Saturday, September 23, 2017

Everything old is new again

The market has been awash with "girl" thrillers and mysteries in the wake of _Gone Girl_ (don't even get me started on how much I despise adult women being referred to as "girl").

Along with the wave of girls (gone, on a train, tattooed, or other), I've noticed a rise in what I see a sort of hybrid -- books that have elements (sometimes very strong elements) of either mystery or suspense, but which have a co-equal emphasis on the inner journey of the protagonist. These are often marketed as "women's fiction" (why is fiction with a male protagonist simply "fiction"? again, don't get me started). Liane Moriarty and Beatriz Williams are two that come to mind.

Although I normally write mysteries and thrillers, my latest project falls along this hybrid spectrum. Assuming the novel ends up with wings and fur in roughly equal measure, how does one query a bat? Suspenseful women's fiction? An emotional journey wrapped up in a mystery? Do I point to comp titles? What about just weeping? Would weeping work? Scratch that, we already know that sharks are unmoved by tears.

It's called domestic suspense and it's just Mary Stewart in the the new fall fashions.

Haven't read Mary Stewart?  Start with my favorite The Gabriel Hounds, and then Airs Above the Ground.

Mary Stewart's books used to be called romantic suspense.

Romantic suspense required a strong romantic element. Domestic suspense doesn't.

If you're querying domestic suspense you can certainly include comp titles. Liane Moriarty is a good place to start. Make sure you've read her work before you use it as a comp (as in don't just watch the TV show.)

I love Liane Moriarty's novels so I'm actively looking for domestic suspense.  Don't tell Jack Reacher though.


Kitty said...

OP wrote: don't even get me started on how much I despise adult women being referred to as "girl"

I immediately thought of a scene in the 1982 movie (not the book) "Cannery Row." Susie is flat broke and needs a job, so she goes to the local brothel, thinking it was a restaurant, run by an older woman named Fauna. Susie asked Fauna for a job as a waitress and learns what the establishment really is.

Susie: I'd still like a job.
Fauna: As what?
You know...a floozy.
First, we don't call ourselves floozies in here…

Fauna hired Susie and gave her some money to buy a dress. As Susie was leaving…

Susie: By the way, what do we call ourselves?
Fauna: "Girls" is good enough.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What a great way to start Saturday. I love Mary Stewart and have almost all of her books (not the Merlin trilogy). In addition to the two Janet listed, I also like her Madam, Will you Talk?

And a new genre? Emerging from the rabbit hole. Looks like Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman and Lisa Unger are also domestic suspense writers? And Sarah Weinman's anthology "Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense."

But I also read a blog that used family thriller synonymously (is that a word?) with domestic suspense. Although I just looked up a 2008 blog and find that thriller=action, suspense=danger but not necessarily action.

Kitty: Ha! Thank you for that tidbit!

And it's time to get at the writing. Happy Saturday, Reiders!

CynthiaMc said...

My daughter and I were once lectured for calling our outings where we get together for the sole purpose of having fun our Girls Day Out. "You are women, not girls" etc. I asked Daughter "Do you want to change?"

Daughter: Nope. Do you?

Me: Nope.

I love Mary Stewart (not the Merlin ones). I've lost count of how many times I've read Airs Above the Ground. I still love it.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Kari Lynn Dell said...

When I moved back to my hometown I went to the library, found the Mary Stewart books and looked at the little register inside where they used to write the name and date of everyone who checked it out. Mine was still there inside Airs Above the Ground and The Crystal Cave.

nightsmusic said...

Mary Stewart! Love everything Mary Stewart!

Now I shall take my sinus infection/creeping mung back to bed.

That is all...

Sarah said...

I love Mary Stewart! Madam, Will You Talk and Airs Above the Ground were my favorites. Every time I read one, I want to grab my passport and travel.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am a woman.
I was a girl, am a girl and will always be a girl, no problem.
"You go girl," I love it.
"Girl's night out," not a problem either
the latest ad for a low calorie snack food, with a "woman" lounging in her "She Shed"...I HATE THAT TERM.
Okay, as an alternative to "man cave," I get it but "she shed?"
The guys may be delegated to a done-over room in the basement or a slanted ceiling hang out in the attic or maybe even an extra bedroom but the "girls" getting a shed? I just love the idea of relaxing with the garden tools, especially the hoes.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Question: What about domestic noir? Is it the same as or a subset of domestic suspense? Mark Gottlieb and others say that currently, domestic noir rules supreme in publishing.

Lennon Faris said...

I have always struggled with this. I know getting the category *exactly* right doesn't make or break a query (usually), but I still don't want to appear stupid.

In my working/ planned query, I've resorted to the most broad category. I hope that the query itself will set the novel in the right place, before the agent even gets to the housekeeping.

2Ns - you always crack me up. I would hang out in my dad's shed but that's about it. He built it from scratch, it is small of course but clean and light with two walls of windows, also windows in the roof. He goes out there to read and bike on his stationary bike when it rains. Now THAT is a shed. Anything else, no, I'm with you!

Steve Stubbs said...

OP wrote: "These are often marketed as 'women's fiction' (why is fiction with a male protagonist simply 'fiction'? again, don't get me started)."

I'll try not to get you started. I have discovered to my amazement and bemusement how easy it is to get people started here. But I suspect "women's fiction" is fiction the publisher hopes will appeal to women, who constitute considerably more than half the paying customer market for fiction. Presumably editors hope their projected sales figures are not fiction, and I don't blame them. Spell it "women'$ fiction" with a dollar sign ($) and not a curly figure (s).

Agents, on the other hand, are interested only in art, and do not care about making money. God bless them, but I don't understand it.

Colin Smith said...

Arrggghh! More books to read!!! :-O

Actually, here's my takeaway: This is why agents list preferred genres, even if they're a "take anything" agent, like Janet. QOTKU clearly knows this market, so comp titles in mystery will mean more to her, and she has a good idea what will sell and what won't. I don't know that she could speak with the same authority or passion about sci-fi or fantasy, which is why she may turn down a perfectly good fantasy novel: she just doesn't know it as well, or is passionate enough about it to do the novel justice.

Timothy Lowe said...

Kitty: how interesting that Cannery Row has a movie. Apparently they mixed up strains of Sweet Thursday, its sequel, in it as well. (I think that's where that scene is from). Thanks for that recap.

I get why some people could object to 'girls'. But I think some people use 'boys' as well. I.e. 'boys' night out', 'boys in blue', etc.

I personally don't object to any term that makes me sound younger.

Kitty said...

Timothy, you're right; the movie was a combination of "Cannery Row" and "Sweet Thursday," which I absolutely loved. And that scene was in the book -- Chapter 5. -- but not that conversation. I still love the movie.

Timothy Lowe said...

Kitty: I love Steinbeck. I am rereading Of Mice and Men for a new reach this year. It is so simple yet not, utterly gorgeous. It's funny, too. He uses dialogue tags excessively, and effectively. He's made me decide not to shun them so much.

Craig F said...

Fairy tales can come true
It can happen to you
If you are young at heart.

If we could all still be in touch with our inner child, be it boy, girl or whatever, the world would be a brighter place.

I like women who can strip of their ladylike pose and show their inner girl. Of course I am still a Toys-R-Us kid at times too.

Go out and have fun on your Sunday, if you can.

Cheryl said...

Oh wow, I'd forgotten about Airs Above the Ground. I'll have to dig it up again.