Readers – have you ever fallen out of love with your favourite genre?

lost-places-1549096_1920Ever fallen out of love? One minute you’re contemplating hours spent cuddled up on the sofa, you’re even coordinating your coffee cup with their jacket, sharing soft-focus shots on Instagram. The next you wonder what you ever saw in them.

I like literary fiction, historical fiction and narrative non-fiction, but I think of myself primarily as a crime fiction fan. I’m drawn to crime for lots of different reasons – the questions it asks about why people transgress, the complex motives of those who choose to investigate them, what crime says about society and morality. I like the narrative drive that propels the novel, above all the need to know.

The best genre fiction both follows the rules and subverts them. You want the comfort of the familiar and to be surprised. Now, though, I find myself weary at having to march through all those obligatory scenes. One person’s command of the genre is another’s tired trope.

Have I left crime or has it left me? I haven’t found much to get excited about recently. Of course, a lot of books have been held back this year. And all genres – all art forms – go stale from time to time. There will be an exciting innovation, and then there will be an avalanche of copycats, following the formula but missing the point.

What makes it more complicated is that I’m writing crime fiction too, which makes me feel like a fraud: I’m trying to write a book which, right now, I wouldn’t necessarily want to read. To be fair, my books have often fallen into the unmarketable chasm between crime and literary fiction, but now I’m flirting with writing a book that isn’t crime fiction at all.

Last time I had a downer on crime fiction, what got me over it was turning my back on ARCs and discovering lots of well-established authors who I’d somehow missed. That’s the thing about being a reader. If you’re a movie buff, there won’t be many mainstream Hollywood names you haven’t heard of, but the world of books is so huge there are always great authors to stumble across.

For now I’m reading other genres and fewer new releases – turning to books that have a made a name by being read and loved, rather than the empty promises of a press release. I’m enjoying literary fiction, classics and a bit more non-fiction. I’m swiping right on the library app on books I wouldn’t normally give a second glance. I’ll probably come home to crime, but if I don’t, who knows? Maybe it’s the beginning of a whole new reading life.

Have you ever walked away from a genre? Or did you just need time apart?

12 Comments

    1. As you say in your post, sometimes a total break from reading fiction can be good. It’s also good to hop into another genre and be surprised. I notice this when literary friends occasionally read a ‘literary thriller’ and are blown away by a twist which felt totally obvious to me as a crime fan!

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  1. When I was a kid I read a lot of historical fiction — Rosemary Sutcliff, Geoffrey Trease, Henry Treece — but as I got older I found historical ‘fact’ more arresting and now I can barely bear to read my youthful favourites.

    Alternatively, I wouldn’t avoid genre-crossing novels that included historical fiction because what excites me is innovative attempts to cross to and fro over boundaries. I now find epic fantasy rather tired, for example (mainly because of repetitive tropes and clichés) but occasionally they confound expectations — in a good way — usually by the quality of writing, favouring language and characterisation for example. For you that may well favour dialling up the literary aspect in your crime fiction, though I’m sure your crime fiction is very literary anyway!

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    1. I’ve read some interesting cross-genre books, like SG Maclean’s Seeker novels – thrillers set in Cromwell’s London – and some interesting science fiction/crime crossovers. I do like a literary thriller too.

      Your childhood favourites are new to me – though I had a terrible Jean Plaidy habit when I was a kid!

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  2. My genre likes tend to flow. I’ll read a genre (or subgenre) for a while before trying something else, then I’ll often move back to the old genre every so often. And they can be strange overall-I’ve always liked alternate history more than plain historical fiction.

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  3. This is an interesting post. I think our tastes change… I liked Jilly Cooper when in my late teens, good family dramas and racy Jackie Collins type blockbusters when in my 20s and 30s, but now the books I go for tend to be historical fiction, scifi, post apocalyptic and dystopian stuff. I didn’t know I liked this sort of thing until I was in my 50s – I kept reading the contemporary dramas I’d always liked so much, and wondering why they hadn’t got enough ‘meat’ for me. Possibly this just reflects my ageing process – I have very little interest in romance/relationships, now, but think a lot about the future of mankind!!!! Similarly, with how I write, I found that my own contemporary dramas were getting darker and darker, until the ended up with the virtual extinction of humanity, ha ha!

    As for getting bored with the genre standards, I do know what you mean – I feel the same with my genre of choice on occasion; too many of them start in the same way. On the other hand, maybe we’ve just been reading mediocre books 😉

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    1. I agree that a lot of it is unimaginative use of the genre conventions. I wish there weren’t so many copycat books out there, but it seems they sell so I can’t blame the publishers!

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  4. I’ve never broken off the relationship formally but have certainly had some long separations. But from the other side, I guess it probably looks like a break-up (*laughs* I don’t think of it that way, but I appreciate the question you posed!) and I’m sure the genre went on and found a more loyal partner ages ago; I fell in love with crime fiction in the ’90s and read voraciously and loyally (to certain series) for years (about ten) but always alongside other reading, until the early aughts when I started to read more devotedly in other directions which took more and more of my reading times until they’d eclipsed the genre (with a couple of exceptions). Your books sound like stories I would enjoy, and I wish that my vision issues didn’t require that I limit my screen time so I could read more epubs.

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  5. Thanks for your kind words about my books. They’re available in print on demand on Amazon but I know they’re expensive (and it’s Amazon…). I’d like to have them in bookshops/libraries one day, but alas I don’t currently sell enough to make it worthwhile!

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