Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Defense of Good, Old-Fashioned Commercialism

by Colby Marshall
Disclaimer: I’ve read a lot of very good literary novels.  I’m a fan of a lot of literary writers, and I’m also a fan of a lot of authors who write “quiet” novels.  I love them.  Period.  Now, on to the post!

I’ve noticed during my recent hunt for an agent that an overwhelming number of agents had in common one thing: they like looking for literary.  Even when many represented thrillers, their submission requirements would come with a real bummer for someone like me, which was that the tiny word “literary” would appear before the word “thrillers.”  I’m not even entirely sure what a literary thriller is, except I know I don’t write it.

They’re not the only ones.  Breakout Great American Novels are the books most often touted by popular book clubs, talked about on TV talk shows, and making the rounds as favorite staff selections at Barnes and Noble.  And while this is great for the folks chomping at the bit to sell their piece of literary genius with writing more beautiful than the silence you hear after being forced to watch four hours of Jersey Shore against your will, for a commercial thriller writer like me, I get confused and sometimes irrationally defensive of my genre.

Are thrillers ever going to be required reading in high school classes across the nation?  Of course not.  Will books with high body counts and dozens of explosions ever be chosen as Oprah’s next Book Club selection?  I doubt it.  But, while some people argue that “loud” commercial books are simple pandering to their audiences rather than showing finesse and expertise, I say move over on that talk show couch, Literary Lou, because there’s room for both of us.

After all, what’s so wrong with pandering to audiences?  Literary novels will always have their place as classics—that beautiful prose woven together with symbolism and rich characters that will become parts of English classes everywhere.  That said, some of the kids in those English classes will never pick up a book again to read for pleasure.  They have no idea books exist that don’t contain five dollar words every other sentence so they won’t spend the few hours they have to read after school with their dictionary, trying to figure out what one paragraph means.  In other words, some people love literary, but others don’t.  Some people profess to "hate reading" at an early age because they have no idea there are books that feature a bullet every ten pages and a car chase every twenty.  It's time to let them know.  There’s something to be said for pure, solid entertainment value, and I won’t be ashamed that when I write, I don’t go for a masterpiece.  I go for a production, one with so much flash and bang that you have to hold onto the edge of the mattress to keep from falling out of bed.

So, no matter how much publicity those large advance-earning, critically acclaimed novels may garner, I’ll stay in my little corner of the universe, proud to send out books that may never have any historical significance whatsoever and may not change the world, but that will take the reader for a ride for a short while.  In the meantime, I’ll keep hoping a talk show will make some room on that couch for the likes of R.L. Stine, Lisa Gardner, Jon Land, Tess Gerritsen, and the many other great thriller authors of our time.  Because in a world where writing outside the box can sometimes seem like the new inside the box, these folks have been sending out thrills and chills for decades, consistently selling book after book to a rabid group of fans lucky enough to learn about them in avenues other than People magazine.  After all, only one out of every God-knows-how-many literary novels will break out and win the Pulitzer, but The Silence of the Lambs?  The Silence of the Lambs may never win a Pulitzer, but it will sti

What’s your favorite classic? What’s the last book you read for pure entertainment value?

BIO: Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status. Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013. 

 CHAIN OF COMMAND is about a reporter who discovers the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency.last forever.        

Colby's website: www.colbymarshall.com
You can follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/colbymarshall
and like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcolbymarshall


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Colby. It's good to have you guest blog here today.

Cynthia Green said...

I enjoyed reading your post, Colby. I agree that the term 'literary' is vague and to tag another genre after it is even more confusing to writers. Generally, literary fiction refers to 'an expressive style in prose' whatever that means. I associate the term 'literary' with classic novels and short stories. I don't write literary fiction, either. My short stories have been published in women's magazines in Canada and Great Britain. I'm always in search of great authors, dead or alive, and during the past year or so I've been lucky to find several titles that have been given prominent space on my book shelves. I highly recommend, 'The Woman at the Light' by Johanna Brady, 'The Kitchen House' by Kathleen Grissom, 'Major Pettigrew's Last Stand' by Helen Simsonson, 'Island Beneath the Sea' by Isabel Allende, 'Juliet' by Anne Fortier and 'Heminway's Girl' by Erika Robuck. My favorite classic novel is, 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte, probably because it's the first classic novel I read as a young girl and it propelled me into a world of literary prose that continues to stimulate my senses.

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colbymarshall said...

Thank you for the welcome, Jean Henry Mead!

Cynthia- I, too, tend to associate literary with classics. I'll have to check out those you recommended- thank you!

Judy said...

What is supposed to come before:
What's your favorite classic?
And what happened at the end:
presidency.last forever
I've lost part of the blog. Thanks.