I joined a group on FB, where reviewers give their details, so that authors can find them more easily. It’s a database thing. Anyway, they asked me what genres I’m willing to review. My answer was simple – Anything (except horror, because I’m a feardy cat). That’s exactly what I wrote. And it’s the truth.
Now, you may notice a few horror stories on my TBR or Read listing on Goodreads. Why? Because I only read horror from one author. Under many pen names, I’ve read a few of their books, but the most recent one – Swallow You Whole, by Jasper Black – was fantastic. I will always pick up one of their books, because I never hesitate that I’m going to be scared, have a great story and brilliant characters. There is never any doubt about that.
Recently, I read a trilogy of stories in Love, Joy, Heartache and Pain, by John H. Ames. The first two were contemporary romance stories for a Young Adult audience (I think, as there was a lot of swearing and sex talk, but nothing explicit). However the third was this brilliantly crafted murder story, from the murderer’s POV. It was so creepy and so well done, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching at the same time, that I’ll be adding him to my list. Anything he writes, I’ll read.
This made me think about the genres I read and review. As we speak, I not only review for my blog, but Divine Magazine and Netgalley, which I recently signed up for. I went a little overboard with acceptances, because I hate saying no to people, and adding my own from Netgalley, so that I probably won’t have any free time, ever, for the foreseeable future.
I had a little trouble marking out my interests on my profile for Netgalley. Divine Magazine are all LGBT books, mostly MM, which is right up my alley. I get a lot of fantasy and romance novels through my blog. Netgalley, I figured, was just a way to find more of what I was reading. But I didn’t realise how difficult it was to pinpoint what I read and why. I included LGBT at first, as that was what I was really there for. Then I saw all these awesome fantasy and murder mystery books that I wanted to read, some great YA novels, too. I adapted my profile to include them. Some of the more “literary” publishers have declined my interest in their books, probably because I’m not marketing my interests correctly. But, I had a feeling that saying “I’ll read anything and everything” wouldn’t cut it. Or it would mean me having to turn down a bunch of requests for books I had no interest in.
I’m still learning. And I guess that’s the point of this post. I’m still learning and growing and adapting what I’ll read.
I’ve read horror stories before. Some really gruesome that made me feel slightly sick (Mr. Fingers, by C.N. Faust and Self-Aware, by Steven Wolff come to mind), while I’ve read some that made me cry and think twice (John H. Ames, as mentioned above. The individual story was called The Lake View Psychopath). I also read one that made me profoundly uncomfortable, recently, and that wasn’t even a purely horror story (Chasing Sunrise, by Lex Chase). I even read one that has become one of my all time favourite novels (Protagonist’s Antagonist, by G. Streator).
So, what do I like?
Well, I know I love LGBT, so anything with that element is going to be given a chance. However, I’m learning that it’s not the “genre” that’s the problem. It’s the content of that genre.
I’ve read books with cannibalism, demons, vampires, torture, rape and so much more. I can handle most of those, no matter how explicit or how much they make me cringe. But, in Chasing Sunrise, being in the POV of a sadist made my skin crawl, until I wanted to throw my Kindle away and never look at the book again. It seriously creeped me out. For Mr. Fingers, I survived the torture, mutilation and more, without so much as doing a slight cringe, even though it was some of the goriest stuff I’d read in a while. The Lake View Psychopath actually stole my sympathy and I could feel and understand his motivations, despite being in his POV.
I’ll probably never know the delicate mix that makes one horror book perfectly fine and another make me want to throw up. It’s not the writing. I can promise you that the writing and characterisation, the plot and attention to detail were incredible in all the stories mentioned. They were all great in their own way.
So how can one author elicit emotional fear in the reader, while another inspires compassion? How can two similar events from two different stories, cause such vastly different reactions in the same reader?
Is there a genre you have trouble with? What’s the difference for you? Do you have the same problem, dividing a genre into “terrifying”, “creepy” and “sympathetic”?