Monday Muse: What Have I Done?

Hey, guys! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse!

So. I am finished with all three books for my Brontë-off. I have re-read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and introduced myself to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s done for me. But I can’t declare the winner yet because I still have to pair Tenant. It wouldn’t be fair to Anne to tack her pairing/funnies on to the end, dangling after the award ceremony like a bunch of ‘whoopsies’ we have to deal with somehow. I mean, Anne has dealt with the indignity of being “the third Brontë” for so long now; I couldn’t do that to her again.

Which leaves me with… I’m not sure what to write today. I could tell you about my scoring system, which is totally real and not at all remotely just based on shit I’m going to make up as I go, but I figure I should go ahead and do that next time I write. I might even ask to switch with A and give myself next week’s Muse just so you don’t have to wait two weeks (you know, since you’re all waiting with bated breath for my super definitive opinion). But, yeah… I’m ready to go, but I need to pair Anne Brontë first. She deserves it.

So what do I write about today?

I guess I want to write about a phenomenon. Nothing huge. Just something I’ve noticed. Maybe a bit of worry. Maybe a bit of discovery. I don’t know.

Killing Mercutio is something I love. You know I love it. You know A loves it. We love every bit of it. And it’s not the blind love of a creator, unwilling to admit to a thing’s faults. I know there are portions that aren’t the strongest, bits where we’re limited by the structure and nature of novels. I know a book can never be perfect; it can only be good enough. It can reach a point where I am happy with the way it is, where my need to tinker with it has come down to switching words around only to put them back because it all depends on what mood I’m in when I read it. Like all writers, I don’t think I’ll ever be done with Mercutio; I will only reach a point where I agree to stop changing it.

But that doesn’t mean I’m starry-eyed. I’ve never been the person who thinks she’s a super special unicorn that’ll become JK Rowling famous on her first round of queries (hell, even JK Rowling went through a bunch of rejections before she got Harry Potter published). Heck, I’ve never even believed I’d become Rowling famous at all, though I wouldn’t turn it down if it happened. I don’t write something if I can’t picture it on a screen of some sort. Not because I’m determined to get everything I write optioned but because that’s just how I write; I point a camera at my characters and say ‘Action!’. (I also shout ‘Cut!’ too often, I think, when I should just let the camera keep rolling and fix things later, but whatever.) But none of this means I’m naive about the nature of the market.

I worry about Mercutio sometimes. I worry it doesn’t fit, if that makes sense. It’s a commercial novel written like a literary one. It’s a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, but it isn’t YA (we age the characters so all of them are over 18). It’s set in-period, reading more like a historical fiction novel than anything else, but of course it isn’t histfic because, last I checked, the events of Shakespeare’s play are fictional. It isn’t particularly edgy or cutting-edge. It doesn’t say anything about the human condition or take a poignant look at the nature of family, friendship, betrayal, or anything like that. That wasn’t ever the point of the book. It’s Romeo and Juliet re-written as a caper involving theft, lies, and staged fights. Some characters who died in the play live, some don’t escape their Shakespearean fate. There’s a bad guy out to take over Verona, which the Venetians (their vassal lords–one of those touches that is historical) won’t like. Benvolio is basically Batman, but not nearly as violent. Mercutio is Tom Hiddleston, complete with single tear running artfully down the cheek.

But where does it fit? Where does Killing Mercutio fit. What are its comps? I’ve looked, but I can’t really find any. An in-period Shakespeare re-imagining (re-telling isn’t even really strong enough)? Yeah… those are thin on the ground. One that’s got a the premise of a thriller, but the language of historical fiction? Even more so. Even indie is looking difficult, based on the research I’ve done. We’re too weird for trad, not weird enough for indie. We’re not #ownvoices (we’re both suuuuuuper white), there’s no romance at all in the novel let alone LGTBQIA+, and we’re not trying to RESIST at all (although the villain is a white guy who decides he’s owed what he wants, so… there’s that). We are not what the market is looking for. But we’re not not what the market is looking for enough to turn our back on the market and go indie (or that’s what it feels like based on my research into indie publishers, several of which only take agented manuscripts, bringing us back to the original problem). We are not mentally prepared to self-publish.

These are just musings. I’m not really complaining. It just interests me how we’re always so much more comfortable with something that fits a category. Because I can’t really point to comps (believe me, I’ve looked, but the closest I can find is literary re-tellings of Shakespeare, and we’re only written like a literary novel) or even tell you exactly what our novel is (Shakespearean suspense is what we’ve come up with, but that’s not really a category, is it?). But we don’t defy genres so much as not quite meet any of them. We can’t be defined by our rebellion any more than we can be defined by the system as is.

It kinda sucks. Because this is a good novel. And I’m not just saying that as one of its creators.

I’ll be back on Friday to pair The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (Spoiler alert: it’s not the runaway winner of the Brontë-off I predicted it would be.)

C

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