A writer’s confession
by Mike Van Horn
I don’t know what genre my stories fit into. Yeah, it’s science fiction. Not hard sci-fi, since my heroine flies off to other stars. I know what it’s not. Not dreary dystopian, not vicious alien invaders, not far fuzzy future.
But what IS my genre? Maybe friendly first contact with personal journey? But try to find that in the Amazon categories.
Someone called my stories space opera. But there’s not even a fat lady to sing at the end.
I also don’t know who my target readers are. As I see it, my target readers are people who like my stories. But who are they? How do we even find out? It’s not like I’m writing romance or YA or steampunk or zombies, which all have definable audiences.
When I look at my Amazon reviews, they seem quite diverse: women and men, American and European. Amazon gives us no info on who buys our books. I’d love to interview my readers to see who they are.
I don’t know what the market is demanding. All the gurus say, scan the other books in your genre and see what’s selling the most, then write that. Ugh. First of all, there are so many sci fi books out there that I think are just terrible, or full of clichés. Of no interest to me at all.
Secondly, I don’t see many others that are “friendly first contact.” When one woman learned I was writing about friendly aliens who came as tourists and traders, she said, “That’s unusual.” I responded, “That’s why I’m writing it.”
Thirdly, I write what turns me on. For a long time I’ve been annoyed by the hostile alien invasion trope, and I wanted to write something different. I did no market research on the demand for this topic.
I don’t plan out my stories ahead of time. What I’m writing now started out as a short story, then it metastasized into a trilogy. And now I’m writing Book 4 of the trilogy. And in Book 4, I have no idea what’s going to happen to my heroine at the end. I’m waiting for her to tell me.
I don’t spend all my time reading other people’s stories, as gurus insist we should. Where would I get the time to do that? Most of my reading is non-fiction. And the novels I’m drawn to are often from years ago.
I don’t know where my story came from. Interviewers ask, “Where’d you get the idea for your book?” My answer, “I don’t remember.” “Well, how come you have a woman as your MC?” “I dunno. She just popped up in my mind, like my anima or muse.”
I’m doing all these things wrong. I don’t know whether I even count as a real writer.
But I’m having a great time doing it!
Mike’s trilogy includes Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard, My Spaceship Calls Out to Me, Space Girl Yearning, and Alien Invasion: There Goes the Neighborhood.