A really interesting lineup for the Orange shortlist this year. Two of my books have been longlisted (and then not shortlisted) in the past, I know the ouch of that, so I’m feeling this morning for those whose books aren’t on the shortlist, but I’m also delighted about those that are. Lorrie Moore and Barbara Kingsolver are wonderful writers, and I’m particularly thrilled to see Attica Locke’s Black Water Rising there – it’s a crime novel, a political thriller, it’s published by Serpent’s Tail who did my own crime novels, it’s a first novel and did I mention it was a crime novel?
I have my own first historical novel coming out in a little over six weeks, have written five crime novels, and the rest have been sold as – and I’m sure they are! – literary fiction. But I’ve always maintained that ALL fiction fits into some genre or another, and ‘literary’ is just another genre, albeit the (only) one that too many reviewers, books editors, commentators insist we writers should aspire to. I aspire to writing a good story. I hope that in writing a good story I will have great characters (often seen as a hallmark of commercial fiction), great plot (usually seen as the mark of genre fiction), and great style (generally thought of as the indicator of literary fiction) – but I don’t want to achieve just one of those three, I want all three. I think any serious writer wants all three, that’s what we aim for anyway – it’s ‘merely’ the marketing and the publicity and the necessity of also selling (!) our books that means we then get shelved into literary or crime or romance or thriller etc etc … Those of us who care about our writing simply want to tell a good story the best we can. (Unfortunately achieving that is the tricky bit!)