Friday, April 16, 2010

Categorized? Sub-categorized? Sub-sub-sub . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

I'm sure all of us know that books come in different genres like mystery, romance, science fiction, western, etc. But there are also now a great many sub-genres or categories which leave book store clerks scratching their heads as to where to shelve the books, not to mention the writers who write them. Sigh. (Publishers always want to break a writer's book down into all of these small categories which drives the writer nuts trying to figure it out. Trust me. We write them we don't categorize them.)

Mysteries alone come in categories like: cozy, procedural, suspense, thriller (one presumes thriller is a step further into scary than plain suspense, but, one could always be wrong) and so on. Then comes all the sub-sub-categories JUST for cozy mysteries like quilt cozy, knit cozy, cat cozy, cooking cozy, scrap booking cozy, and, um, well you get the picture.

Obviously if you are a knitter or a cat owner or someone who loves to cook, or drink multiple cups of tea then when you see that listed on a cover, it will draw your attention and might make you put down another book in favor of buying the one that matches your particular hobby or fascination, assuming you can't afford both books. So, the cover with the beautiful quilt or lovely knitted "whatever" will grab you first, followed closely by the description of what the heroine is doing in her spare time between murders to be solved. And, boy howdy, has this trend exploded in the last few years.

Time was when a mystery was fairly simple, suspense with plenty of blood and gore was probably set in a big city, and cozy with lots of cats was probably set in a small English village. If the protagonist was a knitter, like Miss Marple, it was barely mentioned. No knitting patterns, no recipes for tea or cookies or whatever were included in the book.

Mind you, I'm not complaining. These new categories get my attention just as fast as anyone else's. I adore beautiful covers on books. I adore the new variety in books to read. No more straight, simple, bloody murder. The protagonist must be able to do more than check footprints or bloody fingerprints. I like that. Guess I should say I love it because the lead couple in one of my series has the hobby of restoring vintage cars. Where did that come from? Perhaps the TWO cars parked in our garage that are painstakingly being restored while the car I drive parks outside, regardless of the weather. Where was I?

My point, here, is to ask you readers what you think about all these genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub genres? How much attention do you pay to them? Do you look for books that feature hobbies that you enjoy or would like to enjoy if only you could master them? Do you struggle to find books now that there are so many different varieties?

And if you could write a book, what sub-sub-sub-sub-sub category would you want it to be in?

The inspiration for today's blog post comes from my recent struggle to learn how to knit. I used to knit a few decades back and want to re-learn, but this is NOT like riding a bicycle, something you don't forget. I've had lessons from a friend, printed instructions off the Internet, snookered my way into a consultation with the ladies at J & R Needlenook here in Metropolis, started the same shawl three times and ripped it out three times, and I'm still not knitting properly. I plan to try again. I love self-punishment. Will I write a book where the protagonist knits while she solves crime? Not a chance. I might, however, stab someone with one of those pesky long needles. Most likely myself.

Have a great day. Thanks for stopping by. Anyone up for a craft day?


Paul said...

I try to keep myself reading all across the genre spectrum (okay, maybe not historical romances), but the particular sub-sub-sub category that most appeals to me is the supernatural suspense story that turns out not to be supernatural at all. The Magus and The Shadow of the Wind are examples, and these types of stories are hard to find. I like the occasional magical realism too.

The apprentice work novels I wrote in the cozy mystery genre included my mature female sleuth who demonstrably could not knit and who didn't drink coffee but loved iced tea, unsweetened, of course. I was into genre busting at the time.

Susan D said...

Trying madly to pack for a quilting retreat weekend, and also get the cat Martha set up for her Weekend Alone at Home without Adult Supervision (oh, the parties....) but I have to stop and respond here (obviously, reading blogs instead of packing and selecting fat quarters for gambling purposes is why I'm so behindhand).

But anyway, I'll just suggest that you can perhaps do away with one subcategory - the Cat Cosy (Rita Mae Brown notwithstanding). I believe it's de rigueur for ALL cosy protagonists to be ailurophiles, regardless of the sub sub genre. I mean, don't all quilters, knitters, miniaturists and [your hobby here] have cats?

Or does that open the door to cross-genres? Knitter with Cat, Quilter with Dog, Bounty Hunter with Hamster....

Laura DiSilverio said...

The hobby/interest hook may catch a reader's attention initially, but if the characters and story don't engage her, it won't be enough, on its own, to carry a series.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Love all your comments, thanks! I laughed out loud at the bounty hunter with hamster! I was smart enough to insist my kids go for a guinna pig because they are much larger than hamsters and therefore less likely to get out of the cage and chew through the ceiling which I've heard other hampster owners complain about.

Sandra Parshall said...

I am once again moderating the animals-in-mysteries panel at Malice, and in preparation I've been looking at lots of book covers. Regardless of what the "hook" is, a great many cozies have animals on the covers, usually dogs or cats. So although something may be categorized as a knitting cozy, you can be sure there will be a cat playing with the ball of yarn. :-)

kathy d. said...

Everyone in the mystery blog world--be in Eurocrime or Lesa's book blog or whomever--has the cutest cats!

No one has unadorable cats--and the poses they are photoed in! Shameless!