I’m often asked what type of author I am, generally a question asking for what genre my books lie in. I’ve always felt uncomfortable answering with the answer of science fiction, as my books generally rely on some fairly light science fiction. Fantasy also seems to be a stretch, since, again, the fantasy elements are barely a defining factor. Recently, I’ve begun using the term Adventure Novelist to describe myself, as all of my books (so far) really carry with them a sense of adventure, of venturing into the unknown and, ultimately, working to survive.
But Adventure Novelist isn’t exactly a well-recognized term….by anyone, to be honest. It’s a well-established format, even having a wikipedia article to showcase popular books that fall within this genre, but you’re hardly going to find an Adventure section in your local bookstore…although you might find one labeled Sparkling Vampires…a much newer genre of book.
So, when people ask, and I answer outside of the more standard genres of mystery, horror, sci-fi, western, fantasy, or zombie, they often give me a funny look…a look that says, “I’m not sure that’s a genre…do you have any clue what you’re talking about?”
Take a look at the above linked to article on wikipedia. The adventure novel is a genre with a well-respected group of talented authors. Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Victor Hugo, Ian Fleming, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even J.R.R. Tolkien, which, although he really re-defined the fantasy genre, his books typically were a by-the-book adventure novel, right down to the, you know…adventure.
I hate genre today. I spent forever hiding from the idea of genre, because it felt too restraining. Possibly because novels are more defined today by settings or plot devices than they are about the type of story being told. Dystopia is not a genre, it’s a backdrop. Vampires? Please…they’re a character arch-type at best. Steampunk? Don’t get me started on how absolutely ridiculous this is as a genre (one, I might add, that people keep expecting to get popular, but just plain never does). It’s a stylistic approach to design within a world, but hardly tells you what type of book you’re getting into.
Here’s the issue. People have gotten used to being able to consume so much of one particular type of thing. You know…I like crime dramas, I’m going to watch all of the Law & Orders on Netflix, then move over to NCIS, and, you know, if I have time, maybe Blue Bloods and ….whatever, you get the idea, there’s a lot of crime dramas. People like to have these specific worlds that things are in, and it makes sense. But crime dramas follow a pretty specific storytelling roadmap. You watch one show, you have a pretty good idea of how the other shows will play out, even if they have little quirks like how Bones likes to involve forensic research of…well…you know…bones…
Paranormal romance is for those folks who think it’s hot for monsters and humans to get it on…as far as I can tell. I mean, who hasn’t had daydreams about a ghost appearing in your bedroom at night, ready for love…that’s not at all weird at all, right? Making fun of the genre aside (which can be a lot more serious than I’m giving it credit for), people like the juxtaposition of monsters and romance and they can get about every single version of it they could ever dream of nowadays, just by looking at things under the heading of paranormal romance…or…you know…if you want to get really kinky…paranormal erotica…or dinosaur erotica? Yeah…treading some dangerous waters here, but if you are into something, you can get as much of it as you could possibly want. Hey, I really liked it when vampires and girls made it work as a strong relationship where he didn’t ever suck her blood and turn her into a monster even though she smelled like the most delicious rump roast ever roasted…you know…until he did…but he had a good reason, of course. I’m sure he did… But yeah, that was so good, I wonder about love between a zombie and a human. That would be some real drama there. I mean, those guys don’t just want blood…they want brains and whatever flesh they can get. And flesh is hot, man…
Okay, I digressed a little bit there. Although…now I’m interested in finding some zombie romance novels and seeing how that would actually play out.
But the thing is, adventure novels aren’t quite so nailed down. Sure, there’s the basic concepts where people get involved in some exciting affair and risk life and limb to get out of it…but that could involve pretty much anything. It could be pirates, it could be trolls, it could be pirates fighting trolls. Who the heck knows? You look under and adventure category and you have absolutely no clue what you’ll find.
I don’t quite work that way when I read. If you’ve ever heard me talk about a book I’m about to get into, you’ll learn that I often know absolutely nothing about a book before I start reading it. I might know the genre, which, as stated above, can give a lot of the details away right off the bat, but that’s about it. I like to be surprised, I like new stories and adventures. Adventure fiction has always been my go-to style. And I think it could be yours as well. Because adventure fiction thrives on being cross-genre. Indiana Jones (going to movies simply because they have the greatest chance of being known by the majority of readers…oddly enough) wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting in Raiders of the Lost Ark if it wasn’t for his female counterpart, Marion Ravenwood. Where would Han Solo be without his sexual tension with Leia? That’s right…adventure novels, more often than not, are very subtle romance novels as well. And there’s usually a mystery to be solved in there at the same time, trying to figure out what’s really going on in the background of this grand adventure. There’s always someone who’s going to turn sides.
Adventure novels, in my book, are the greatest form of fiction for one simple reason. It refuses to be constrained by definition. Adventure novels are focused on telling the best story possible, genres be damned.
So, when I tell you I’m an adventure novelist, it’s for one simple reason. I have a hard time limiting myself to the more popular genre requirements, but I love to tell complex stories that are, in the end, just fun fast reads.
If you’re looking for something to put an interested smile on your face while you sit on the beach and relax, pick up an adventure novel. You’re certain to be whisked away to somewhere new and find yourself more surprised about how things play out than in most other genres.