I recently read an interview with award-winning Aussie novelist Gary Disher who, among other things, has written a series of crime novels. He made comments which really resonated with me.
When asked how he felt about being classed as a crime writer he replied that he'd prefer to be just called a novelist. He went on to say he would prefer that, at writing festivals, writers weren't divided divided into genres, as if all they could write was in that particular area and have nothing to contribute to panels in wider areas.
In principle I completely agree.
But it got me thinking. Had he espoused this sentiment before he was tarred with the genre brush? Does he really feel all writers are created equal and should be seen/treated that way, or does he actually believe there is more 'merit' in being a 'writer' rather than a 'genre writer' and maybe his new title was a come-down in his perceived status and/or credibility?
We all crave recognition of our efforts and for any success that may come our way. For me it doesn't matter that not everyone sees genre writers as less credible or less worthy of the 'writer' mantle.
As far as I'm concerned, if we write anything and write consistently, we are writers. What we write should not define us, nor should it diminish the value of our efforts or successes. If those who need to judge must have a criteria then perhaps it should be numbers of books sold = the number of people who love what we've produced – oh, but then the genre writers would come out on top.
I love my chosen genre. I love the stories, the writers, our network; the way we support, encourage and celebrate each others successes and commiserate with disappointments. I'm proud of what we bring to the readers and to the writing community. I don't love the way the genre has been, and occasionally still is, belittled in the media and (sadly) by non-genre writers.
I don't know how, or why, this 'class distinction' evolved but it did, and it's still here. Stephen King said that he felt his detractors took their position because he appealed to too many people. He was too popular. That certainly could be the case – those who can, sell lots of books, do. Those who can't, try to convince everyone that it's somehow a badge of honour to be less popular.
But while it may boost some authors' egos to be seen as (in posh voice) 'a writer', do the people that really count – the readers – apply labels? Surely they just see good or bad writing, stories they love, or don't.
I know as romance writers we are proud of our work and of the worldwide popularity of our multi-faceted genre. I'm interested to know whether you see yourself as a 'writer', a 'romance writer' or is there, in fact, no distinction?