Friday, June 6, 2008

Heroes and Genre

Over on Marie's blog (see new entry under Friends of Debbie), she discusses the phenomenon of wanting favorite authors to have lived lives as exciting as the ones they write about. She uses Jane Austen and the highly fictionalized movie about her brief acquaintance with a gentleman as an example.

I think we do that with all of our heroes. We want them to have lived extraordinary lives before they create extraordinary works. Even with politicians, business moguls, athletes, etc. Because if they were just ordinary before they did these things, well then, why aren't the rest of us ordinary folk doing extraordinary things?

But I think with authors there's another level to it. And it has to do with genre. In order to write in a particular genre, one should look and be a certain way. Face it, we want horror writers to look like Stephen King or speak like Alfred Hitchcock. And romance authors should be beautiful, sexy women who've had dozens of exciting lovers. Only ex-Navy Seals or other special ops veterans can write a good thriller, right? Mystery/crime authors are British men who smoke pipes, and cozy mysteries are written by little old gray-haired ladies with a dozen cats each. Sci-fi writers are geeks with thick glasses. Fantasies, well I picture Neil Gaiman, but I think the standard would be a stuffy old professor of ancient runes. Literary fiction? Too cool for school New Yorker, born and bred. Can't be more than thirty either. Women's fiction? Thirty-something career woman turned housewife.

I'm not sure any of the Pirates fit the mold. Except maybe Bret, who spent 20 years in the Navy. Jenny looks nothing like Stephen King. Shane's pretty cool, but he's from California. Mary, too, is cool but from right here in Colorado. I'm neither 30-something nor a housewife. Ali, not stuffy or old. Nicole, ditto. DB would hit me if I ever called her a little, old lady. Hard. Fleur isn't a British man and I've never seen her smoke a pipe, but who knows? John hasn't settled on a genre, and may not, why should he? But given the examples above, he looks like he could be ex-special ops so he'll have to write straight thrillers.

So we're all doomed. Except, the stereotype is, as all stereotypes are, ridiculous. We don't have to be struggling, depressed, starving artists to write wonderful stories. We don't have to put everything into our work and let our characters lead our lives for us. We can just write. And just live. And be ordinary or extraordinary as we see fit and still create wonderful, magical, incredibly beautiful works.


Jenny said...

Yeah, I'm thinking it'll be rough selling the scary stuff with my gorgeousness...but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Debbie said...

According to an article I read in Writer's Digest a while back, it's easier for an attractive author to get a book deal. And they tend to sell better.

So I think the gorgeousness may actually work in your favor.

Jenny said...

Do you send headshots with your query letter nowadays? Hmmm...