SO, WHAT DO YOU WRITE?
I’ve tied myself up in all sorts of gordians over this question. I’ve only relatively recently admitted to even being a writer in general company, and that’s mostly because I am more often introduced as one. But when someone asks, ‘Oh, so what sort of books do you write?’ my initial response usually begins, ‘Errrrr. Um…’
Like most writers, I don’t fit neatly into a genre. What I write sits somewhere in Romance and somewhere in Literature, but neither seems entirely happy to claim me. The tag Historical Fiction seems too broad; but say the words ‘Australian Historical Fiction’ and your new acquaintance’s eyes have glazed over before you’ve reached the last syllable. Apart from being Romantic, Historical, Australian and Literature, then, I could really go for the bore factor and add that what I write is underpinned by a labourist interpretation of our cultural touchstones and mythology, and then confuse the issue completely by revealing that my stories are also threaded aplenty with sparkly bits of comedy and magic which aren’t anything but genrelessly and daggily themselves.
We love to categorise things, though, don’t we? We like to know precisely what cup of tea we’re getting – Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast, Whiny Old Cow – before we decide whether it’s our cup of tea or not. We like product presented in neat parcels, too – individually bagged, bite-sized, snack-sized, standardised. Even though size 12 is never going to precisely fit every girl who possesses those measurements – and on some, that frock will just look crap.
Or worse: pretentious. Mutton dressed up as quail with quinoa salad, or something like that. Sometimes, when I try to explain what I write, I feel the new acquaintance thinking: are you a wanker or what? What do you mean you like to play with the form of the romantic saga as an allegory for Australians’ relationship with their own bullshit?
Errrr. Um. I mean that’s what I try to do. Sorry! And, to make it worse, it all comes from a place of deep affection in me, a genuine fascination with my country and the people who live in it that marks me down as a shameless sentimentalist too. And to make it worser and worser still, a bit of romance, I find, is the very best fun one might have on one’s own. Oh dear. I must be out of my mind.
So, bugger it, I’ve decided I’ll just have to make up a new genre. The Politically Motivated Love Story – that’s what I write. Get out your laminator for a new shelf tag, book babes, it could be the next best thing! Indeed, we should all write our own genres, each of us. Writers of the World unite in reckless invention! We have nothing to lose but our marketing chains!
But seriously, I write novels driven by love and wonder that I hope touch others enough to provoke curiosity about whatever it is I’m trying to say. I don’t want to preach to any genre-choir; I want to meet literary strangers across these pages and show them something new; something borrowed, something true. Something of me, for you, whoever you might be. And that’s pretty much what we all do, isn’t it? As simple and as knotty as that…