with whom we can identify more closely.

See, the young readers employed by the publishers couldn’t possibly understand that because they haven’t got there yet.

So it’s hats off to Quercus for publishing Hilary Boyd in the first place and having the nous to put her out as an ebook.

The Boomers have spoken. Gran-Lit? Bah, Humbug. It’s L.I.F.E., darlings. People get older. Even publishers. And now they’e having to get wiser, too. Go Hilary.

Does your face match your genre?

Are authors and their novels comparable with dog owners and their dogs? Do writers look like what they write? If you’re not sure what your genre is could you simply check in the mirror? Would there be a certain look in your eyes that told you what to write? Does the way you smile give you away?

Do authors look like their genres?

Do romantic fiction writers look romantic? Are thriller writers thrilling? What can you say about the way horror writers present themselves? Do they look horrible?

Some of the authors I’ve read.

Here are some famous faces. I’ve read all of them. Not always everything they’ve written, but the following faces have played their part in my growing up with reading for entertainment. I make the distinction here between reading for pleasure and other reading. I have therefore excluded all the authors I’ve read for study and the many classics I’ve enjoyed.

Enid Blyton

when I was a child I read everything she wrote

Does this lady look friendly? Would she be a lovely mummy? Does she look as if she adored children and loved to entertain them with her stories? Or does that strong jaw speak of something heavier than nodding toys and goblins with large ears?

I know more about her now than I did when I was a child, but I think I would have been in awe of a lady who wore that kind of jewellery.

Daphne du Maurier

my teenage favourite

As a teenager I read everything I could get my hands on from the second author in my gallery. Maybe you’ve read a previous post where I explain what I loved so much about this author and the power of her characters.

Only recently have I gone back to catch up with short stories of hers which I missed when I was young.

(Edit 26/04.2014)

I can’t imagine what she’d think about a recent BBC television production of one of her novels where we couldn’t see what was happening in the dark and we couldn’t hear what was being said.

John Wyndham Sci-Fi genre

he introduced me to Sci-Fi

At school we read one of this next author’s books. I loved it and went on to read everything else he’d written too.

His works of science fiction appealed to me because they were about how extraordinary circumstances affected ordinary people. I think they’d feel out of place and dated now, but at the time it was fascinating reading about alien children or plants that captured and ate people.

A new genre had found its way into my reading. I wanted more. I looked for even darker stories and found them with the next author on my list.

Dennis Wheatley horror genre

dark tales of devilish horror

I was hooked. If my mother had realised what I was reading, I think she might have banned this author’s books. I couldn’t get enough. I think I became a Goth before Goths were invented.

His words thrilled me to bits, I suppose much in the same way a different generation of teenagers thrilled at Edward Cullen.

Eric van Lustbader thriller genre

high octane dramas

Here’s where I went next.

I had a husband by now and we had started a family. This author’s books were primarily written for a male audience, but I lapped them up. Well, haven’t I always said how much I love variety in my life? I continued reading action thrillers, horror and science fiction for several years, interspersed with books by the following author.

Harold Robbins

sexier stories

His books were best sellers. I tried books in a similar genre by female writers of the time, but didn’t rate them as highly.

It was a long time before I trusted female writers again. I discovered a woman who, although she was way before my time, spoke to me in a voice I knew well.

Dorothy Parker

sharp as bitter almonds

Oh boy, I loved her wit, her sarcasm, her pain, her fury. I devoured her short stories.  She was clever and scathing and thoroughly magnificent and I wondered what she would have written had she been born in my generation.

John Grisham thriller genre

a new kind of thriller

I can’t include every author I’ve ever read in this post – I’m sticking to the ones I read most. It’s interesting that there are more male authors than female. Maybe that means something: maybe it doesn’t. But I read everything the man on the right put out until the one about an American football team in Italy. And don’t say I objected to him changing genre. He’d already done that before and I loved A Painted House. I would never object to an author writing in a different genre.

Dan Brown thriller genre

I’ve read them all . . .

