Finding My Niche–Upmarket Fiction

A few months ago I enjoyed an online writer group webinar. I love the modern era of the internet. We can have a meet-up and never leave home. I can use the video and then cut it off when I want to get up and get a cup of tea, or stuff my face with a big gluten-free brownie. At this particular webinar, I met new writers and had the delight of learning there is a term for my style of writing–Upmarket Fiction.

I have heard this term in passing for the past couple of years but paid it no more attention than I ever have all the in-vogue terms that come around in publishing. Then suddenly there I was listening to a writer give the definition: Upmarket fiction is a blend of commercial fiction and literary fiction.

As I sat there staring at the flickering computer screen, my grey matter (and use of that term from writer P.D. Wodehouse gives a hint as to why I fit in Upmarket Fiction) took in the information and sort of sizzled and clicked, and came out with: “Halleluyah! I have a home!”

One of the difficulties I encountered during my writing career has been that I never–and I mean from my first Silhouette Special Edition novel, ‘A Time and a Season,’–quite fit in the romance genre. I recall the editor who bought that first book for Silhouette Books telling me, “There was just something about that book that was different…the couple gets married, there are children…”, which was why she bought it at the time when romance publishing was skyrocketing, and barriers were being pushed. With each book I kept pushing the barriers, and the editors, and in one case an agent, kept attempting to hem me back into romance. Romance sold big; literary work not so much.

When I review my books today, I clearly see the blurring of literary and commercial elements. My stories are character driven, and there’s a slower pace because of the focus on language and voice. My themes are universal, those to which people can easily relate: relationships, marriage and family, mothers and daughters and sisters, community, and always second chances. My books are suitable for book club discussions and to pass around to all the neighbors.

I recently picked up Love in a Small Town and flipped through the pages. I was reminded of the subplot of abuse. The scene is between the main character Molly and her younger, wilder sister Rennie. There is a paragraph that reads:

“Molly realized that in her mind beatings by men were something that happened to other women, women who were weak and foolish, certainly not to a Collier girl, who was of a good family and education. She had to laugh at herself. Undoubtedly every spectrum of weakness and foolishness could be found within the Collier family.”

I am a little surprised to read my Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, which in so many ways displays the blending of commercial and literary fiction:

“Tommy Lee and Molly’s story is the universal and timeless story of love and marriage and family. In this way it is my story and that, I dare say, of ninety-five percent of the married couples in the world in one way or another, since the beginning of families.”

The reason I perused Love in a Small Town was because it has occurred to me, yes, at this late date, that my current work in progress, According to Carley Love, has again taken me again into the turmoil and triumph of marriage relations, and to family and mothers and daughters. I suppose I have gained a lot more to say on the subject since I wrote Love in a Small Town.

I always do seem to have more to say. I’m attempting to rein myself in and say done with According to Carley Love. The manuscript is ready for preparing a final proof copy. I’ll keep you apprised.

“It’s always something, to know you’ve done the most you could. But, don’t leave off hoping, or it’s of no use doing anything. Hope, hope to the last!”

Charles Dickens

Grace and Peace,