How Much Does Setting Determine Genre?

Rogues_Possession_finalI’m a bit of an oddity among the CRC authors, because I write in other genres, too. In fact, I’m a bit of a genre ho – I really haven’t met one I haven’t liked.

These days, I’m writing series in contemporary erotic romance, contemporary magical realismfantasy romance and adult fantasy. What’s funny to me is, they don’t necessarily feel like very different stories to me.

Rogue’s Possession, which comes out next week, is the second book in my Covenant of Thorns series from Carina Press. When I first started shopping the first book, Rogue’s Pawn, I called it Urban Fantasy. (Which shows you just how much any author knows about genre, right there.) Actually, I called it an urban fantasy that takes place in a non-urban landscape. I know, I know – everybody else cringed, too.

But the reason I thought that is because my heroine, Gwynn, aka Dr. Jennifer McGee, is a contemporary woman. She’s a neuroscientist, a feminist and sees the world through an analytical, logical perspective. She’s as contemporary as they come – she just happens to have ended up in Faerie.

It’s interesting for me, because I alternate writing my fantasies like this, with the shorter Facets of Passion, books. My heroines in those are all very much like Gwynn in their sensibilities. They are career women, with ambitious natures and modern concerns. Their relationships with the heroes are reflections of our contemporary world – juggling self-fulfillment with the more prosaic concerns of social acceptance and whose job will dictate where they live.

Gwynn faces many of these same problems – only her personal journey is about dealing with a man who is fae, and so more alien in his thoughts and feelings than most, and with a totally unfamiliar world. To me, the romance itself has a contemporary feel, but the setting is no longer her contemporary one.

Which is why it couldn’t be Urban Fantasy – most of the genre-deciders agree that an Urban Fantasy has to take place in an urban landscape. Not suburbia. Not the countryside. Not a small town.

Now, a romantic suspense can take place anywhere. So can a contemporary romance, as long as it’s current day. A historical romance (so I hear) can now take place anytime from World War II and back, in any place.

So, why does setting matter so much in some genres and not others? Am I totally off base here? I’m curious to know what you all think!


How Much Does Setting Determine Genre? — 10 Comments

  1. I never really thought about it, Jeffe, and to be honest, I can’t say I know how to define them. For my blog, I combined “paranormal and urban fantasy” because they are the same to me. Anything not normal is paranormal and that includes fantasy. It doesn’t really matter to me what the setting is in a specific genre as long as it fits the story. But now a question – if something is fantasy but not in an urban setting is it just fantasy? I mean there isn’t country fantasy, right? Why is urban set apart?

  2. Isn’t that funny, Amy? Why don’t we have Suburban Fantasy? Or Rural Fantasy? I think Urban Fantasy just got defined by a few authors who were running with a particular trope that became distinctive.

  3. Frankly I have issues with genre labeling other than for the big categories. What is the J.D. Robb series? It’s not really fantasy since it capitalizes on future extensions of what exists. It’s not paranormal because there is no magic, vampires, etc. It’s not contemporary because it doesn’t happen now. So what is it?

    It think we get bogged down with genres sometimes. The point is a good story so the labeling sort of falls away when it is a good story.

    I also agree with the above comment. There is no such thing as Suburban Fantasy or Country Fantasy. It’s weird.

    This is a great discussion.

  4. I love that you’re a “genre ho.” LOL. I think it’s great to try different genres as a writer. There are a couple of different genres I’d eventually like to tackle. But when it comes to fantasy, urban fantasy, etc. I am at a total loss.

  5. Great post! I had some issues with the way “urban fantasy” is defined a while back — old blog post on it:

    I love the way things are wide open right now; romance can come with robots, knights, sorcerers, werewolves, pirates, moguls, dragons, cops, special-ops, cowboys, mechanics, prizefighters, and every kind of crazy combo you can think of. There’s just no limit to what we love to read. I want genre definitions to help me find what I want, not limit what’s available.

    • I love that, too, Nicola! And thanks for the post reference – I went and commented. Years later – lol! I love how things have opened up, too. And yes, there should be sign posts for the reader, but not exclusionary rules.

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