Yeah, it seems like a simple question, but is it really?
Honestly, I never know what book on the shelf is going to catch my eye until it actually does, and from that moment on, it's a challenge for the writer to get my attention and keep hold of it, until I've read every page from the first to the last.
I'm usually - though not always - in the "Fiction" section of the bookshop when I find what I'm looking for.
But - according to the "major" publishers, anyway - there is the question of genre to consider. What genre am I looking for when I stroll through a new bookshop? Mystery? Romance? Humor? Sci-Fi? Fantasy? Horror? Historical Fiction?
Um, yes please! All the above, and more, actually.
Then again, if you ask me what I like to read, I'd say "Fiction." That's it. "Fiction." If you ask me what genres I read, I'd say "Just about anything." And then, in direct contradiction, if you asked what I *don't* read, I'd say "Horror, Mystery, Romance and Thrillers."
And yet, I just finished a mystery written by my friend Jason Horger called Whom Must I Kill to Get Published?, and I found it highly entertaining. To be fair, however, I had read some of this when it was a manuscript, a mere work in progress. I liked it then, too. Now it's a published novel, available from my own future publisher, Dragon International Independent Arts.
But I don't like mysteries.
And my shelf is full of Stephen King's work, from Carrie to the Dark Tower series to Just After Sunset.
But I don't read horror.
Now, if you ask me what I write, I'll likely say "Contemporary Fiction." Or, if I'm really identifying with my female characters, I might say "Women's Fiction."
However, if you ask my mates, they'll probably tell you I write "Romance."
And oh, Lord, how I shudder at the thought of that. Or more accurately, I shudder at the thought of being lumped in with all the misconceptions about that particular genre. The snide, needless snobbishness toward Romance and romance writers is remarkable.
Which isn't to say romance isn't in my stories. That's in there, yes... My characters are often couples who meet and fall in love and seek to overcome obstacles in order to be together. And no, the road doesn't run smoothly while they're heading that way.
But do I write Romance? No.
Do I read Romance? No.
Do I think Romance - in the genre sense - is somehow beneath me? Absolutely not. It's just not my cup of tea. Not exactly.
While I don't write Romance, I'm a member of the online writers' group Romance Divas. I've learned more about the craft of writing since I joined them almost two years ago than I have in all the years before I found them. They're some of the most intelligent, good-humored and supportive individuals I've ever met.
And lest you think they're a group of writers patting one another on the back and saying "Well done, you!" without merit, let me tell you this: they couldn't be farther from that if they tried. If I need honest criticism, if I need a kick in the pants to get going on a project, if I need, well, anything at all - that's where I can go to find it.
Not to mention I've found some remarkable writers there. I've turned my mother on to a few of their books, and she's enjoyed them immensely (and she is NOT easily impressed, believe me).
On some level, though, I'm endlessly fascinated by people in spite of my public proclamations that I don't care for humans in general. And the twists and turns and manipulations and contortions we put ourselves and others through in order to reach our goals in life - romantic or otherwise - are compelling stuff.
But if a story - any story - is well-written, the characters are well-developed, and the writer is able to make me care about what's happening on the page, I'll pick it up and read it.
From beginning to end. Front cover to back. Dedications to acknowledgments. Regardless of genre.
I hope that I can make readers feel the same way with my own work, soon.
And I turn the question back out into the world:
What do YOU want to read?