I went to the Dark Side. I’m glad I did.

Years ago, in my misspent youth, I tried to write literary fiction. I loved reading literary fiction, so why not? The more obscure the prose and plotline (read: lack thereof), the more I loved it: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Pynchon.

I wanted to write a Finnegans Wake redux. I even read Finnegans Wake. It took me a whole summer. I was an undergraduate with a night job so I had the time. I read all the books you needed to approach Finnegans Wake: the skeleton key, the concordances, the academic treatises. And then I read the opus itself. To the last page: 656. Approximately 200,000 words.

People were impressed; well, some people. Had they read it? No. In fact, no one I knew had read Finnegans Wake. Anyway, I tried to write like Joyce. Bad idea. Fast-forward a few decades. I eventually realized writing FW-like fiction was a lost cause. Who’s read all of FW (apart from academics)? I deserted literary fiction. You could say I became a traitor. I went to the dark side – the Noir side. Hallelujah!

I started reading genre fiction, specifically crime fiction. Why? I wanted to read a damn good story, not damn good (supposedly) prose. I wanted storylines and whodunnit puzzles, not prose pyrotechnics. Then I started writing genre fiction.

I’m very happy to be in genre land. Does that mean I don’t read literary fiction? No. Does that mean I’ll never write literary fiction again? No. I might go there. Never say never. If I’d remained blinkered by literary prose, I wouldn’t have found genre fiction. Change prose styles when you want to, and change back again. Don’t let anyone tell you not to. Write whatever the hell you want – in any style you want.

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