Why? Or Why Not?
By Jeff Salter
To say that I’ll read nearly anything doesn’t mean that I have unrefined literary tastes — it just means that I love to read and if there’s nothing at hand that I’d prefer, I’ll just read practically whatever I can find. [The worst outcomes involve the waiting rooms of medical / dental offices and the place where I get my hair cut. They NEVER seem to have a magazine that actually interests me, so I just pick one of whatever’s present.]
I began with that intro simply to make clear that I’m not a literary snob. That said, I do have favorite genres and there are genres that I don’t care for.
One more general note before I get started. Most of the traditional genre divisions have been blurred in recent years… to the point that there are hybrids and blends of nearly every type. I think that’s a positive development, even though it makes things slightly more difficult for libraries and book stores.
Genres That I Used to Ignore
For a large portion of my life, I had zero interest in Western novels. That could surprise any of you who understand that I grew up watching TV and movie westerns… and wanted (desperately) to be either a gunfighter or a sheriff when I grew up. But I’d only read THREE western novels in my entire life until last year, when I began writing my time-travel series featuring a cowboy character from the 1880s. Once I sank my teeth into Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, and Zane Grey – in order to research the folkways of the American cowboy – I was hooked. I’ve since read several more of those authors’ titles, as well as many books from other lesser known writers.
Likewise, for much of my life, I’d kept my distance from the entire multi-faceted genre which we loosely call “Romance.” My wife read them, my mother-in-law read them, and I knew they were extremely popular in the public libraries where I worked. But until I began writing novels with romance as a central thread – around 2006 – I had read exactly ONE romance… a Barbara Cartland novel. Since 2006, I’ve read scores of novels that fall within the blended genres that make up the world of Romance publishing.
As I noted about the westerns, the area of science fiction never appealed to me… in book form. Oh, I devoured the Sci-Fic movie explosion of the 1950s, and loved the episodes of Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Outer Limits, etc. But other than reading a few short stories, I never got into Sci-Fic novels. Not exactly sure why, but I think I was deterred partly because I so despised science — as a subject, in classes from junior high through college. Maybe I feared the Sci-Fic books would delve so deeply into SCIENCE, that I’d be too bored to care about the plot and characters in the story itself. [And, by the way, I recently read a novel by an otherwise excellent author – Michael Crichton – called “Congo.” Folks, Crichton nearly bored me to death with all his pages and pages of scientific explanation. Good grief.]
What Do I Enjoy Reading?
Well, I love non-fiction military history… along with novels that have a military or war-time setting.
I’m fascinated by books on UFOs, aliens, and the JFK assassination.
I haven’t read much lately, but I used to read a lot of poetry.
I’ve long enjoyed “international intrigue” – AKA spy novels – especially those set during war times.
I like action books, thrillers, etc.
I love comedies. And, BTW, even non-fiction can be extremely funny… Bill Bryson’s many books being prime examples.
As I was reminded by our Tuesday Fox, Angela, I love reading Children’s books… provided the artwork is terrific and the story is not too preachy. One of my favorite parts of my nearly 30 years in librarianship were those periods when I selected children’s books for our collections.
Books I Still Won’t Read
I won’t read anything that I know will terrify me. Sure, call me a sissy. But if a story won’t let me sleep at night, for fear of noises and shadows, then I don’t want to read it.
I don’t read anything about demons or evil sprits. The spiritual world is far too real to me and I know from the Bible that we Christians are faced with a daily battle against our spiritual enemies… so I dare not contaminate my mind with stories about evil demons (which, BTW, are all the rage, right now).
What Do I Write?
In earlier blogs, I’ve stated that I write (besides screwball comedy): “a blend of action, romance, and comedy… plus a few also have suspense.” Since that point (2015), I’ve also written a bit of science fiction, some time-travel, and even a ghost story! But, overall, my assessment of my own writing is that most of my titles are BLENDS of several genres… and I truly do not believe any of mine are formulaic, as in the worst examples of the most common genres.
I was struck by Elaine’s expression (Wednesday), describing one of her cross genre novels: “It’s a cross between a mystery, thriller, romance with a dash of science fiction thrown in.”
As did Patricia on Monday, I’m placing a link to my blog from May 7, 2015… in which I discuss a bit about different genres (in particular in how they END).
What about YOU? Which genres do YOU enjoy reading?
[JLS # 483]