I just finished reading Ghost of the Nile by Veronica Scott. She’s a good writer, and I loved her male protagonist, Periseneb. Talk about a guy who got a bum deal! Not that he didn’t make some bad choices, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime. So when the goddess, Ma’at, gives him a chance to set things right, I wanted the best for him. The plot had surprising twists that kept things interesting, but in all honesty, the true reason I loved the story was because it’s saturated in Egyptian myths and everyday details. I could submerge myself in Egyptian culture and beliefs without doing any of the research. It’s the same reason I read and loved Murder in the Place of Anubis by Lynda S. Robinson, if you’d rather have pharaohs and kas wrapped up in a mystery plot.
I read Julia Donner’s Regencies for the same reason. I can enjoy the mannerisms and social niceties of a different era, glorying in fancy ballgowns and salons vicariously, immersed in buttoned gloves and satin slippers. Barbara Hambly’s Fever Season plopped me, as a free black man, in the raucous years of old New Orleans, where the rainy season brings pestilence–the deadly yellow fever–and where a man’s color–white, black, light-skinned black–determines social standing.
I’ve chosen many a book, not only for the author’s skill and voice, but also for the “extra” of a time and place unknown to me. The right niche can be a selling point. I read Caleb Carr’s The Alienist because it offered Theodore Roosevelt as the “newly appointed police commissioner” of 1896 New York City and Dr. Laszlo Kreizler as one of the first psychologists called upon to help solve a grisly crime. I’ve even written books because I’m hooked on a niche. Empty Altars and Spinners of Misfortune came about due to my love of Greek and Norse myths.
Even if a writer doesn’t choose a different time or place for his novel, he should still think about niche. It helps you market your book. Mystery writers often add a unique spin to their novels. There are cooking school murders that feature catering and recipes. There’s a series that uses dry cleaning to find clues. Some feature fishing, bowling, and herbs. Dick Francis wrote about wine and horse racing. Tony Hillerman gave us a feel for the Navajo. Niche can be broadened to give a sense of how a writer stands out from the others in his/her genre. For instance, Ilona Andrews writes urban fantasies, but she’s known for delivering action and humor. Patricia Briggs, another urban fantasy writer, has a strong myth/legend feel in her Mercy Thompson series. In romance, Samantha Young hit it big with On Dublin Street, using locales to set the mood for her stories. Shirley Jump is known for adding humor to her romances.
Writers usually do better if they write in a genre, so that a reader knows what to expect before they crack the cover. But every writer has to find some way to stand out in that genre, and a niche can help.
P.S. My new Babet/Prosper novella should go online this week, and then I’m making all of my novellas and bundles 99 cents to celebrate. The first books in each of my series will be 99 cents for a while, too.
Happy reading and writing!
My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/