Tuesday, July 22, 2014
FERAL, GENRE, AND BLOG REVIEWS
Genre may very well be the most important marketing tool a book has. After all, genre is often the yardstick by which a reader measures the book’s success.
Case in point: My forthcoming FERAL is a psychological thriller—an important distinction. While this subgenre does borrow from more action-oriented categories (for example, the straight suspense-filled thriller, mystery, and horror), the primary focus is on, well, the psychological. Like classic psychological thrillers, FERAL features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). The oft-used water metaphor (employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious) is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (and represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state, her lack of ability to move on from a violent act, though she desperately wants to). The ending and explanation of what has been happening in the town of Peculiar is also an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche—as it should be; the rest of the book is an exploration of where she is mentally, as well. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s an inner process, a terrifying process. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.
Each book is a learning process—I would no more go back and change FERAL than I would ever expect to change anyone’s mind who’d written a less-than-glowing review; however, I do read all my reviews and think critically about them. This time around, the critique’s got me thinking about the classic psychological thriller. There’s no doubt that the subgenre is becoming less frequently represented, especially by the box office. I wonder how many young readers are familiar with Hitchcock’s work. How many know only Pyscho’s shower scene, and have never watched the rest of the film.
I wonder about the expectations of modern, young readers when they see the label “psychological thriller.” Do they now expect the emphasis to be on “thriller” rather than “psychology”? Do they expect an action-oriented piece? Is Hitchcock even relevant anymore to young story-seekers?
I’m also incredibly curious: How do you, as a blogger, use genre to help write your review? Do you consider the genre (and subgenre) as you determine the success or failure of a book? Do you review by the gut rather than the head (it either hits you or it doesn’t)?