The Genre Question
In October, shortly after self-publishing Suzie and the Monsters and still finding my way around goodreads, I was fortunate to discover the new Read to Review (R2R) in the Gotta Have Paranormal Romance with a Kick group. I signed up, labelling Suzie and the Monsters as Erotic Romance (ER) / Paranormal Romance (PNR).
I was a very genre-naive back in those long-ago times. From my perspective, the novel has significant erotic content, the main character is a vampire and therefore it’s definitely paranormal, and there are themes of love and romance throughout. If I was anxious about anything, it was that there was too much erotic content… but the erotic content of some PNR is quite astonishing. (Are you tired of all the sex?)
As the days passed and I read more, and grew more genre-savvy, I gradually understood that the real problem is that ‘Paranormal Romance’ should really be written:
Now, I’ve got nothing against romance, but I rarely read books that make romance the dominant element. As for writing romance… the sweetest, most romantic thing I’ve ever written is An Aromantic Romance (which is technically only half a romance, but still) – see this post for details.
Anyway, after mulling it over for a while, I decided that the best way to describe the genre of Suzie and the Monsters was: dark contemporary fantasy mixed with LGBTQ, a splash of erotic paranormal romance, and a slice of historical fiction.
If that just seems confusing, then let me ask: How often does life fit into a genre? Why is it so important that stories should? (Yes, okay, I know the answers, but my muse doesn’t fit within genre boundaries, and if that means that I will languish forever unknown as an author then… alas, but so be it.)
Anyway, I am very happy that Suzie and the Monsters was accepted for the Read to Review and I am very grateful to all those who left reviews. Some loved it, some hated it, and some didn’t like it but read it anyway. But there’s no such thing as a bad review, so once again:
I want to answer some of the remarks made because I think they misrepresent the story. t’irla said:
She is bitter, apathetic for the most part but has a passion for an 18 year old girl who she had to trance before she had sex with her. Now for me this is a bit of a limit, I’m all for consensual adult play but this book has several time where people were tranced into sexual escapades.
Suzie does not ‘trance’ people for sex. She trances them for all sorts of other reasons, but not sex. The only time she trances Cleo is when they’re sitting in the café, and that involves no sexual compulsion. (I’ve discussed Cleo’s attraction to Suzie here.)
Magda also disliked the non-consensual sex:
The sex she forces on the girl in the opening scene is disgusting.
Non-consensual sex is not a turn-on for me. Quite the opposite. I was only able to write this scene because it mutates into consensual (albeit reluctant) sex. In fact, consent is a key theme running through the novel (see this discussion on Consent).
Magda also said:
Finds the love of her life in an underage student.
Cleo is not underage! No one in the story is underage. (As for Cleo being the love of Suzie’s life… Is she really?)
Now to indulge in some favourite quotes from the reviews:
First. Wow. An honest-to-goodness five-star review from Kara (blogged here):
This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s extremely steamy. It grabs you at page 1 and doesn’t let go. I finished this book in less than 6 hours. It’s racy and edgy in all the right places.
A thoughtful and detailed four-star review from Karen Siddall (blogged here):
Sexy, erotic, loving, exciting, capable and dangerous – Suzie Kew is all these things. … The author has created a capable and modern female vampire. … Sex is critical and integral to the story (and explicit – so not for the squeamish, although I thought the scenes well done). … The author integrates historical persons, events, and details in Suzie’s past that really added a lot to my enjoyment of the book.
Andrea Kelleher (and Lori also) found the point of view confusing, and I’ve discussed that in First Person, Present Tense and POV.
Angie Lenkevich kept falling asleep… 😦 but had this to say:
Suzie Kew isn’t like everyone else she’s a vampire and a lesbian. Do either of these things make her a bad person? Hell no…
which makes me laugh every time I read it.
Lori had this to say:
This book is unlike any I’ve ever read before. … It is not explicit, you don’t know what will happen to the characters, and the characters are not molded into a stereotype to be able to predict. … this novel may be great for someone who likes the complexities of dissecting a story and isn’t motivated by the need to like the characters in the story.
It may be a two-star review, but her observations are quite delightful. I wanted Suzie to be a woman you could admire, and perhaps like, but also be slightly horrified by. She is a vampire, after all. Heroic in her own way, but dark.
Olivia had mixed feelings:
I think the story was a fantastic idea, just not a home run for me.
Not saying I don’t like the writing, I just long for a story to suck me in until it is over. One where I just can’t put it down.
Sue Morris thought ‘the sex was pretty steamy in places’ but was otherwise bored by it.
t’irla provided a wonderful phrase (in bold below) in her review:
A lot of steam especially if you enjoy f/f erotica. If you do… this is definitely the book for you. … the sex is almost a character in the novel. … If you don’t mind non-consensual sex and f/f I think you would rate the book much higher.
Finally, proof that there can be value even in a one-star review. Helen Painter provided a wonderful description that I would never have dared write myself:
If you like filth, this is for you. This makes 50 shades look like a nursery rhyme!! … Maybe if you’re a hardcore lesbian pornstar, you’ll enjoy it.
I have discussed my feelings about this review here, and I am happy to say now that it has been a positive influence. Apart from anything else, it led to this short, sweet and sexy story about hardcore lesbian pornstars.
Suzie and the Monsters – or to give it its full title: Suzie and the Monsters – a fairytale of blood, sex and inhumanity … – is a vampire tale. It is not erotica. Rather, there is explicit sexual content that is sometimes erotic and sometimes disturbing – and sometimes both.