I Don’t Know Genres

This post may sound sort of silly, I guess, but genres have always seemed weird to me. I’ll focus on books here, but it’s the same for music (where the only genres I can somewhat confidently identify are country and rock). I know a dystopian novel when I see one, and I can tell if something has elements of certain genres, but I fail to understand the actual distinctions between most.

It doesn’t help that loads of books are really in multiple genres – what category would you put Harry Potter in? Some would say fantasy, others children, others something else. Personally, though, I don’t really see much of a point to using genres unless you’re trying to organise a library.

Some people have preferred genres, and I get that. I completely get that. There are certain features of books that I look out for, or don’t want to see. For example, I usually look for books that have something distinctly other to our everyday world because it adds to the feeling of escapism, and because – as I’ve mentioned before – I feel it’s harder to find the value in the ordinary than the extraordinary.

But I also feel like there are problems with book genres. YA literature (Young Adult, in case you may not know) being called ‘YA’ gives the impression that it’s only for people ages roughly 18-25. The same goes for teen literature, or adult literature. I don’t understand the concept of suggesting age constraints for books that aren’t children’s. Again using the example of Harry Potter, it’s frequently listed in the children’s section but deals with extremely adult themes.

I never used to consider anything that would be labelled ‘adult’ literature because when I was younger, I thought that everything ‘adult’ meant ‘boring’. The two were somewhat synonymous. And if I’m honest, though I have come to the realisation that we’re all just people who are really trying our best not to burn the house down, adult literature still seems remarkably tame to me.

It seems, from my experience, that anything with magic in it, anything with supernatural creatures or happenings, is automatically deemed either YA or teen, if unsuitable for children. And that seems incredibly narrow-minded. The world of adult life needs more magic, to be honest.

The themes of all these different genres seem remarkably similar to me, anyway. Fantasy often includes murder. Murder almost always includes detective-work. It’s also a strong feature in most sci-fi things. Dystopia is arguably a subsection of sci-fi. History, or elements of it, penetrate most things. Mythology serves as a basis for a huge amount of things.

But, that’s just me. If anyone else feels the same about genres, please let me know… it’s always great when someone says “so what genre are you writing/reading?” and I just stand there with a blank expression on my face.

Katy x

Skills I Wish I Had

We all have those things we wish we could do, but can’t. Here are some of mine.

Playing the guitar

This is something I’ve wanted to do for so long now – I’ve played piano since I was seven (although infrequently over the last two years due to tendon problems, A Levels and now living without access to one) – and I did actually get an acoustic guitar when I was about eleven or twelve but never got the hang of it. Guitar lessons were a bust as the teacher was bad, and the tendon problems I already mentioned lasted through almost all my teenage years, so I’ve never managed it.

To do presentations with confidence

I really think this is something that nobody truly believes they can do, and it’s just an illusion to the audience that the person speaking seems confident… but over the years I’ve done a lot of presentations. Mostly just ones in classrooms, if I’m honest (what other opportunities do most teens have to present?), but my first one was about age seven. My dad spent five minutes showing me how to use PowerPoint and I was off. And I think that was probably the most confident I’ve been doing presentations – it sort of went downhill from there… I’ve been getting better, I think, as I’ve improved controlling my nerves overall. Exams used to make me so nervous I was almost sick, but last month I walked into them smiling and clear-headed. But presentations are still a WIP.

Drawing/Sketching

One of my best friends is absolutely frigging amazing at sketching, right – her doodles are works of art. So much so that during A Levels, I developed a little collection of them, and they’re still on my desk at home. And most of the time, I’m not bothered about my utter lack of artistic skills. I don’t think I’d find much time to draw in amongst everything else. But the ability to do so would be nice… especially when trying to visualise things I’m writing about, just to play around with different ideas and suchlike.

Sending Emails without Cringing

If you know somebody (or are somebody) who can easily type an email, and press that send button without any hesitation whatsoever, I salute you. I can’t think of any method of communication that’s more awkward. Maybe it’s a younger-generational thing, because emails are sort of in the background for the most part, usually just serving for promotional things… but then you have to send one and you can’t be as informal as a text, it’s weird if you write conversationally, and then you end up going uber-formal. What makes it worse is you’ll write it like a letter, paragraphs and all, and in return, a professor will write “Sure, that’s good. -Lauren (Sent from iPhone)”…

Be Bilingual

wish I was bilingual so bad. I’d love to be able to switch fluently between the two, it’s something I’ve always thought was a skill worth learning – and the only reason I didn’t continue French onto A Level was because I was terrified of the speaking exams, which were bad enough at GCSE. I still plan on learning more French in the future, because I would really like to be at least at a good level, even if not fluent.

Katy x

John Boyne Book Launch: The Heart’s Invisible Furies

On Thursday 16th, I had the privilege of going to a book launch for John Boyne’s latest book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies. John Boyne is an Irish novelist and is the guy behind the amazing book, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Essentially, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is centred on a character called Cyril Avery, born to a teen mum from rural Ireland, who spends his life finding his identity. It is a narrative of Ireland over the last few decades, from the 1940s onwards. Interestingly, it also deals with issues regarding the LGBT community, and the particular difficulty of being part of it in traditional Ireland.

Waiting for John Boyne at his book launch for #theheartsinvisiblefuries #bblogger #bookblogger #ireland

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Boyne had a lot of things to say about the writing of this book, many of which I found really interesting, particularly with an Irish background of my own. (I’m English, but of Irish descent.) He said that up until relatively recently in his career, he’d avoided writing about Ireland. The reason behind this he could not quite identify, previously having attributed it to a simple lack of any stories to tell about it; yet, he has since thought that he may have been avoiding the topic out of apprehension.

The church plays a part in the new book, as can only be expected in a story set in Ireland from the 1940s onwards, and Boyne said he actually grew up with a priest to one side, and nuns on the other – a likely influence on the content of the novel. As such, he also grew up terrified of admitting he himself was gay. What would it have meant for his life? he pondered. It wasn’t until the 1990s that it became somewhat more acceptable, finally being decriminalised in Ireland.

Currently writing a post about last night's book launch #johnboyne #bookstagram #blogger

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In terms of Boyne’s writing method, I was very intrigued to find out that he doesn’t plan his plots. Boyne prefers to sit for an intensive first-drafting period, letting the plot unfold on its own, and then redrafting to create a more fluent work. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, after all, was first drafted in only two days. I found this differs entirely from what I’ve developed as my own method, which seems far more erratic in comparison!

All in all, it was a really good experience. I even got my book signed by him, which was fun. Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet, and likely won’t be able to for a little while yet – my degree is an intensely reading-heavy one, so sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day… But I’m going to try to read it in April, when I go home for three weeks. One thing’s for sure though, it seems like a great read, and Boyne did actually read a couple of passages from the book at the launch, and it definitely sounded humorous.

Katy x

I feel like being helpful, so if you want to check it out, here’s the link to the book on Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US). Also feel free to follow me on instagram, because why not?