Monday, February 29, 2016

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MYSTERIES AND LITERARY FICTION? ARE THEY ACTUALLY TWO SEPARATE GENRES?


In 2010 we published Georgeann Packard’s first novel, Fall Asleep Forgetting, which was very well received. She was a finalist for two separate Lambda Literary Awards: Bisexual Fiction and Lesbian Debut Fiction. Joan Baum reviewed it on National Public Radio, and had this to say about it: “Forget reading some mindless chick lit novel; take this one to the beach instead. It is full of lust, heated sexual encounters and intense emotions that stem from fresh and recharged connections.

We published her second novel, Paint the Bird, in 2013. It’s a story about Sarah, a lapsed minister in her late sixties and Darby, a painter in his early 70s, who meet accidentally in a restaurant/bar. Kirkus gave it a starred review calling it “From beginning to end, a deeply poetic meditation about life, about trust. About God. About death. Brilliantly imagined and rendered.” Booklist had this to say:  “Packard challenges readers to look closely at their beliefs about death, sexuality, and the constructs of family. Rich descriptions of art and overt sensuality lend beauty to this provocative story of loss and hope.  Publishers Weekly said “The story reads like a prose poem—emotional significance comes across in the sparsely told daily machinations of the lives of two tenuously connected New Yorkers.” It was also sold to Blackstone Audiobooks.

Overall, Georgeann is constantly and consistently creating new ways of telling new stories and is someone all of us admire. With that I turn this blog over to her.


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“My publisher (and friend) Martin Shepard has more than once encouraged me to write a mystery. They sell and often sell really well. Everyone loves mysteries and the way they both intrigue and entertain. And The Permanent Press publishes a whole lot of really fine ones.

“My literary novels need a harder push, marketing-wise. Even when the reviews are really good, they still have a more limited audience. When I’m selling them myself at a bookstore, winery, or anywhere I can throw down a table, folks read the flap and sometimes frown and politely move on. But some do feel a connection with my characters and lay down a few bucks to find out more.


“So here’s my rationale for still working the literary pen (or pencil as I write my first draft on lined paper with a pencil). It’s also why I usually select, read, and am rewarded by challenging literary novels or even books of poetry.

“A mystery usually involves at least one death and all the questions swirling around that death. The characters utilize curiosity, intelligence, and skill in the unraveling of the tale.

“I would like to suggest that many novels considered strictly literary works, including my two previously published by The Permanent Press (and my third soon to be birthed), also fit the description above.

“In Fall Asleep Forgetting, there is both an attempted suicide and a murder. In my second, Paint the Bird, there is an early death that just won’t disappear. And in the upcoming The Occupation of Zaima, there is an Iraqi-American, Iraq War veteran who cannot cleanse the vision and brutality of many deaths from her memory. There is also another death of a significant character midway through the book.

“Okay. Plenty of chips cashed in. But what about that curiosity, intelligence, and skill? My novels are not whodunits, but the characters who respond to these deaths and even suffer these deaths are enormously curious about grief and the process of dying. My characters have balanced the merits of suicide versus the pointless suffering from incurable disease. They’ve questioned the purpose of life when a death makes their lives feel meaningless and empty. And with considerable skill and mounting experience, they have faced questions we all have or will likely confront. Could they better be called whydunits?

“But don’t worry. I also add enough sex, spiritual ruminations, and obsessions with food to keep it all moving along.

“So maybe the difference between the two forms has to do with the entertainment factor. Maybe that literary gem on your bedside table is not luring you the same way the mystery novel beneath it might be. Maybe your day has been heavy enough already.

“Let me suggest then that you read them both. One for entertaining the mind and soul and the other for entertaining your just-relax-and-read self. And the good news is that there are many, many wonderful books out there that do both. So grab a literary mystery or a mysterious literary novel. Dig in and enjoy.”

Georgeann

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As said before, I hope you will leave comments on this blog. You can also reach Georgeann directly by emailing her at northlite7@optonline.net.

Should you like to read either—or both—of her books let me know (shepard@thepermanentpress.com), and I will happily send the electronic files on to you.


Marty

2 comments:

  1. We already have cozy mysteries, romantic mysteries, cat mysteries, paranormal mysteries, etc... There's definitely room for literary mysteries too - maybe even mystery lit to go with mystery lite?

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  2. Feb. 29, 2016

    Well said, Ms. Packard. So many literary greats have written about murder, mayhem, other despicable crimes: Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, et alia. Part of their appeal is the insight they bring to character, a profound knowledge of human nature, and a spellbinding narrative. To me, that's lit. Best, Marc Davis

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