THE REALITY OF GENRE
By Elaine Spires
Thank you for inviting me to guest-blog today!
The question I always dread when someone finds out I’m a writer is always: What genre do you write? Now, for someone who writes fantasy, or horror, or romance, or erotica or crime thrillers the answer is always simple. Unfortunately, my books don’t seem to fit neatly into any category.
Thinking about genre didn’t ever really occur to me, as naive as that probably sounds. But to tell the truth, I first became aware that I didn’t fit into a category or niche when I began self-publishing. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, let me explain. Before uploading your book you are asked for its category and then for certain ‘search-words’. These are words that people will put into the search engine when looking for a new book to buy. I really struggled.
Take, for instance, Sweet Lady, my third novel. Set in Antigua and London it tells the story of world-famous artist Eleanor West and her daughter Victoria who are on holiday when beach bum Tyrone walks into their lives. Now, at first it might appear that it is a romance. There is romance in it – I don’t want to give away any of the plot here for those who haven’t read it, so this is a bit tricky – but it’s not your run-of-the-mill romance. Erotica? Not really; the only really erotic scene comes almost at the end of the book and I think of it more as the description of love-making than erotica. Chic-Lit? Not at all! The vast majority of books in that genre are totally predictable with the reader knowing right from the start that the usually plain heroine is going to end up with the dishy hero in the end. With the twists and turns the plot takes, this certainly isn’t the case with Sweet Lady.
And what about the Singles’ Triology – Singles’ Holiday, Singles and Spice and Single All The Way? As the titles suggest, they are about a group of strangers who go away together to worldwide tourism destinations – Antigua, India’s Golden Triangle and the English countryside. Once again, there is romance, some sex scenes, humour, twists and travel. I do realise that I don’t make things easy for myself, but I want my books to pack a good story; for my readers to be continually surprised and for the plots to be completely unpredictable. Are they contemporary? Yes, they are, but I don’t feel that really term covers them or completely does them justice. It simply means that they’re written in the present day, doesn’t it? Women’s fiction? Yes, women read them, but not exclusively as I’ve also had great feedback from lots of men, many of whom have been on singles’ holidays themselves. And last year when Singles’ Holiday had its world premier as a stage play (Melabeau Productions at the Brentwood Theatre, October 2014) the audience really was fifty-fifty.
It was actually my first book, What’s Eating Me, that gave me the clue as to which category I consider that my writing comes under. It is the story of Eileen Holloway, an obese mother of two ungrateful teenage boys, who is manipulated by her own domineering, overbearing mother at home and her team at work, who is down-trodden and can’t say ‘No’ to anyone and who uses food to get her through the day and keep all the plates spinning and everyone happy. And then, her mother sets her up on a reality TV show……..
It was the word reality that made me realise my genre; I write reality novels. All my books, and in this I include my two collections of short stories, Holiday Reads and Holiday Reads 2 and my Christmas and Valentine’s novellas, The Christmas Queen and Weak At The Knees. My writing is about men and women of all ages; some are likeable and other not; some are fighting their own demons while others are fighting other people; some are given their comeuppance while others go unpunished; some are funny and some are sad. But I hope that all of them can be recognised as believable, three-dimensional people living in the modern world and dealing with everyday problems and challenges with some humour, a little bit of sex here and there, and a large dash of reality.
Real Life; that is what I write about. And so I’ve started to classify my writing as a new genre: reality novels. You heard it here first.
Elaine Spires is a novelist, playwright and actress. Extensive travelling and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine’s keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels. Elaine spends her time between her homes in Essex and Five Islands, Antigua (W.I.).
What’s Eating Me – Eileen Holloway is an obese mother of two, whose husband went out to see a man about a car one night and never came back, struggling to keep all the plates spinning. But Eileen becomes a celebrity the day her mother puts her forward for Barbara’s Beautiful Bodies, a reality TV show which follows the journey of the seriously overweight as they are put on a rigid diet and exercise routine to change their lives for better and for ever. What’s Eating Me looks at what happens to her once her journey to reach her target weight is over.
Sweet Lady – the story with a couple of huge twists, where nothing is as it seems! East London artist Eleanor West is holidaying in Antigua with her daughter Victoria before her latest summer exhibition. When beach-bum Tyrone walks into their lives, nothing will ever be the same again.
The Singles’ Trilogy:-
Singles’ Holiday – Antigua, the Caribbean at its most luscious; cloudless, cobalt skies, silver sand, turquoise sea, and a group of total strangers, with just one thing in common: they’re single. Some have come just to have a good holiday; some for something more. Some will become lifelong friends; others just won’t get on. But it is, perhaps, their tour manager Eve who has the biggest shocks of all as she takes care of her group through sunny days, boozy, balmy nights and a tropical storm as we get to know each group member, while they, in turn, get to know each other.
Singles and Spice – A singles’ holiday to India’s Golden Triangle – Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, tiger-spotting in Ranthambore, the noisy, crowded streets of Delhi – all go to make up a trip that is hot, humid and spicy. Eve Mitchell, Travel Together’s tour manager extraordinaire has a couple of familiar faces in her little group of travellers and others that she hasn’t met before; sexy man-eating pensioners, a compulsive over-eater, a constant whiner and a man with a personal problem. And there’s a big surprise awaiting someone -and Eve! – one morning at dawn. By the end of the tour, which sees our group travelling by plane, coach, rickshaw, train and elephant, she will know rather more about some of their innermost secrets than she’d like.
Single All The Way – Travel Together Tour Manager Eve Mitchell is planning a quiet Christmas at home to rest and relax before an extra-special New Year. But she soon, very unexpectedly, finds herself in the depths of the Essex countryside looking after a singles’ group which contains some old, familiar faces and some pleasant – and not so pleasant – new ones. With its country walks, quizzes, disco and black-tie ball, the Christmas and Twixmas Break passes quickly, but just as they think it’s all over the plot takes a twist and we learn some dark secrets…
Short Story Collections:-
Holiday Reads – Short stories for your sun-lounger – or wherever! Seven women, each with a different holiday problem. Meet, Olivia, who wishes she wasn’t on a tennis holiday; Estelle, alone on a cruise; Fiona who’s flying too close for comfort; Shelley, who shouldn’t have got involved with a foreigner; Alison who finds our her husband’s off on a cruise – but not with her!; Eloise who’s having a rotten time in Ibiza and Karla who’s desperate for her family holiday in Corfu to go well
Holiday Reads 2 – More quirky short-stories with a holiday theme for reading on the plane, on the beach or by the pool, your back garden on a sunny afternoon or curled up on the sofa if it’s raining.
The Christmas Queen – in which we meet up with Eileen Holloway again. Her whole life through, Christmas for Eileen has always started with loads of work and preparation and ended in bitter disappointment, and involved huge amounts of energy and emotion along the way. But this year, although she knows it will be emotional, she’s determined things will be very different. This year she’s going to be a Christmas Queen…
Weak At The Knees – Estelle is out and about making her Valentine’s Day deliveries. What she discovers as she presents four very different women with an armful of flowers is a real eye-opener …
COMING SOON – THE BANJO – A trilogy set in Dagenham from 1950s – present day.