I’ve just read the Norwegian crime novel The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. It’s a gripping story of murder with many twists and turns before the true identity of ‘The Snowman’ is revealed. I admit to choosing the book solely because Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell (creator of Wallender) have hooked me into Scandinavian crime fiction.
The Sunday Times says of The Snowman, ‘…deserves comparison with the first volume of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy’ and The Independent says ‘…well placed to secure the loyalty of Stieg Larsson fans.’
When pitching to publishers and agents, would-be novelists are often advised to state where their book sits in relation to other authors, i.e. whose novels are similar to theirs. Publishers like a novel that fits neatly into a specific genre so that it can be easily marketed – hence the large number of books now marketed as ‘the next Stieg Larsson’.
So where does this leave originality and creativity?
It seems to me that a novelist (and especially a first time novelist) is risking life, limb and a publishing deal if he tries to write outside tried and tested genres. No matter how good the writing, it will be an uphill battle to get a book deal without a ready marketing hook. But someone has to be first to dip a toe in the water with a new idea – the Larsson books were something completely different when they first appeared.
What does anyone else think – is it best to bend your writing to fit a genre or is it better to follow your heart and risk alienating publishers?
By the way – I really enjoyed The Snowman and heartily recommend it.