My debut novel, Slipping on Stardust, having been published quite recently, I am for the first time focusing on the various categories of fiction. I was surprised to find that there are so many, some to me more clear and sensible than others.
I think I get what a children’s book is. I also understand the difference between a contemporary novel and a historical one although the latter would seen to embrace both books that simply take place in the past, i.e., not contemporary, and those that are set in and relate to major historic events. It might be tempting to resort to the definitional distinction between historic and historical, but that won’t work because calling a novel historic creates the impression that the novel, as well as the historic event around which it is centered, is itself destined for the history books.
Romance is an extremely broad, well populated category of novels. In my “unauthorized” autobiography, Wet Firecrackers, I identified love as one of three primal sources of pleasure, the other two being education and creation. I went on to subdivide love into love of sex, love of family and friends, love of pets, love of nature, and love of art. If I’ve left anything out, do let me know because “I’m [always] in the Mood for Love.” I get the feeling that a “romance novel” probably centers on sexual love, but, as I say I’m a new (albeit old) comer.
Once sex is on the table (shades of Jessica Lange cooking up something in the kitchen other than dinner in the second film version of The Postman Always Rings Twice), we come to degrees and kinds of depiction, and, here, I think that Secret/Sweet Cravings Publishing has it right with its flame system. I also think the word “explicit” is highly useful in letting readers know how rough a ride they’re in for. Equally useful are the initialisms, M/M/F/B/D/S/M/T/G and on and on—arrange the letters as you will in the interests of full and fair disclosure to potential readers.
In considering descriptions like suspense, mystery, and thriller, I think it’s a matter of emphasis in the novel. I believe that in order for any novel to be worthy, it must surely engage and entertain (and maybe enlighten, if you’re lucky) the reader and that these objectives are generally realized by setting up some basic conflicts--conflicts which are most successfully resolved with some measure of suspense and mystery, all enlisted for the ultimate objective of producing a thrilling novel. But for these words to apply categorically to a novel, I would think they should be considered more as ends than as means in the telling of the story. Dealing with whether the farmer’s daughter will succumb to the charms of the hunky rodeo rider in the tack room or the barn does not by itself qualify a book as a suspense or mystery novel in my view.
I consider Slipping on Stardust as a romance suspense novel. You be the judge as to whether that characterization is accurate.
I’ll end with a comment about YA. When I first heard of it, I thought it was about a club of women sitting around quilting. But apparently it means Young Adult. I can’t decide whether this appellation is oxymoronic or just plain moronic. I can’t decide whether YA is exclusionary (mature adults) or condescending (young readers). I suspect both.
As stated above, these are reactions of a newbie to the world of novels, and I welcome the views of more seasoned writers of novels, of which there is certainly no shortage.