A guest post by New York Times bestselling author, Jessica Park
When people find out that I’m a writer, one of the first questions they ask (usually after telling me that they TOO have always wanted to be a writer, then launching into an hour-long explanation of their top forty book ideas that, you know, perhaps I might want to write for them) is: “What do you write?”
But because I’m me, and complicated, and think that I’m all sorts of unique and rebellious (this alternates with extreme self-loathing and doubt, just so you don’t think I’m a total jerk), answering this question is hard.
I could simply say that I write romance. That Left Drowning is a new adult romance, and Flat-Out Love is a young adult romance. But then I desperately want to qualify those genre labels! My books are more than just romance, I want to explain. There’s romance, but a strong literary style, plenty of humor, intense psychological exploration of ... I don’t know how to answer because it’s impossible to feel that a one-word genre label captures what I hope my stories are about. That’s the neurotic, strung-out, paranoid author in me. I’ve learned to live with it. But my neuroses aside, I think I’m on to something....
One of the things that I’ve worked so hard to do in my books is to incorporate as many layers as I can, to give depth and explore a variety of subjects and angles beyond a linear love story. Family dynamics, trauma, mental health, friendship, survival... You name it. And I’m driven to write about how our pasts catch up with us no matter how hard and how far we run. How we cope, and fail, and succeed in many aspects of our life because of our pasts.
And when we start talking about the past—and about hiding the past—we are really talking about secrets. And secrets inevitably lead to mysteries. And clues. And stupendous scenes of revelation and understanding. Themes and plot designs that we typically associate with being only in true mysteries or thrillers are actually often found in so many other genres.
A really good piece of fiction has to keep readers turning the pages, right? What’s next? It’s about how authors dole out information, tease our readers, lure them in, and make them wonder. Much the way mystery and thriller novels work. In my books Left Drowning and Flat-Out Love, both stories absolutely follow romantic paths, but big questions are also raised early on. There are gaps of information, personality quirks that allude to hidden stories, and discoveries made through conversation and experience. There are the equivalents of crimes, clues, suspects, investigative action... You name it, romance can have it.
I’ve been mixing up my romance with mystery, literary fiction, and humor—plus lord knows what else—and having a blast. And it’s why I encourage readers to stretch beyond what they think they love (only romance, only crime fiction, only sci fi); elements we love in one category are so often found in another.
The hard lines that we believe separate genres are often much more fluid than we know, and fluidity can be magic.
Jessica is the author of New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE, RELATIVELY FAMOUS, and her latest NA novel, LEFT DROWNING. She lives in New Hampshire where she spends an obscene amount time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes.
FInd her at:
FInd her at: