Saturday, May 26, 2012

100 Years of Blood: A novel for those who want to think for themselves


My latest novel, 100 Years of Blood, has raised some questions for myself and from a few of my readers.

What genre is the novel?

That seems to be the big question. I'm not sure I have a good answer.

The plot revolves around an elaborate house built by an English gentleman in the hills of Appalachia during the early part of the 20th Century. The reader follows the events of the house for a hundred years. Many important events happen outside of our away from the immediate environs of the house, and such events are only hinted at. Thus, much is left unsaid, at least directly.

Some of the characters themselves are a bit mysterious, showing hints they might be more than they seem. Or are they?

The questions this novel raises is one of the reasons it is difficult to give it a specific genre label. I write mostly in the speculative genres, fantasy and horror mainly, so there's an urge to label 100 Years of Blood as fantasy. But then the possible fantastic elements of the story are only hinted at and for the most part don't seem to play a direct role in the overall tale, leaning towards this novel being magical realism or some form of literary novel.

I will admit, yes, as the author, I could give direct answers. I could say, "yes, this is a magical realism novel," or something similar. But I don't want to. Why?

A big goal of writing this novel was to have readers think for themselves, to make their own decisions about what is going on in the background of this story. I find so much of today's genre fiction written from a cookie cutter perspective, one that answers every single question that readers might want to know. I also notice this trend in a lot of readers, many of them wanting everything answered for them, handed to them, without them really have to use their own imagination. There's nothing wrong with such literature, of course, but there seem to be few other options readily available.

To that end, there are at least two different ways to read 100 Years of Blood. One is a fairly straightforward manner, which would lean towards the events in the novel being mundane, not fantastical in nature. Another way to read the novel would be to believe there are unusual, possibly supernatural events going on in the background.

What is the right way to read the novel? Neither, both. There really is no straightforward answer. The reader has to figure it out for him- or herself. That was a major goal of writing this novel, to get readers to think for themselves.

I realize some readers will not like this approach. Some readers will get to the end and possibly be angered because their questions are not answered, the mysteries are not revealed. My apologies, but the novel obviously wasn't written for such readers. Those who wish for a sense of wonder, those who don't feel a need to have everything explained, for them is 100 Years of Blood written. And for myself, of course.

When writing this novel, I felt my influences were James Joyce, Bram Stoker and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. However, one reader has pointed out to me that he sensed a Lovecraft influence. I've read my share of Lovecraft and enjoyed it, but I wouldn't call myself a big Lovecraft fan. But looking back, I can see how the reader is right; there is a Lovecraft influence in the way the story is told, but not in the plot or background details (no giant ancient anti-gods with tentacles, for example).

So far 100 Years of Blood is only available in e-book form for the Kindle. In a few months it will be available for the Nook and other e-reading devices. I'm also considering releasing a print format later this year. Time, and the readers, will tell if I've accomplished my goals with this novel. I hope I have. I hope readers will go away thinking for themselves.

3 comments:

Virginia Llorca said...

If you put it on Smashwords, they format it for every device and put it in most every catalog, B&N, Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc. For myself, I like a little resolution but get complaints if a reader feels I left them hanging.

Ty Johnston said...

Thanks, Virginia. It'll be available in a couple of months on Smashwords.

Charles Gramlich said...

I was talking to some newer authors the other day about Magical realism, because one of them is attempting it without really knowing what it is. It's a tough way to work but can be very rewarding.