Monday, September 9, 2013

My "Dead" Genre Problem

I talk, frequently, about how I write for myself. Not many people are reading me, I might as well, right?

What's that? I need to write a query letter for that novel? Okay, trying it out. Up to 8 or 10 versions of the Learn to Howl query letter. Some are better than others.

What's that? Werewolves are a dead genre? Well fuck.

I see a lot of werewolf novels around, or novels containing werewolves even if they aren't the main focus. Many of them are what I consider to be kitchen sink worlds, where there are supernatural creatures coming out of every oriface. The Southern Vampire series by Sookie Stackhouse is one. I've just read only the first Mercy Thompson book,  Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs, and that seems to be another. Mercy is a skinwalker who can turn into a coyote; she was raised by werewolves. There are fairies, witches, and vampires existing in the world with only the fey-types outed into the world.

The Jane Yellowrock books, by Faith Hunter, are not all that "kitchen sink" (that I remember; it's been awhile since I read the ones I did); there are vampires, and there are a couple flavors of magic. The main character, Jane Yellowrock, is a skin walker, but she isn't limited to one specific critter. She also has to be concerned with the transference of mass; if she turns into something bigger than her normal body, that mass has to come from somewhere. If she turns into something smaller, it has to come from somewhere. I appreciate this level of consideration and detail, it lends a lot of good reality to the story.

Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause, is a standalone and I wish it wasn't. I really enjoyed it (and intend to read it again soon). The title draws from a line in Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf (though I guess the movie adaptation decided it was a good idea to make the main character work in a candy shop? I didn't watch it.)

Pack is very important in Klause's book, and indeed is important in the Harris books and appears to be in the Briggs books as well. This is certainly a departure I'm taking in my own werewolves. Family is important, but "pack" is not a thing that exists. I do not concern myself with the Alpha question the way these others (excepting Hunter) do across the board; Dominance theory in wolves is based on observations (years ago) of a captive wolf pack, and does not accurately reflect wolf behavior. Wolves, as such, are not necessarily what people believed them to be. And wolves are not people. Werewolves are neither, so it seems to me they'd find their own way, n'est-ce pas? Tradition is another big thing; The Way We Do Things™, as every family has one of those, I'd dare to say.

So I do think Learn to Howl is different. When I get it unsnarled, The Wolf You Feed will be as well. I think there should probably be one more; no title yet, just a couple seeds of ideas. I just need to write the most kickass query letter ever, and find the properly kickass agent to represent me, and bam! Fireworks! I'm "scouting" agents who are looking to represent Urban Fantasy, looking at what they and their agencies have represented already, and going from there. My letter needs work, I know it does, and I'm going through (another) full edit of Learn to Howl. I'll bring all of these factors together, and go through a round or so of querying. I'm sure one of my other novels might be a better first go, my foot in the door, but my werewolves have been my lodestone for a year and a half now. I just keep going back to them.

So. Write for yourself. Edit for your audience. And hope to hell you can manage to market it well enough to get it to said audience.


  1. I'll admit it's not my #1 genre, but I haven't seen anything that makes me think werewolves are dead! I followed the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series for a while - I started reading that well over ten years ago, and there were plenty of werewolves all over the place. Say what you will about Twilight, but I don't think werewolves are going away any time soon!

    1. I read a few of the Anita Blake books as well, but she was a little too Mary Sue for me, and seems to have grown more and more special as the books progressed.

      While I work at a library, not "in the industry", I don't think we've reached saturation point with werewolves; indeed, I think that something new would be good (I mean, of course I'd say that, right?). I see more and more romance coming in, and lots of 50 Shades wannabes, and YA dystopias + paranormals + more romance (and mashups thereof).

  2. I could relate to this post even though fantasy is not my genre. I spent two years writing a historical because I was in love with the story (it's based on a real person), only to find out that my time period / setting isn't very popular. But as you say, if you bring something remarkable and fresh to the table, you could be the one to start a new craze. Good luck with your revision and your query. (P.S. I linked over here from the AW blog thread.)

    1. It's funny to me, how some time periods are more popular than others. It seems like World War II stuff is a really big deal, both fiction and non. If the book is based on a real person, though, setting and time period really matter, and it can't just be changed for the whim of "the people".

      Thanks for coming by!