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Defining things

I've had a fun summer trying to define books. Mostly my own, but sometimes others to keep me on the straight and narrow.

For Abendau I've explored definitions of Space Opera, of Grimdark, encountered the term Spacemance (a romance set in space), of psychological thrillers, of Space Fantasy. For Inish Carraig, I've played around with Young Adult and Crossover fiction, science fiction and thriller, and haven't fully nailed a single definition.

As I was revising book two of Abendau, things got even murkier. The Spacemance is a big theme, but it's a grown up relationship with all the hard angles and history people carry (and those who've read Abendau's Heir will appreciate it's a lot of history.) It's a thriller, with big set pieces. It's about personal history and legacies, and grief. It's about families and friendships and blurred lines between people.

In short, it's about people. Not a space empire although that feeds into it. Not about feuds and infighting and military leadership, although that, too, has its place. No, Abendau is about a person, in this case a man, and his demons. His friends, his family, everything that makes him Kare. It's about Sonly, and Lichio, about characters the reader has yet to meet. I once described it as Dynasty in Space, and I'm not sure that wasn't a good definition.

I delved further, and realised all my books are about people. Sure, the setting matters. Inish Carraig would have a different feel if not set in Belfast. But the setting is secondary to the story of a lad trying to survive and do his best for his family. The centre of the story is about John growing up into the man he'll be, about the relationship he forms with Henry, the policeman who bonds with him. The story around it - of aliens and conspiracies, of powerlessness in the face of great events, of quiet bravery - drives the reader forwards but always, always at the centre of the story are the people.

I've yet to write a book that wasn't like that. It was important for me to stop and recognise it because this summer I'm hoping to complete the good first draft (as opposed to the smudgy, sketchy, two word chapters outline) of what will be my seventh book (it always seems odd, to have books not yet out yet, a part of me yet hidden and unknown to anyone else.)

The book I'm planning to write over the summer was inspired by its setting in the forest. It's sat for a year and now Charley, the main character, is ready to explode. Like John in Inish Carraig, she's a teen at that awkward age of becoming the Charley not yet known. It's about an alien child who needs empathy. It's about families, and love, and working together. In other words, again, it's about the people.

Which brings me full circle. It has a genre, if you like - YA SF. It's a different genre than any other book I've written. Arguably, that puts it in a different market.

Here's the thing, though - it's the same market as anything I write. It goes on the invisible shelf called 'Stories about people.' It doesn't matter what the label is, just what it actually is: a messy story about a person who's real in my mind, and who's doing their best. Just like we all do.


Hey Jo, I don't know how important the precise classification thing is. I've had books recommended that I loathed, just because they're in a similar sub-genre as one that I loved.

Hopefully, we'll both be able to find an audience of core readers who enjoy what we do. :)