Women’s Fiction, or what? The Eternal Genre Conundrum @ThorneMoore


This week I welcome another veteran author to my blog, Thorne Moore (in terms of number of books published and not years, I hasten to add – they include a book of self-published short stories and now a fourth novel, published by Endeavour). Ms Moore has written about the head-scratching process of deciding on a genre for one’s book. I can certainly relate to this as will many other authors, I’m sure.

Summer Author Takeover: Guest Post by Thorne Moore

ThorneMoore pic
Thorne Moore

When I go into a library or bookshop, I head straight for the shelves marked crime, or historical, or travel, very grateful that someone has taken the time to sort things out for me. But I hate the process of attaching a genre label to my own work. It’s impossible, because every time I recognise an element of one genre, I then trip over elements of two or three others. Which one do I go for? I write about crimes, but I don’t write about police investigations. My books tend to be defined as Psychological Crime or Domestic Noir (I do like that one, because nobody quite knows what it means.) But I use crimes merely as the dramatic trigger for the emotional turmoil at the heart of the story, so I wonder if they really belong in any sub-genre of crime fiction.

Thorne Moore - The Munsters
The Munsters

I would place my latest book, Shadows, in exactly the same, vaguely psychological, imprecise genre as all my others, but it does have a slight paranormal element, which somebody must have seized on because I have found it listed on Amazon as Occult Horror (which it really isn’t), although it’s also listed as Family Life (which it very much is). I wouldn’t have thought the two really go together, although I suppose they did in The Munsters.

When my first book came out, A Time For Silence, I traced all the classifications Amazon provided for it. Crime, obviously, because there’s a crime in it. Family sagas – well it does deal with several generations of the same family, so fair enough. Literary fiction! I got quite excited by that, until I found my book listed with exactly the same authors under popular fiction too. What is the precise difference? Romance was truly puzzling, because there is not the slightest hint of romance the book.

women's fiction on Amazon

Then there was ‘women’s fiction’. I had no idea what women’s fiction was supposed to be. I am a woman and I read and write fiction. I very much like John le Carré and I also like Jane Austen. Do they both count as women’s fiction because a woman enjoys them? Or is it only Jane Austen because she writes about women? I write about women. Or is it because she was a female writer? Is there a difference between women’s and men’s fiction?

I thought about it long and hard and decided that, in very generalised terms (and allowing for endless exceptions), there possibly is. Men tend to write and read about action and plot – the fights, the car chases, the thrills – whereas women are more focused on the characters – relationships, emotions, psychology. Since my books are definitely driven by psychology rather than action, I decided that the label ‘women’s fiction’ would do just fine.

Then I explained my reasoning to someone who knew all about genre definitions, and was told, bluntly, “No, women’s fiction is another label for chick lit.” Hmm. My books have humour, I hope, but also murder, abduction, suicide, abuse and heaps of guilt. Does that really qualify as chick lit?

Could there be a genre called “Thought provoking?” That I would really like.

ThorneMoore 5 books
Thorne Moore’s books

Biography of Thorne Moore

Thorne Moore was born in Luton, where she worked in the library for six years after taking a history degree at Aberystwyth. She returned to Wales with her sister to set up a restaurant, but now spends her time writing and making miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, though she also delves into her memories of Luton, for a complete contrast. She’s had five books published to date, the first three published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press. More books are on the way.

Author links

website: www.thornemoore.co.uk
Amazon page: http://amzn.to/1Ruu9m1
FB: https://www.facebook.com/thornemoorenovelist
Twitter: @ThorneMoore

Have you been baffled by genre, or have you disagreed with the Amazon categories assigned to your book? How do you define women’s fiction, women’s crime fiction and all those other sub-categories? Your opinions and experiences are most welcome.

My own book Blind Side is in two women’s fiction categories on Amazon: Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Psychological and Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Crime. Lastly, the more obvious one: Crime, Thriller & Mystery > Suspense > Psychological.

This came about after much mulling over categories that might be suitable – and my shock after publication on finding that my book had been placed in Romantic Suspense, alongside a swagger of sculpted male torsos. Noooo!! I cried and asked my publisher to get this changed ASAP. Not that I’ve got anything against romantic suspense, it’s just that it doesn’t convey the tone and scope of my book. I understand Amazon has some kind of automatic tool that searches books and assigns a category based on the words found in the text, odd though this sounds, which is why they shoved in it in Romantic Suspense. I’d really like to know what those words were. There’s sex in it, yes, but nothing that steamy.

I’m not at all sure about the suitability of the ‘Women’s Fiction’ category either, since it has plenty of action and some *Advance Sexist Remark Warning* ‘manly’ subject matter, such as politics and terrorism… But it does have a woman’s emotional development as its central concern, along with relationships (between three characters) so that’s a tick for women’s fiction. Then again, maybe I should think again about Romance…

10 thoughts on “Women’s Fiction, or what? The Eternal Genre Conundrum @ThorneMoore

  1. A great article. I thought I was finally sussed with my novel by categorizing it as Women’s Fiction, however, like you, I wouldn’t class it as Chick Lit either. It’s a family saga set in the 1950’s and 60’s. It does have some romance but it’s not all about romance. It has a bit of everything really. More mainstream. Although 50’s and 60’s are classed as historical I don’t believe that’s the right label as readers tend to expect historical to be older dates. It’s so difficult to work out.

    1. It’s one of those things you can spend hours on… as I did a while ago. And every month more sub sub categories unveiled. Soon there’ll be a category Women’s fiction>chick lit>family saga>romance>historical. I hope they they’ll add some broader ones too!

  2. I always used to feel as though it was a bit like pin the tail on the donkey. Close your eyes and pick them. I am just happy that I don’t have to chose now and the publisher does it, though I admit sometimes I am nonplussed by the choices.

  3. i think women’s fiction is character driven, domestic life. i hate having to slog through romance novels to find what i want to read. and chick lit might be a type of wf, but it is NOT the same thing. i have an easier time describing it by listing authors. think: julia glass, barbara kingsolver, michael cunnigham, ann packer, wally lamb, celest ng, sue miller….

    1. thanks for the comment Katie! though ‘domestic life’ does sound a bit housewifey, 50s era… My novel is has a lot of ‘outside the home’ bits too 😉

      1. housewifey, but it does suggest that all human emotion, reactions and high drama can be found in the most harmless-looking domestic settings. Which is true.

  4. Loved Thorne Moore’s comments – thank you Jennie for sharing her thoughts. I identified with her visiting the library and going to a specific section. Me too. That said, I shelve returned books at our local library. Doing so, I see so many books that I would have missed had I stayed with my favorites. I never return home without three or four books that I would have missed. And I enjoyed reading about your personal experience with mis-categorization. Frustrating in the extreme. You should get an award for “a swagger of sculpted male torsos.”

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