This is the man who took over. He’s the only author I’ve ever bought in hard back because I didn’t want to wait for the paperback.

I’ve read them ALL.

Does his face say ‘best-seller’?

Oh, yes.

And now it’s time to hear from the girls. Do they look like the kind of books they write?

Martina Cole crime genre

would you argue with her?

I tried reading the woman on the right. I’m including her in my list because I really did want to like her. I wanted to understand what makes her a best-seller. Really, I did. But, I can’t read her. Sorry. I couldn’t ever read J.K.Rowling either, for different reasons. Sometimes you just don’t get on with the way a writer writes. That’s okay. You can’t please everybody and I’m sure Martina isn’t the least bothered that Celia Micklefield doesn’t get on with her books. In this photo, though, she looks like what she writes. Wouldn’t you say?

Jodi Picoult

Earth mother?

I found characters to really get behind in this author’s books. She’s great. Love her to bits.

Just bought her latest.

Wouldn’t you want this lady for your sister?

I would.

Val McDermid crime genre

hard as nails?

Another face you wouldn’t want to argue with. If she didn’t write crime fiction, she’d be a butcher. Or a wrestler.

Joanne Harris




This author’s magic has bewitched many a reader. She probably had her fingers forked behind her back when the photographer took this, though.

Anne Tyler

my favourite female author

My current favourite female writer. Look at her face, those eyes. You just know she’s holding back.

And my current male author?

Lee Child

creator of Jack Reacher

Ah, Jack Reacher. Say no more.

So where would I fit in with all this?


what genre?


what genre?


what genre?

Three pictures – all me – all different. Which genre do these faces belong to?

I don’t know.

If you do, let me know.


Authors in order of appearance:

Enid Blyton, Daphne du Maurier, John Wyndham, Denis Wheatley, Eric van Lustbader, Harold Robbins, Dorothy Parker, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Martina Cole, Jodi Picoult, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Anne Tyler, Lee Child, Celia Micklefield x3.

Feel free to comment. Maybe add your own suggestions to the list. Do you look like what you write?

Till next time,

Write from the heart. A cry from mine.

Easy to say. Write from the heart. Four words. That’s all. They take less than a second to say. writefromtheheart

Oh, but the questions they plant in my thinking. I’ve already spent years looking for answers.

How does what’s in your heart fit all those preconceived ideas about genre? Will your heart find its place on the bookshelves among other people’s writings from their hearts?

What if you’ve got a heart that keeps changing its mind? What if your heart wants to swim with dolphins one day and the next wants to stuff its face with clotted cream? And aren’t you just so jaded anyway with other people’s definitions about what kind of literature belongs where?

Matt Haig is. I follow his blog. I suggest you do too if, like us, you wonder why we limit ourselves with these outdated ways of classifying literature.

Matt’s not afraid to sell himself. He makes no excuses for promoting his work. His book THE HUMANS is out now and I can’t wait to get a copy. I love his take on the world of publishing and the naughty way he encourages us to break the rules. I admire his focus.

My focus changes. All the time. I write short stories that women’s magazines love. I also get a lot of rejections from the same magazines when my stories are too downbeat, too odd, too sad.

The January Girl who always feels short changed.

Not Rodgers and Hammerstein – an unconventional love story

The End of the World Party – relationships crumble at the dinner table

The Meter Man – living with someone’s annoying habits.

There’s a list as long as your arm of these stories which don’t seem to fit.

This is what I mean by swimming with dolphins one day etc. I want to write sad stories. I also want to write stories that make people laugh out loud. I see magic hiding in the vineyards around my home and I see danger lurking in the same places when the weather turns. I want to write ALL these things. Not something that neatly fits a place in somebody else’s categories.

I demand the right to write from my changeable heart. No, that’s probably too strong a word. I assert the right to write from my changeable heart. There, that doesn’t sound so angry. It’s nobody’s fault I crave so much variety, that my heart goes off in all these different directions. Maybe I should have been an octopus. They’ve got three. The extra arms would be useful, too. Do octopi sing, I wonder?

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