Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something - Thomas A. Edison
Recently, I attended a LIVE Q & A with agent Mark McVeigh at www.writeoncon.com. The session got me thinking. Many participants asked questions around the rules and etiquette to submitting a query. One writer asked, “If my novel crosses more than one genre, should I mention both in my query?”
The discussion hit close to home. You see, I’ve gone a step further – my book is both a memoir and historical fiction. Now, before you go accusing me of being the next James Frey, let me explain. Much of In Wake of a Following is an investigation into what happened sixty years ago, when my grandfather abandoned our family to become co-leader of an anti-communist, religious sect. In Wake of a Following began as a personal account of our true story.
However, I found myself imagining life in 1950. What was it like for my grandmother to sell bread on the streets while her husband protected the seer – Mrs. Van Hoof? What was it like for Mary Ann Van Hoof to go against the Catholic Church and ignore their demands to close the shrine? What was it like for my father to ride a motorized bicycle through slow-moving traffic to report “miracles” to the Western Union?
Selfishly, I wrote both a memoir and a fictional account. A writing coach or editor might say, “Pick one, not both”. But in my passion to tell the story, I put everything on paper. And once I did, readers liked the narrative glimpses into the investigation. They felt the mini-memoir brought the story into modern times – a little like Bridges of Madison County (minus any comparison to author Robert James Waller).
To be clear, my narrative accounts are separated from the fictional chapters of the book. Had I blended them, well, then you’d have free reign to accuse me of being James-Frey-like. It’s all a gamble, but then, the entire world of publishing is a gamble, right? I’m holding out hope for a literary agent willing to take a chance on a rule breaker.
What is your opinion? Too much of a risk?