True confession of a member of the non-spec blog team here at the Alley: My heart belongs to speculative fiction and film.
Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, dystopian–these are the types of stories that kept me up all night reading when I was younger, and the types of stories I'll fork over hard-earned cash to watch on the big screen today.
Can I enjoy a good a drama or romantic comedy? Absolutely! Do I plan my summer around the release of the next Channing Tatum or George Clooney film like I do the latest super hero blockbuster? Not usually.
(My summer officially started with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, by the way.)
It's not a 'guy thing', either. I know plenty of women (my wife being one) who will choose tales about deep space missions or dragons over improbable love stories and dating shenanigans.
So it's not a surprise to me that, initially, my writing interests veered toward the fantastical. It's what I knew. It's what I loved.
Then John Green happened.
A non-spec book made feel things. REAL things, in a way some of my favorite spec yarns didn't. You'll forgive me for saying what I'm about to say (I hope), because I have an advanced degree in mental health and spent some time counseling real people with real problems–BUT I TOTALLY FORGOT HOW INTERESTING AND LIBERATING EXPLORING REAL LIFE PROBLEMS AND RELATIONSHIPS IN A FICTITIOUS SETTING COULD BE!
I gobbled up Fault In Our Stars, then Looking For Alaska, and then Paper Towns. I was hooked.
Two of my favorite non-spec films of all time are Dead Poets Society (YULP!) and Good Will Hunting (How do you like them apples?). Reading Green's stories rekindled my love for contemplating the human condition. More importantly, it made me want to try my hand at writing a story where the monsters were internal and the magical powers came from relationships and humor.
Thus the idea for my novel, Perfectly Ernest, was born: a star college baseball player succumbs to his "issues" and is forced into group counseling. If he fails to reconcile his past and come to terms with his illness, he'll destroy a promise he made to the only person he ever really loved. (His mother.)
Pretty straightforward stuff for a guy who'd been enamored with writing about alternate realities and werewolves. But, man, it wasn't easy!
Problems had to be resolved with the exploration of emotion and talking things out, not by chopping at monsters with an enchanted tomahawk. (Like in my Moonsongs, Urban Fantasy series.)
Ultimately, I enjoyed the process. So much so, I'm working on a second contemporary novel. A pretty big step for a guy who never imagined writing one.
While I'll always love speculative fiction, there's a core reality and truth in non-spec that just can't be completely explored in the realms of fantasy. And as powerful as escapism can be, sometimes only familiar things can truly move us.
What about you? Do you love multiple genres of fiction? Do you have a favorite film or book outside of your preferred genre? Would you consider writing outside of your reading love?
Let me know in the comments!