Yesterday, I received word that two of my novels won bronze medals in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite awards. There Comes a Prophet won in the Young Adult – Coming of Age category, while Along the Watchtower won for Fiction – Drama.
Of course, I was pleased. But what to make of it?
I’d applied to several contests before. All are different, with various categories an author can specify. Most of the categories are genre specific—romance, mystery, paranormal, sci-fi etc. Limited to available choices, I’d previously submitted There Comes a Prophet as sci-fi and Along the Watchtower as Military Fiction with no success.
So why did I finally win in these two less-than-pure-genre categories?
While my writing is speculative fiction, it tends to defy being pigeonholed into a single genre. Prophet is sci-fi, in the sense that it takes place in an imagined but possible dystopian future. But it lacks androids or aliens, time travel, or pitched battles with light sabers or ray guns. Watchtower is about a wounded Iraq veteran suffering from PTSD, but none of it takes place in a war zone. It’s been described as cross-genre: part love story, part fantasy adventure, part family drama and chronicle of recovery and personal growth. Both books have one thing in common—main characters striving to overcome obstacles and find their way in life.
In Prophet, Nathaniel, Orah and Thomas come of age when they discover a world gone awry and seek the courage to change it. Lt. Freddie Williams of Watchtower confronts his personal demons and finds a reason to live.
The two winning categories—drama and coming of age—focus not on genre but on the heart of a good story: strong characters struggling to overcome adversity and reach the goal they long for. And being recognized for a good story is the best a writer could desire.