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  • Susan Stoderl

Genre-Bending: Not Fitting In


I was looking for a quote for the graphic on Ms. Gabaldon's website and found one that looked interesting. However, it didn't make much sense. According to the all-knowing Prof. Wikipedia, Ms. Gabaldon has a bachelor of science degree in zoology, a master of science degree in marine biology, and a PhD in behavioral ecology. Hence, the quote. An unusual education for someone who would end up writing a massive amount of popular fiction. I felt a certain kinship since my education was in music education, musicology, and vocal performance in opera, which is not related closely to middle-grade fiction unless you count the opera, Hansel and Gretel.


While I was doing extensive research on different genres, keywords, and categories of books to decide how to best classify my series, I discovered the ninth installment, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, was published over a year ago. I immediately bought it and read some each day.


As I was reading, and especially after all the research on genres, etc., it occurred to me how limiting it is for the series to be solely classified as historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure, and science fiction/fantasy. The books are more than such a narrow definition. Yes, they include aspects found in those genres, however, the books cover many social issues, such as non-traditional roles of women, intense family relationships, homosexuality, sadism, class differences, cultural differences, prejudices, dealing with rape and disfigurement, the effects of war and greed, all among historically accurate facts about the various wars and ways of life. The only fantasy aspect is the time travel. And as far as science fiction, here the characters are within a distinct historical time, not some time drastically in the future, or a different fictitious environment, or are in a form other than human.


My middle-grade books are classified as children’s zoo books, middle-grade detective and adventure books, children’s friendship books, etc. This is also limiting. I write about real kids who are not allowed to be children per se. They are forced to be more adult than their years by circumstances such as being orphaned or having parents who are forced to work out of the home for extended periods. The two kids form a blended family with unrelated adults and animals. Yet it does not fall under a blended family category as it is defined. But what else would you call it? They fall under the detective category because they consider themselves “Super Sleuths,” but this is not their most defining characteristic. They want to make the world a better place and they do that by helping people and animals in distress. To help them, they have to investigate.


They are individuals who fight the status quo. They are curious and easily bored even though they are already three years ahead of their actual age in school. Because of their “young adult” status, they are acutely aware of social class differences, discrimination, and hypocrisy. In my series, there is also exposure to New York City's history, different cultures, and foreign languages. They are already telepathic, so they have a psychic bent that has not become fully developed. Over time, they will come of age and grow into adults, something we see in Outlander.


So here's to genre-bending!


#writing, #genres, #womenwriters, #writerslife,

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