Re: Father Figure (was Re: RARA-AVIS: Positions still open)

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 13 Aug 2008

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    Consider this as well:

    How many times have we seen something along the lines of "'A taut, noirish thriller' - Booklist" splashed across the back of what is clearly NOT a noir book.

    Marketing departments have more to do with that than anything else.

    I just sold something to the Seattle installment of Akashic Books' CITY NOIR series (LONDON NOIR, MANHATTAN NOIR, etc.) where the sun is out the entire time, and the protagonist revels in it. I'd conceived of the idea well before I heard they were going to do a SEATTLE NOIR, but I only had a skeleton of the story, and once I decided I'd try to shape the piece in order to reflect the market involved, I worked up an ending that I thought works well for the venue. Lucky for me, the editor agreed.

    On the other hand I'm within striking distance of finishing an historical with thriller elements to it (limited mutiple third person POV, fast pace, etc.) and I'm wondering whether I should market it as a "taut, noirish historical thriller with a plot that moves like gangbusters" or something along those lines, because, from the writer's perspective, I'm not James Joyce. I'm not only writing just to express myself without worrying about the marketing.

    Does this mean that we as authors ought to let the market dictate our choices? Of course not. But is it a sin to have an idea in mind of where one will place such a piece going in to the process of all of the work involved in just writing the damned thing?

    If I felt that way about it, I'd consider this writing thing a hobby, not a vocation. That's how I feel about the poetry I've written. Not worried about placing it and no idea what to call it, other than mine.

    So kudos to James Sallis for being able to "transcend labels."

    For the rest of us who want to get published or continue to get published, thinking about the marketplace makes sense. Period.



    On Wed, Aug 13, 2008 at 10:31 AM, <> wrote:

    > Brian wrote:
    > 'By his own standards Sallis is neither a hard-boiled nor a noir author.
    > He honestly considers himself a "literary writer".'
    > That kind of saddens me. I don't see why any author has to choose
    > between these. Although, I do understand that, unfortunately and
    > wrongly in my opinion, many "literary" people still look down their
    > noses at "genre" people. Personally, I see Sallis as both. I think he
    > has done amazing things, particularly with the Lew Griffin series, to
    > show that genre does not have to be a straitjacket, that very literary
    > noir and hardboiled books can be written.
    > That said, this also reiterates to me that labels are mostly applied
    > from the outside, after the fact. And often by marketers and/or fans.
    > How often have we heard authors say they didn't know they were writing
    > noir when they wrote a book? Pretty recently here, Sara Gran said just
    > that about her excellent Come Closer, that she didn't conceive of it as
    > noir and didn't think of it as noir until the "noir community" (as I
    > think she put it) embraced it. And the word noir appears in many of the
    > cover blurbs. I went into it with the expectation of noir, and got
    > great noir, but could still see how it could just as easily have been
    > labeled a horror thriller, too, or instead. Same with Dave's Bad
    > Thoughts. I know he doesn't consider it noir, but I do.
    > Anyway, it's a shame when the labels are used to exclude some great work
    > and/or made to make authors feel their work is somehow less than.
    > Mark

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