Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cozy Thrills

Please welcome Cozy Chicks friend and talented author Camille Minichino (also writing as Margaret Grace and Ada Madison).

I'm planning to lock myself in a bookstore overnight and re-shelve all the books. After that, I'll penetrate the libraries.

It's the categories that annoy me.

Some of them make sense: art, self-help, travel, reference ... but what about the "Fiction and Literature" category? Are fiction and literature different? Is there some fiction that's not literature? Is it IL-literature, then? Is there some literature that's not fiction? We know there is, but aren't those volumes across the aisle in Nonfiction?

While we're at it, let's look at the other bookcases. There's a set, around the corner from "Fiction and Literature," labeled "Mystery."

Hmm. Is Mystery neither Fiction nor Literature? Confusing, isn't it.

We mystery writers like to think we create engaging characters, interesting and complex stories, rich settings, and aesthetically pleasing turns of phrases.

In other words, literature.

Within mystery, there are even more categories. The usefulness of labels such as "cozy" and "thriller" has been batted around for a few years now, and written up very well by The Cozy Chicks, so I won't rehash old arguments.

My 14th and newest book, "The Square Root of Murder" is labeled "cozy." If that tells you, correctly, that you won't be weeping at a tragic ending or blocking your preteen daughter's eyes when Professor Sophie Knowles entertains her boyfriend, I'm satisfied.

What I do want to report is that there were no arguments, no first- and second-class citizens at the ThrillerFest conference in New York earlier this month. It was my first ThrillerFest (I'll be back) and I'm pleased to note that no one suggested I go to the back of the room when the panels started.

I was considered a writer of books with thrills, like all the others in the bookroom. I sat next to Steve Martini at the signing table (an unforeseen advantage of my new pen name) and he was as welcoming as if I'd penned a book where the fate of the planet (or Los Angeles) was at stake.

Booksellers often claim that identifying books in more specific categories makes it easier for readers to locate what they want. Heaven forbid a reader might pick up a book and realize that it's slightly off the formula he or she is used to.

"Oh, no," she'd say. "I wanted a mystery and I got fiction!"

Bam! She'd throw down the book in an instant. So perhaps the categories are for the protection of book spines.

What do you think? Do you seek out a certain category of books or are you open to simply a good read?

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer, the author of The Periodic Table Mysteries. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries). The first chapter of The Square Root of Murder is on her website


Camille Minichino said...

How nice to be visiting Cozy Chicks. I always wondered if I'd look ok in pink and now I know -- I love it.

Thanks so much for hosting me.

Liz V. said...

I find an author whom I like and then try to read through everything. Name change(s) sometimes defeat me.

Sometimes get sidetracked, but usually by a friend's worthwhile suggestion.

Thus, I may have multiple authors, with numerous identities, shelfed who knows where. So, if you can fix the latter, my aging brain would be appreciative.

Carol S said...

Give me mysteries, cozies and thrillers anytime instead of the current fiction and literature crop which mainly consists of whining, backstabbing, bedhopping and incest. That is no more a good read than a "reality" TV show is "real".

Barbara said...

Many of the mysteries I read are what I consider literature. The genre has been looked down on for too long, and putting mystery novels in another section just emphasizes how they're snubbed.

Susan said...

I tend to read mysteries (and am grateful for the mystery section of bookstores) and romance. I think it is becoming more difficult to categorize books as books cross genres and may include multiple genres. I think that there are so many books that meet the mystery, romance, and western genres that they are put in their own category. Those that are left (the un-further-categorizable) are put in fiction-and-literature.

Booklady said...

I read across the genres - I'm more likely to follow a particular author than a particular genre. But as an elementary school librarian I can understand the challenge that public libraries and perhaps book stores face in arranging the books. As a librarian one of my goals is to teach children how to find the information (books) for which they are looking. Many children (and I would venture adults as well) just want to know where the ghost books are or where the dog/cat stories are. I guess in my case it's not so much whether mysteries are literature (yes they are), but what the subject is. Give me a good mystery with a dog and a cat and throw in a ghost to boot and I'm good to go.

Vicki said...

I aspire to get my Master's in library science. I don't know how they categorize the books at the library but maybe once I have my degree I will understand it better and not be so exasperated when trying to find what I am looking for when I visit my library. I know how to use the card catalog but often like to wander the stacks, however, some of my favorite authors are in both fiction and mystery, don't ask me how they divide the books! It's anyone's guess but I get a good workout running between. To add insult to injury, my library also only stocks parts of a series, usually beginnings and ends and leaves the middle hanging! Not appreciated.

Camille Minichino said...

It's nice to meet so many new (to me) mystery fans!

I can't imagine no middles, Vicki. If any of my "middles" are missing, I'd be glad to fill in.

Aurian said...

I live in Holland, and haven't been in a library for ages, though as a child I was there almost daily. But as I read only English books nowadays, I buy them all on the internet. I use fantasticfiction somedays to browse, hopping from author to author. And of course getting recommendations from other bloggers is important and makes my wishlist grow every day. So the category or genre is not all that important to me.
But I am stubborn too, if a book is labelled as literary, I won't read it. I just want to be entertained by a book.

Shel said...

I don't care what they call it, as long as it's a good read. But to use the labels as they currently are, I read a mix of cozies, mystery/thriller (think Dana Stabenow and Nevada Barr, but I don't like serial killers), historical fiction, and urban fantasy (think Dresden Files, not Lord of the Rings), and a smattering of what is currently called "chick lit" or "women's literature".
I'll give almost anything a try if it sounds good to me, or if it's recommended by someone who knows my taste.
What drives me batty is the snobbery that some writers of "literature" indulge in for "genre" writers. As Camille so wisely said, "It's all literature", so they need to get over it!

Camille Minichino said...

Yes, thanks, Shel, for that parting line!

It seems many of us are in agreement on this: give me a good book, period.

Dru said...

I read mostly in the mystery and thriller genre with a few women's literature books.

I read what I like as long as it is good.

ev said...

I tend to avoid the "Literature and Fiction" section, unless I am looking for a classic or a specific author. Too much over the years, the Fiction titles have all been Oprah picks- and we have no where near the same reading taste! If her name was on it, I avoided it. I read to be entertained and to escape, not be depressed and want to kill myself by the time I am done with the book.

That said, I tend to hang in the mystery/thriller section, which also includes military fiction and the romance section, unless I want LKH then I head to horror and over to Sci-fi/Fantasy.

I guess I like having my books broken down into categories. Which made it easier to shelve them when I worked at Border's. Can you imaging having to move shelves and shelves of books trying to put a new release in the middle of the section. Multiply that by all the fiction sections if they were shelved together by author!

Just the thought puts me in need of a drink and some chocolate!

Angela - Bookaunt said...

I myself like to look for books by the authors name. If you think of it there are at least three fiction shelves in bookstores, mystery, romance and fiction/literature. If you are going to pull two fiction categories out why not pull them all out, what about historical fiction or chick lit.I think all fiction books should be housed together and not seperated out by categories. Just my opinion.

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

I couldn't agree with you more. When you decide to spend the night in the bookstores and libraries re-shelving, thus re-categorizing, them, I'd like to help.
Mystery categories are a mystery. Sometimes, suspense is considered a sub category of mystery, sometimes it's linked to thriller and, other times, it's a separate genre. Very confusing!