What Genre is This?

To be completely honest, I never really thought much about genre before about three years ago. I had little interest in publication (at least not serious interest), so it didn’t matter how to categorize it. I wrote what I wanted to read.

I still do that, to an extent. I write what moves me. When an idea inspires me, I write it. When dark things happen, it’s because it’s visceral and it resonates with me. If I look back and see that it’s horror, than let it be so.

I used to write primarily fantasy. I aimed to write like all my favorite high fantasy writers – Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan – but that genre has never been mine. I could never quite capture the right mood, or tone, or theme, or any of that. I had an impossible time with the world building and my epic save-the-world type quests always felt meaningless.

But I’ve never been able to write straight mainstream, either. I need something supernatural. Some slightly magical element. I need my monsters to be something you can fight (or run away from). Life is too plain for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite familiar with the fact that bad things can happen in real life and there are plenty of monstrous people in the real world. Still, I have to push the boundaries of what is real and what is imaginary in life, because I’ve never quite stopped believing that magic is possible and that there are fantastical things out there for us to find.

When I discovered urban fantasy was a thing, I was thrilled. For years I had been writing fantasy that took place in the modern world, but was at a loss of what to call it. I stole some of that from Clive Barker, who, looking back, affected my writing quite a bit. Between the horror in Terry Brooks fantasy and the fantasy in Clive Barker’s horror, seasoned with the works of Joss Whedon, my writing style was born.

And I think urban fantasy is as close to naming it as you can get. I know all genres have sub-genres, and maybe I fall into one of those niches, but I’d never take the time to figure out which ones. It’s not my job to name my genre.

It’s just my job to write it. I’ll find publishers who publish novels with similar feelings and tones and themes, and they can call it whatever they want. I’ll keep writing what moves me, and I’ll leave it to others to name the genre.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.


    • Yeah, I used to think what I wrote was magical realism, but I think I have a little bit too much magic in my writing to actually qualify. Usually magical realism is set in real world with a slightly unbelievable/supernatural characteristic or twist. My style – in my full length novels more than my shorts – tends to have whole magical hidden subworlds or doorways to other worlds or magical creatures living along side humans and whatnot. I think urban fantasy better describes what I write, while magical realism I think is more along the lines of literary fiction spiced with some small supernatural element. I definitely write genre fiction, I’m just sometimes not sure what genre it falls under.

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