Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Polly Iyer Interviews Polly Iyer on Genres

Q. What genre do you write?
A. I write cross-genre fiction.

Q. What’s that?
A. That’s the genre that agents and editors tell you they can’t place on the bookshelf when they reject you. Bookstores can’t find a place for your book either.

Q. So, do you write either mystery, suspense, or thrillers?
A. Yes, all three, sometimes in one book, but there’s also romance.

Q. Then it’s romantic suspense?
A. Not really.

Q. Why not?
A. Because I don’t follow the romantic-suspense formula. Sometimes the romances in my books don’t have a HEA, Happy Ever After. Romance Writers of America classifies Romantic Suspense this way: The love story is the main focus of the novel, a suspense/mystery/thriller plot is blended with the love story, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic. Though my books have a romance, crime is the focus of the story. RWA has tempered their former explanation of a definite HEA to an ending that is emotionally satisfying and optimistic. That leaves some room for H/h (Hero/heroine—notice the female H is in small letters. I take umbrage.) to maybe get together, maybe not, but probably. My book Hooked has that kind of ending.
I leave it up to the reader to decide. I have one more book with the same kind of ending.

Q. So, Hooked is a romance with a satisfying and optimistic ending?
A. I thought so, but some reviewers did not find the ending at all satisfying. They wanted to know what happened after the last page. Oh, and there’s humor in this one too.

Q. So it’s a Romantic Comedy?
A. Oh, no. There’s humor but there are a few murders, so it really isn’t funny. Just humorous in parts.

Q. So how do you characterize your work?
A. Broadly? Suspense with a hint of romance.

Q. And humor.
A. Sometimes. My last book, Backlash, is very serious. Even though the two main characters are a couple, there’s no hot romance in this one. But there are romantic elements.

Q. Sigh. I’m thoroughly confused. Maybe you should create a new genre to satisfy everyone.
A. Oh, that’s impossible. A writer will never satisfy everyone. I’ve had readers think I tell the best stories ever and others who think I should learn how to write. Agents, on the other hand, are only satisfied if the book meets the current genre in vogue, and writers better be fast because that changes as often as women change shoes. Agents can’t pitch a novel and call it Crime Fiction with Romance and Humor, now, can they? Editors of large publishing houses already have the books filtered first by agents, so they don’t see all of what’s out there, but they want to be on the cutting edge as well. Publishers want to be able to pitch the book to the bookstores, and bookstores have to know where to put the book in the store. What it comes down to is some writers have to put up with an unimaginative bunch in order to get published.

Think back to J.K. Rowling, who had a hell of a time getting any publisher to read Harry Potter. Then, when it became a huge success, agents, editors, and publishers all wanted wizard books. Then it changed again to vampires, and that changed to--you get the picture. Exhausting, isn’t it?

Q. How do you do it then?
A. I self-publish.

Q. What does that mean?
A. I can do anything I damn well please and hope readers find me and like what I write.

Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. "Agents, on the other hand, are only satisfied if the book meets the current genre in vogue, and writers better be fast because that changes as often as women change shoes." So true! But it isn't just agents; big publishers rely on their marketing departments to tell them what will sell.

  2. Correct. I mentioned that too. Everyone has their own special bandwagon.

  3. Enjoyed your post - filled with truth...and humor!

    1. Thanks, Ashantay. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the inanity of it all.

  4. Love it Polly. I don't care what genre it is. Great interview. Great interviewer!

    1. Thanks, Ellie. We write what we write. There are some genres I just wouldn't do justice, so I stick to what I know, or don't know but write anyway.

  5. I think the last sentence in the post sums it up quite nicely, Polly. Oh, and the whole talking to yourself thing ... I sure can relate to that.

    1. Of course the catch is that readers do have to find me, and as far as talking to myself, I'm usually the only one who listens to me. Thanks for commenting, Christopher.

  6. Genre is the bane of my existence, Polly. You’d think with the decline in the number of bookstores, genre rules would ease, but in fact, they continue to narrow. While agents definitely walk the walk, it’s publishers who create the path. I think most books have a primary genre, but as you say, unless the writer followed the formula, chances are the book will be relegated to cross-genre. It has not escaped my attention that the closer I write to formula, the more likely I am to get a piece published.

    VR Barkowski

    1. I thought genre definitions were loosening, but I'm not aiming at agents or publishers, so I'm out of the loop. Formula works for me if it doesn't scream formula, but when I can see it coming, I lose a little interest in the book. As far as getting a piece published, if writing to formula works, then by all means, write to formula. You're good enough not to scream what you're doing. Besides, most readers don't know the formulas, except for romance readers. They just want a good story.

  7. I'm with Christopher -- love your last question and answer, Polly. That's really what it's all about. :-)

  8. Exactly, Linda. I love that I can do that and don't have to answer to anyone. So, all and all, pluses and minuses, but the pluses win for me.

  9. Replies
    1. You know how to stick to your genre, Maggie. And good for you. I'm still experimenting. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Love the interview, Polly, and that interviewing yourself was a brilliant idea. I find formulaic writing makes me, as a reader, lose interest or put it aside for a day when I feel brain dead. I've noticed that I give those books a 3-star review, too. I feel badly for the author who has done the hard work of writing to the formula and then gets a less-than-stellar review. But I also notice that there are many 4- and 5-star reviews for the same book, so there readers out there who love formula.

    Enough - enjoyed the interview and love your writing so keep on doing what you're doing.

  11. Thanks, Claire. I've noticed that those books are also mainly published by larger publishers, so what do I know? I'm glad you enjoy my books. I enjoy writing them.

  12. Appreciate the post, Polly! I, too, have decided to let the chips fall where they may and continue with my 'eclectic' historical fiction writing... Important to value one's soul, no?

    1. Eclectic. That's a great word for how we write. We'll just keep doing what we're doing and hope for the movie deal. :-)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...