One of the hardest decisions I had to make as an indie author regarding the publishing of my first book (Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream) was what genre to put it under. After much deliberation, I decided to put it in the Romance genre because it evolves into a love story for much of book 2 in the series (Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny). It did not fit the formula for "romance" but I argued that a great love story belonged there. In fact, I blogged about it a few weeks back. Still, it felt odd.
First of all, men really like the books and some have written reviews on them. These were not men that read romance. Because they were so adamant on the fact that they thought the books were great, it told me that I was missing out on a lot of male readers. Males who noticed that the book was a "romance" would skip over it. Also, it would not be recommended on Amazon or B&N for anyone buying a book other than a romance.These books are as much for men as women. How could I reach more men?
Secondly, I am not a romance genre fan. I seldom read them. I adore a good love story for sure. But the romance genre? Not so much. There is a hard and fast formula for the romance genre. Man meets woman (or man meets man, etc if it is lgbt), they fall in love despite major differences, something happens that one misunderstands or takes one away, they are split apart, they come back together and they live happily ever after. Always. The story is the exact same story over and over.
When I thought of all of my favorite books, not one is categorized as a romance. They have love stories in them, but they are much, much bigger than "romance". They have flawed characters and plenty of angst. They were complete people, people who did ugly things at times. Why was I limiting my books to a genre that frowns on that?
No, my books doesn't fit that romance formula at all. Gastien does fall in love. But decisions are not easy, life is not easy, and he has major flaws. Flaws that are not allowed in romance. He has suffered extreme abuses, both physical and mental. Sex is a way to feel close to others and a "high" that gives him brief, emotional relief from pain. He is not monogamous and says that up front. She accepts it. That is a no-no in romance. Never burst the romance readers bubble that people are not perfect, that falling in love does not cure everything, that happily ever after is not happy every second! That is not accepted.
Life is full of sadness, mistakes and regrets. Every major decision has repercussions. I don't understand a genre that hides from that. Don't get me wrong. If people want to read the same storyline over and over and enjoy fairy tales, that is understandable. Some people have enough stress in their life that they need total escape. I get it. I like escape, too...but it needs to seem like it could happen. It needs to make me think. It needs to make me feel. I don't want to read fairy tales, and I don't want to write them. There are others much better at that.
So, after saying I was sticking to romance with angst in it, I made the switch. My books are now categorized as "historical fiction" and "family saga" (the latter because it is a series and will cover three generations). I was unsure about the change up until I pressed the buttons to change it. As soon as I did, I felt a peace. One could say that I gave up romance in the name of love. True love, the kind that really does exist, in spite of our being human.
THIS is where Gastien belongs. He is not a cookie cutter character, and he makes no apologies for what he needs in life to make him happy. He may not understand some those things ultimately makes him the opposite, but he definitely stands up for what he wants. Sophie is no pushover, though. She is a strong, vibrant woman who is able to accept his flaws because she understands the damage that was done to him and sees that he has issues he simply can't face. She loves him, in spite of his terms and those flaws. He learns to love because of her.They find a way to make it work, but not without problems. Kind of like most of life. Nothing is perfect, Gastien less so.
I am not condoning abuse. Gastien was not abusive to her, at least not knowingly. They both were honest and up front about their needs and feelings. Accepting the imperfections and loving anyway. Isn't that what true love is all about? And isn't true love a greater story than romantic love, simply because true love happens so rarely?
So, I guess what I am getting at is don't be afraid to change genre if you think you put your book in the wrong category. It is okay to make a mistake. We all do. Especially my characters!