Why I write Mainstream vs Literature

Posted February 05, 2017

Why I write Mainstream VS Literature

At times readers and writers can get stumped when asked whether a book is mainstream or literature. The difference can be a bit blurry. For example, Mainstream fiction often blends genre fiction with techniques seen in literary fiction. But generally, mainstream (also called popular fiction) is usually driven by the story. Think of a novel you simply couldn’t put down because you absolutely had to know what would happen next. The language of the novel is usually modern, rather than poetic even though at times it might delve into prose of a more literary vein (full of insight). Another trait of mainstream fiction is that the story usually has a premise that will immediately hook the reader, such as, a girl running through the woods, being pursued by a killer as in the first scene in my latest novel, Scar Tissue). That kind of opening practically guarantees readers will keep turning the pages.

Think of Literary fiction as a story with a strong message. It is driven more by ideology, principles, and concerns of the novelist, often producing a book that can be controversial. One perfect example is To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published at a time the country was still racially segregated. In literary fiction, the plot isn’t the main focus. Rather it is the history, social issues, and character developments that are a part of the story that takes precedence.

The reason I write mainstream is that I’ve always been attracted to page turners, books that keep me up all night. Even as a child, I would sneak a flashlight in bed so I could read under the covers. I like a fast story, one where there is action, lots of suspense and main characters I can really root for. Naturally, I tend to gravitate toward the same elements in my writing. In Scar Tissue, I have a heroine who has survived real hell. She is intelligent, determined and resourceful. And, might I add, the bad guy is really bad. A large part of the book is dedicated to her using her ingenuity to stay alive. It is exactly the kind of book I would pick up in a bookstore.

Most authors write the kind of fiction they read. I love Nora Roberts, Lisa Gardner, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when readers tell me my latest novels remind them of Gardner’s and Roberts’.  Years ago I received the best compliment from a fan. She wrote that I was surely the love-child of Sidney Sheldon and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Dad. I love you both, but being compared to two of the greatest popular authors of the twentieth century is a heady compliment.

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