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[GUEST POST] Brian Bandell on Breaking Through Genre Borders

Brian Bandell is novelist with Silver Leaf Books, which released Mute in July. He’s also a senior reporter at the South Florida Business Journal and the winner of more than 20 journalism awards.

Going one-on-one with a New York agent in an empty classroom, the air conditioner blasting overhead felt more frigid than usual. But, I couldn’t blame my goose bumps on that. The agent had read the first few chapters of my novel and he enjoyed it. Still, I could tell by the hesitation in his voice that there was a “but” coming. He read the synopsis too, and he saw that my novel, Mute, which starts out feeling like a crime thriller and delves more and more into science fiction as it progresses, doesn’t neatly stick to one genre.

The traditional way of thinking pigeonholes books into rigid categories. That was a necessity, really, because bookstores had to choose where to shelve them. Selling books online, whether in print or digital, is changing that. Books can be listed in multiple categories and be enjoyed by readers across genres. One way to open the appeal of science fiction is to hook thriller readers into a story that seems grounded in the expected reality and then transform it into something fantastical.

It goes without saying that many science fiction novels contain all the excitement of a thriller and, indeed, there are scifi murder mysteries such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval Artist series. So many novels in the thriller section lean heavily on scifi elements, from the works of Dean Koontz to Michael Crichton. New authors are often discouraged from taking risks and straying from a formula that’s proven to sell, but I believe in pushing the boundaries.

Mute opens along the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s Space Coast, where the young girl Mariella survived a night under the mangroves, but her parents were beheaded in a way police can’t explain. Detective Monique “Moni” Williams takes in the child, who has gone mute. While her superior officer pressures her to make the girl tell all, Moni struggles to protect the girl from further trauma, and from the strangely aggressive wildlife in the lagoon. When manatees turn deadly and the water burns like acid, it’s clear that there’s a most unusual suspect at large.

The genre blending is apparent on the more the 460 comments the novel has gotten on Authonomy, as the comparisons range from Carl Hiaasen to The X-Files. No wonder the agent was confused.

I didn’t land an agent. I didn’t need one, because Silver Leaf Books signed me to a book deal and they’ve released Mute. It’s exclusively on Kindle for the first 90 days, and it’ll be in the Lending Library for Kindle Prime members during that time as well.

Categorize my work however you want. I’m just trying to provide a thrilling read.


1 Comment on [GUEST POST] Brian Bandell on Breaking Through Genre Borders

  1. OK, so I get to sound like a crotchety grouch (no change there then), but as this is a site where a lot of writers – published and otherwise – tend to congregate, this needs saying: SF Signal isn’t the sort of venue I associate with puff-pieces, and especially not self-authored and self-congratulatory puff-pieces from writers who appear to have “signed” with a poorly-disguised vanity press.

    I’d be interested to know if Mister Bandell was obliged to pay Silver Leaf any fees during the period his book was being assessed by them, and whether he signed the rather alarming “non-disclosure agreement” linked to from their submission guidelines. If the answer to either of these questions is “yes”, he may want to stop patting himself on the back for having sold a risk-taking project; nothing about Silver Leaf’s website suggests they’re any more legitimate than simply self-pubbing thru Amazon on one’s own, and the folk at AbsoluteWrite have been worrying about that since around 2006, and Preditors and Editors lists them with the stark advice “Poor contract. Not recommended.”

    I feel sorriest for Mister Bandell, who I suspect has fallen foul of what are at best an amateur-hour outfit and at worst an out-and-out scam. But I also think SF Signal needs to do its due diligence before turning the mic over to people who’re going to give authorial advice – especially when said advice celebrates the avoidance of acquiring an agent, when an agent would almost certainly have steered them well clear of their publisher.

    My two cents. 🙂

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