Books, Writing

Bring on the Orcs?


I’ve had trouble classifying my novel from the start, and have had several missteps. I started out thinking it was sci-fi, which was a mistake entirely. Then I realized that time travel is classified as a fantasy element, not sci-fi, but the rest of my novel takes place in modern day California. This led me to call it “contemporary YA with a fantasy twist.” And then I started trying to justify(or clarify?) that even more with “contemporary YA with a light fantasy time-travel twist.” That’s a lot of words and it starts to sound like I’m apologizing for my genre before I even get the plot out.

So. Here’s the thing … if I up the ante on the time travel bit, then can I call it a “Fantasy” novel?

When I think Fantasy, I think dragons. I think fairies and swords and trolls and magic. I love all those things and they will play a bigger role in my next book (already planning that one – can’t wait), but they are not in this book’s world. I don’t want people to pick it up thinking “Ooo! Fantasy! Bring on the Orcs!” and end up disappointed because it’s not any kind of High Fantasy. I know that there’s a distinction between High Fantasy and Light Fantasy, but I have yet to see Light Fantasy as an accepted genre. So what do I call it?

I looked up Kirsten Gier’s Ruby Red trilogy on to find out how that is classified since it’s also a time-travel story based in contemporary times. I couldn’t find an actual genre label. What I found was this… “Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red is young adult novel full of fantasy and romance.” Granted, she also has a main character that talks to ghosts who don’t know they’re ghosts, and has a sassy gargoyle that follows her around, which are definite Fantasy elements which I don’t have. But we both share the time-travel device and the romance (which I’ve never thought to capitalize on, but my book has just as much romance as Gier’s does).

So there’s the real question. Can I label my book as simply “Fantasy” or do I need to clarify that with more descriptive words? I think I’m having a genre identity crisis.