Today I want to talk about genre. Traditionally there was a strict line for which 'box' a fiction novel sat in. Romance, Crime, Sci-Fi, Childrens, YA and so on. These days there is a myriad of sub-genre's, such as Steampunk or Gothic. If you look it up the list is almost endless.
When I started writing The Machine, it was based on a writing prompt within a Steampunk writers forum. Ergo, the setting was supposed to be 'Steampunk'. I'd heard of the genre but wasn't overly familiar with it. In my research as the book and series grew I found all sorts of references to guide the uninitiated. What surprised me most is how Draconian some of the "rules" seem to be as to what is and what is not steampunk. It started to make me worry, if I've written a book that will fit into a certain genre, what will happen if it doesn't tick all of the boxes? Will people reject it, or write shitty reviews because of it? It takes a certain level of balls to stand up to these worries and say 'fuck it', but really that is the only thing you can do.
Whilst these concerns still skulk into my subconscious at times, I have to tell myself over and over that it doesn't matter. If someone has a preconceived notion of what a certain genre book should contain and is unable to accept anything that differentiates from their expectation, that is not the writers problem. The story is what it is. If the writer spends too much time trying to add elements to a story that make it fit into an ideal box, then they are at risk of diluting the story for the sake of an aesthetic.
So what if your horror story doesn't include vampires and werewolves. So what if your romance story involves LGBT characters instead of the 'traditional' type. So what if you don't fit perfectly into that little box someone else has built. Fuck them. Build a new box. Be brave, dare to be different and screw the naysayers.
My soon-to-be-published book, The Machine, is a fantasy/adventure/action/mystery/romance story set in a steampunk world. It ticks a lot of boxes but none of them with a perfectly centered tick, more-like a childish squiggle that doesn't stay inside the lines of the box. And I'm perfectly fine with it that way.