On Reading Outside of Your Genre

So I don’t have really *one genre* that I read.  Like you know how there’s some people who will read only romance, or only mystery, or only literary novels?  I read a little bit of everything. BUT. I do have those genres where I think, Nah, I don’t think I’d EVER be interested in reading that.  That book would bore me to tears.  That’s really not my type of book.  One of those?  Westerns.

Ok but this cover is SO GORGEOUS, right??  I bought a hardback simply to stare at this cover.

Hence, the other day when I saw that Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman was on sale on Nook for $1.99, I wasn’t too hyped about it.  I’d heard of the book before, but had no interest in reading it.  It’s a Western, so I figured I’d find it boring, or weird, or just not my style.  For reference, here is the blurb:

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

If you, like me, read that and thought, Yeah, that’s not me, then STOP RIGHT THERE.

That’s exactly what I thought, especially after reading that it’s written in dialect (I have Huckleberry Finn flashbacks LOLOL).  But I bought the book anyway, because it was recommended by an author I like, and I’ve heard of this book, and it was only $1.99.

I finished reading the book in less than 24 hours.  I haven’t done that since before I started my full-time job!!  I seriously could NOT put this book down.  I was 500% immersed in the world from beginning to end.  And it made me feel so incredibly refreshed when I finished.  Definitely caused a book hangover.

I guess what I didn’t realize was that I really needed a book with a morally ambiguous heroine.  A book where the bad guys got what they deserved.  I’ve been looking for perfect escapism books ever since the election, and THIS was a perfect one.  Exactly what I needed.

So I think I’ve learned not to write books off right away just because I think they’re not my type.  Because sometimes that book I thought I won’t like could be just what I need to read at the time!  (Like, now I’m wishing there were BAJILLIONS more YA Westerns because I NEED MOOOOORE.)  (Also Erin Bowman says she’s got a companion novel to VR set for release next year so YOU KNOW I’M EXCITED.)

I’ve seen this cover a billion times and I only JUST NOW noticed that it’s a bird’s eye view of a guy in a cape/coat jumping from one city to the next.  Excellent observation skills of mine.

My next not-my-normal-thing read is an adult fantasy called A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.  I don’t think I’ve read an adult fantasy before, simply because I don’t expect them to have romance (I’ve mentioned I’m a sucker for a fantastic romance, right???)  So we’ll see how it goes.  😀  I’ve read two YA books by this author before (writing as Victoria Schwab) and I enjoyed them!

Anybody else ever taken a step outside of their genre and realized they loved it??


On Choosing POV and Tense

So I’ve written stories in pretty much every point of view.  First, third, and (the dreaded) second.  Honestly, though, are there ANY writers who’ve written only one POV their entire writing lives??  It’s a serious question.  Or am I the only one who switches between first and third depending on the story?

A couple years ago I joined a Facebook writing group mostly full of romance readers and writers.  All of them write in first-person POV, and usually present tense.  Which makes sense, because a good number of romance novels are written that way.  But but but, even since joining the group, I’ve written things in first-person, both past and present, and recently I’ve gravitated more toward third person.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the group who regularly writes in third person.  (Granted, I also read a LOT outside of the romance genre, especially recently.)

So sometimes in that group or with those people, the topic of POV comes up.  Which POV do you prefer to read?  To write?  Most people usually say they prefer to both read and write in first-person.  Because they feel that way they can most easily identify with the characters and see what characters are thinking.  A lot of them dislike third-person because they think it creates too much distance between the reader and the characters.

My answer is always this: the POV or tense doesn’t matter to me, as long as it’s done well and the story is compelling.  I’ve read first-person that makes me feel removed from the narrator, and I’ve read third-person where I’ve been completely immersed in the characters’ lives.  For me, I don’t anticipate how I’ll enjoy a book based on what POV or tense it’s written in.  If the story and the writing are good, I’ll get sucked into the story anyhow.

BUT.  Then.  There comes the thing about deciding which POV (and tense tbh) to write in!  For some reason, this is always super stressful to me.  A lot of times I picture my stories as movies in my head, so then when it’s time to write, I’m like, “Wait.  Does this work better in first or third?  PAST OR PRESENT. I’M STRESSED.”  So basically this is the question I’m trying to answer with this rambly post: How do you decide which way a story needs to be told?

And of course, you don’t really know how a story should be told until it’s written.  Just like we end up changing plot and character things in revisions (or even while drafting), we can end up changing tense and POV (even which character is the POV one).  But I think I’ve got an idea that could work for me.

Basically, if the story focuses more on actions (“I did this,” “I did that,” etc.) it’s easier for me to do it in first person.  If it’s more about descriptions and emotions, it’s easier for me to write it in third.  Obviously this isn’t a perfect distinction, and it can go either way, but I’m sticking with it for now.

That was rambly.  What do you think of POV and tense (as a reader and/or as a writer)?  And do you think it depends on what genre you primarily read?