Thursday, April 16, 2015

Letting Go of BRAND

I’m talking about THE BRAND DEMAND. The official launch party is only a day or two away - this Saturday 2:00 - 5:00 at the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble.

The book’s actually been available for a while if you looked to get it online. It had a strange release since it had to be slid before my other books this year, CELESTE and THE FINGER TRAP. It’s an exciting year for me and strange. Very strange.

Schedules not withstanding, I’ve mentally fixed this Saturday as birthday for THE BRAND DEMANDand today I’m feeling all the mixed emotions of a father before delivery; excitement, hope, worry.

I’ve been here before but I can tell you that the emotional impact is hardly lessened from the first time I saw my name on a bound book. With BEATRYSEL, I was ecstatic beyond words, my debut, dark and brooding, powerful and personal - a book about magick is a manifestation of the same. It still sends shivers up my spine. I love that book. It has been well received.

Then came ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN a totally different kind of book. Emotional and vulnerable, still with a supernatural element, but a character study of change and hardship. I love that book and it has been very well received, winning the Gold Quill from the League of Utah Writers for Best YA in the state. It became an Amazon best seller. Most people who know my work, know ELEANOR.

And now for something completely different: THE BRAND DEMAND.

Three novels, three totally different audiences. My excitement for this one is more than ever tinged with worry.

I have a freedom that comes from having nothing to lose. “I write what I like to read. This guarantees me at least one fan.” I read lots of things. I want to experiment and explore. I write lots of books. I didn’t get my first book picked up until I had half a dozen in the can.

But freedom has its cost. There is a natural expectation that a writer is aligned with a singular genre. At conferences and conventions, whenever I meet anyone and proudly proclaim my vocation as an author, I’m forever struggling with the immediate follow-up question “So, what do you write?”

The expected answer is something like “young adult fiction,” “horror,” “sci-fi,” “mystery”  – a quick label that they can use to grasp my interest and their likelihood to read me. But it doesn’t work like that for me. I have to enter into a nuanced conversation explaining how I write in multiple genres. If there’s a central thread through my work, I might say “literary genre fiction” is close, but that doesn’t sound right.

I wonder if it just sounds like I’m a rank amateur, that I don’t specialize because I can’t, don’t have the concentration, skill or professional courtesy to do what's expected. Truth is I haven’t specialized because I haven’t had to. One day, I’ll get a big contract that’ll demand all of my attention in a single direction, but that day hasn’t come yet. Since I write on spec, and I write for myself, I write in multiple genres.

Before I come off sounding like some kind of literary saint, let me tell you the deep brooding fear that comes with this: audience alienation. I invite disappointment. Readers who picked up BEATRYSEL and loved the occult grit and mayhem there, might be put off by the slow burn of ELEANOR. Fans of THE UNSEEN, in love with the tender vulnerability of my Wyoming girl, might follow my name to THE BRAND DEMAND and, expecting cheesecake, get a big plate of meat and potatoes.

I’m mixing metaphors, but that’s appropriate. Though all my books have my name on them, they are all different. The audience for one book is not necessarily the same for the next one. Occult horror, paranormal character study, contemporary political mystery. Uh, yeah, that’s a wide spectrum for only three books.

I’m probably overthinking this. My fans hopefully have come to understand me and what I’m doing from the books and stories I have out. They appreciate my words, my subtexts and symbols, my questions and style. They will be drawn my skill to anything I write. Or not. <gulp>

THE BRAND DEMAND is an excellent book, full of intrigue, adventure and danger. It poses cultural questions and personal responses. It’s got more local color than a Utah Travel Brochure. It’s a fantastic addition to my menagerie, er, I mean library of titles.

It’s an adult book. It’s meant to illicit responses while entertaining readers. It has the potential to get me ostracized from my state or bring me a whole new wave of fans.

And that is the issue. Fans. With each new title, as excellent as my books are are, unless you’re a personal friend of mine and follow my name to the different bookshelves of you book store, I have to cultivate a new fan base for each title.

I’m not worried about the THE BRAND DEMAND. It’s a great book, a smooth ride, easy to get into, easy to enjoy. I’m proud of it and excited to see it go free into the literary world. It’ll find its readers and they’ll dig it. BRAND fans will have an easy transition into my next genre of detective noir in the fall when Tony Flaner arrives in THE FINGER TRAP. Lovers of that book, will be at home with BRAND. Here at least I’ll be able to share readers. I hope.

Getting readers is hard work. If I were to specialize in one genre I’d have a much easier time drawing existing fans to new titles, but alas, that ship has sailed. I have to live with my slavish devotion to my one guaranteed fan and sail the course I’m on. It’s an adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment