She emails me and says:
I love you. I love that your books aren't anything. [This novel] is like urban and traditional fantasy had a baby.
It’s a funny message to get from your agent – one that makes you laugh even as your heart clutches at the confirmation that, yes, this is yet another hopelessly cross-genre novel.
I did warn her. I met her at RWA after she read Rogue’s Pawn and loved it. I told her it took me years to sell that book, because it was neither fantasy nor romance, an urban fantasy, kinda, that takes place in a non-urban landscape. So, I wrote her back and told her I know I’m hopeless, that I don’t try to be this way. She responded with strategy to sell it to the perfect editor.
Which is why I signed with her. At least she gets me.
And then I commiserated via IM with one of my critique partners, who is also hopelessly cross-genre and she wondered what is wrong with us, that we write this way. Why we just can’t help ourselves. Why we can’t just color inside the lines for once.
Which made me remember back when I was six years old. We had a special art project to paint acrylic flowers and then go over the painting with black marker, making big, swooping outlines around the petals and leaves. It was supposed to be kind of abstract and free (this was the early 70s, after all).
I painted my flowers, bright orange petals circling a yellow center. The image is still strong in my mind, those colors so vivid and perfect. Those paints had an intensity I hadn’t encountered before. But, when it came to it, I couldn’t disrupt that lovely color with big, careless loops. Instead I outlined each petal with a precise black line.
The teacher gave me a C, for not following instructions. And the painting won the grand prize in my school art show. My mother had it hanging up for a long time, too, in a lime green frame that matched my carefully outlined leaves and stems.
I suppose the moral here is obvious. As much as I would enjoy getting an A+ from those editors who pay the big bucks, those bestseller list nods, there’s something in me that values the story more. Ultimately, I make that choice to honor the story and characters over the genre rules. It might feel to me that it needs to be that way—just as those orange flowers needed to be that way—but I’m still making that choice.
At least my agent loves me.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests.
Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.
An avid user of social media, Jeffe engages daily with thousands of fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. She frequently guests on publishers’ Twitter-feeds and reviewers’ blogs. She’s been an active member of RWA since 2008. She served two terms as president of RWA’s very large Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal special-interest chapter and continues as an advisor to the current board.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.