For years, so-called "literary" writers routinely to sneered at genre fiction as a lesser form of writing. But now more and more of those same writers, under their own names and under pseudonyms (like John Banville writing as Benjamin Black, or Scott Spencer writing as Chase Novak for example), are turning to genre fiction because that's where the money is, as The Millions reports:
The good ship Literary Fiction has run aground and the survivors are frantically paddling toward the islands of genre. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but there does seem to be a definite trend of literary/mainstream writers turning to romance, thrillers, fantasy, mystery, and YA. Justin Cronin has produced the vampire epic The Passage.Tom Perrotta is offering The Leftovers, a tale of a futuristic Rapturesque apocalypse. And MacArthur-certified genius Colson Whitehead is writing about zombies. It’s enough to make my historical mystery about Jack the Ripper look downright pedestrian.
[…]So while publishers might happily support a literary author making the switch to genre they’ll probably be less enthusiastic when that writer develops an itch to move back toward literary writing. The obvious compromise – write literary under one name, genre under another – works for some, but is a stopgap solution while the industry struggles to catch up with the reality of what’s happening. Because it’s not just a matter of writers flipping back and forth, it’s a matter of genre and literary cross-pollinating to produce a new species. Genre books written by literary writers are different than those written by authors who have always embraced and exemplified that genre.
The so-called "literary writers" are only beginning to notice what those of us who've always toiled in "genre" writing have always known…the labels are meaningless. All that matters is whether you are telling a good story that grabs readers. And all it takes is one look at the bestseller lists to see what readers really want. More often than not, the bulk of the NY Times list is dominated by mysteries and thrillers. If a book is a mystery or a thriller, does that inherently make it less "literary" than a story about a family that's slowly disintegrating under the weight of the lies that they tell themselves and one another? I don't think so.