Until recently, I’d never thought of a label to describe the novel I’m writing. Nor had I given any to the six previous novels for that matter. When asked what it is that I write, I usually answer, literary fiction which is character-based and always includes an element of suspense or mystery. I like writing stories that are layered, complex, weaving in different voices. I start with a theme and, from that particular theme, emerge the main characters, usually fairly quickly. The title comes next, often in the early days of a novel. And surprisingly, I don’t change my mind about it afterwards.
I never start a story with a label in mind. I tend to avoid labels in my daily life as much as is humanly possible. I like to be surprised and keep the writing experience as open as possible. Now that I’m in the process of finding an agent, the question of a label has become crucial. As a former publisher, I do understand the rationale behind having a label, particularly when launching a new author, I just don’t like it.
I’ve been told that my previous novel, Heading for the Wall, is a high concept novel. A term I was vaguely aware of, but to which I’d paid little attention in the past, mostly because it’s often applied to blockbusters. The premise I chose is indeed hypothetical, yet not entirely impossible. It gives a starting point to my story as well as a backdrop. It also serves as a magnifying glass, highlighting what my three main characters are experiencing.
The challenge was to keep a balance between the premise and the actual story. I’m therefore resisting the high concept label as it means focusing solely on the premise. So what is my novel, you might ask? It’s a story about loss and how my characters deal with it, or not. And it was joy to write…