If I told you I was writing a western book, filled with cowboys, saloons, and gunslingers, what would be your first thought?
I can almost bet you didn’t think, “Boy, that’s a serious piece of fiction I could sink my teeth into,” right? No. When you think of westerns, you tend to think of your grandpa. THAT generation reads westerns. THAT generation loves John Wayne and black and white films. Westerns are so outdated. Do people even write that stuff anymore? You’d probably pat my shoulder and say, “Good luck with that, Angela.” And you’d probably even try real hard to mean it.
Now, what if I said I’m writing a romance? What’s your first thoughts on that? Cheesy Harlequin books? Fabio? Romance is a big seller, one of the top selling genres out there, yet, I don’t think you’d consider me a writer of the highest quality if I told you I wrote romance. (Romance writers, put your dukes down. It’s not time to fight yet. I’m not dissing you, really. I love me some romance. I’m just presenting the judgment some genres face. Hang in there. Keep reading. Seriously, put the dukes down. The fight comes later).
To make things even MORE interesting, what if I told you I’m writing about zombies? Flesh eating, brain munching zombies? The real deal? Would that be a piece of fiction you could wrap your mind around and embrace as literary genius? I don’t think so. You’d just think it weird and that I was weird and I had to be some kind of hack writer of the lowest of the lows.
Okay, now let’s combine all three of those aspects—western, romance, zombies—and mush them all together to form a 80K word novel. What do ya think now? Really. Be serious.
I bet you laughed.
AND I wouldn’t have blamed you. I think I might have laughed too, if it wasn’t me we were talking about here. Because in truth, I’m writing exactly that—a western romance with a scattering of zombie mayhem just for fun. It’s true. I know. You’re probably thinking, but she looked so normal.
The reason I bring all this up, is that when I mention my current WIP, I sometimes feel as though people kind of do the invisible eye roll and their brains (BRAINS) just assume I’m not a great writer at all, but more like a “bad writer”, a writer that can’t write for “real.”
Have you ever felt that way? Do you want a little respect (R-E-S-P-E-C-T—go Aretha).
I mean, in the terms of writing, I still think there is prejudice. I know people who have romantic elements in their novels but REFUSE to be known as a romance writer, as if there is something bad about that (Okay romance writers, this is the time to stand up for your genre and come out swinging). I also think horror writers, paranormal writers, and even sci-fi writers experience less than favorable responses when it comes to their chosen genre. For sci-fi writers, its like being the kid with the Star Trek costume at the prom. That kid’s interesting for sure, but he doesn’t quite fit in, nor does he get asked to dance because nobody wants to be seen dancing with that weirdo. No way. (Sci-fi writers, you can put your dukes up too, if you like. Or you can zap me with your ultra-molecular scramble radar gun. Whichever you prefer).
Don’t say this isn’t true, because I know it is. I know there is a lot of judgment taking place—I feel it. I’ve experienced it. I think it’s because in the terms of “respectable” writing, a zombie western romance is not it. Nor is sci-fi or horror, or erotica, or anything at all to do with a vampire.
In the mind’s eye of the masses, respected writing goes something like this (from most respected to the least respected):
Zombie Western Romance (nothing lower than that)
I’m ready for a debate. Let me have it (in a nice pillow fight kinda way). Do you think your genre is too far down the list of respectability, let me know. Stick up for your genre. Tell me why your genre deserves more respect.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Actually, let’s come together and rally around one another. A writer is a writer is a writer, regardless. I know that I’m as serious about my Zombie Western Romance as a Literary Fiction writer is about their writing. It’s not about being a serious writer. It’s about being a respected writer. Give my Zombie Western Romance a chance, that’s all I ask.
It’s kinda like Tofu. At first, it’s mushy and looks nasty and awful. But fried until its crispy, with a bit of stir fry sauce to dip it in, and it’s actually something you can stomach without gagging.
That’s all I want. I want to be like Tofu.
How about you?