What Inspired Your Niche?

I thought this would be a great question to generate discussion. If you're a writer (fiction, poetry, essays, blogs, movie reviews, screenplays, etc) or an artist or a filmmaker or a poet, what would you say drove you toward your specialty? What is the appeal for your particular niche that elevates it above all other things?

I have received questions from otherwise well-meaning people who either want to know what it is that attracts me to horror, science fiction, and the supernatural or whether I'm naturally imbalanced, morbid, hateful, weird, depressed, pessimistic, sadistic, or all of the above and therefore attracted to writing about subjects that are, well, all of those things.

To answer that question, I'll start by saying that I think we're all a little imbalanced. It's just that your imbalance might tip you in a different direction than mine. And yeah, I am a little morbid and weird. I can also be cynical (though I think this is improving with age and with the influence of being married to a very calm and peaceful man), and I can have a fiery temper and am prone to occasional bouts of mild depression. I guess all of those things influence the color and tone of my writing. My imagination's palette tends to reside in grays, blacks, and blues, accented by the saturated streaky pinks, oranges, yellows, and reds that color a sunset. The one aspect of my personality that pulls my compass needle in the direction of the "otherwordly" is my sense of wonderment about the things we can't see and can't understand, and my desire to fill those blanks in my own way.

I've been obsessed with astronomy since I was a kid and my jaw still drops in awe as I try to comprehend the sheer scale, beauty, and mystery of the universe. I've also always questioned society's established rules, and I want to know what happens when those rules and routines are tested or obliterated. I believe that fiction is the only place where we can search for truth without real consequences, and that some truths require us to reach far beyond our current limitations in order to gain real understanding.

Lately, I have noticed environmental or ecological themes in my writing and in my ideas for future work. I feel very drawn to this topic, either intentionally or unintentionally (after all, it wasn't really intentional that I was heading in this direction in the first place; I believe writers and artists in general operate frequently from subconscious drives). The environment isn't always literal, though. In my story Archer's Velvet, I am dealing with the peril of a whole other ecosystem--the human imagination.

Anyway, what drives you as a writer? Why do you write young adult books or literary stories or horror stories or urban fantasy or werewolves or superheroes? As you were beginning your career as an artist, what was it about your particular niche that just spoke to you above all others?

Or do you have a niche at all?


  1. I write fantasy and fantasySF partly because I have always read it. I am a research scientist by profession (evolution/ecology/biodiversity)but prefer fantasy to hard SF. I like mystery stories and thrillers but have never been able to write one.

  2. John --

    I bet being a scientist helps a lot! I sometimes feel like I'm behind the curve if I attempt to get too technical in my stories, which is one reason I've tended to shy away from hard SF. I also like mysteries and thrillers but have yet to write one. I do plan to try at my hand at it this November, though. :)

    Thank you for stopping by!

  3. I write literary fiction because I love characters: real and imagined. I want to know how people end up where they do in life. I want to see the power and beauty in the mundane. I also love words, language, lyricism. Toni Morrison is one of my favorite writers for all of these reasons. Allison, I suppose we are all a bit imbalanced but what else can be expected as we camp out on a tilted ball hurtling through space with no plot to guide us? ;)

  4. Well said, Stacy! Just imagine how folks in Australia must feel. They're upside-down after all! ;)

  5. I've always been into science fiction - I have Lego Space sets from 1979 when I was 7. And I've always been into superheroes. I remember getting up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings to watch the Super-Friends, or Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. One of my favorite childhood books was Jacob Two-Two & The Hooded Fang, which featured child superheroes. I remember pretending to be asleep Sunday mornings so my folks wouldn't drag me to church, and then as soon as they left, sitting down to watch Doctor Who.

    And as for the superheroes, I'm pretty sure I've always wanted to be one. Writing about them is the closest I will ever get.

  6. Late to the game, sorry--no computer access yesterday (there was a book in my way, lol).

    Lets see, I can't imagine writing anything other than fantasy, since that's what I've been reading since I picked up the Hobbit at 10 years old. We write what we know and love, and for me, that's good old fashioned fantasy. Secondary to that is literary fiction--because everyone has a dark side and within those dark sides are stories that need to be told.

    Regardless of the genre/niche I write in, the themes that matter to me remain the same: autonomy vs obligation, good vs evil, maturation, venegance, disease, and insanity.

    I tend to draw on my intellectual interests which reflect my college educational history: biology, literature, social psychology, creativity, and crafts.

    But the number one thing that defines what I write? I (attempt to) write what I want to read.

  7. er, correction: I can't imagine NOT writing fantasy.


  8. I remember finsihing my first ghost story and closing the book. I must have been about five years old. I believe I've never stopped seeking the same spine-tingle I got from that story.

    And so, I write horror and crime fiction (that's mystery or detective fiction with a literary/social commentary bent for those in the know-lol).

    Like other posters, certainly I write in the genre I do, in part, because it is what I cannot stop reading myself. However, my interest in the genre, both to read and to write, has changed over time. Oh, I still want to be scared silly on a regular basis, it's such a fine, delicious feeling. And then there is the relief from realizing 1) it's just a story, and 2) the characters definitely have it worse than you in real life.

    Nowadays, the horror/crime fiction genre also seems to me to be the most interesting way to portray American social problems, both writ large and small. For example, George Pelecanos and Richar Price (HBO's The Wire and lots of good fiction) are two of the best I know at accurately scribing racial tensions, poverty, and the scourge of drugs in the big city. Dennis Lehane wrote the hell out of the moral questions presented by a neglected child in "Gone Baby Gone".

    I guess social commentary is really the name of the game these days for me. But maybe with a reanimated dead person thrown in for good measure.

    Oh, and I dig on magical realism too. :)

  9. The only reason I put pen to paper (yes, it's a quill pen, Allie) is to shut off the fucking noise. I'm assailed by voices: narrators who scream at me to get my attention. They want me to take dictation.

    Please make them stop.