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What is Suburban Fiction?

Any author worth his salt writes with a genre in mind.  I’ll make no claims about my saltiness either way, but The Point of Escape was written with a couple genres in mind, one of which I’ll discuss today: suburban fiction.

Google “suburban fiction” and you’ll get articles about angst, adultery and ennui.  A 2004 New York Times article that reviews some contemporary works includes this useful description of the genre.

NYT Suburban Fiction Screen Shot

Conversely, the Goodreads shelf for the genre that pops up as the third link in our Google search includes a majority of young adult lit.  OK, teen girls’ lit.  Judy Bloom and the like.  Angst, adultery and ennui writ young.  Not exactly what I’m going for here.

“So,” you ask, “just what are you about?”

Glad you asked.  There are actually several flavors of suburban lit, all of which – unsurprisingly – draw thematic elements from those ubiquitous sprawling subdivisions and side streets.  As you can tell from the brief descriptions above, this can be a fairly dark mode of writing, inevitably contrasting with the cheery stereotype of white picket fences and 2.5 kids.  The darkness can become pervasive, as in subgenres like suburban gothic – which introduces elements of the supernatural and science fiction – or suburban noir – which slides into psychosis and horror.

My current project (yes, I’m writing The Next One even as I steer This One toward launch day) edges into these subgenres.  It’s a three-part series that takes a rather dark look at what the world of cookie-cutter houses and conspicuous consumption can do to your soul.  I hope to have the first installment in beta form by the fall, and to market before Christmas.  Weary food for cheery souls.  Ho.  Ho.  Ho.

Not so much The Point of Escape.  I wrote it with beach reading in mind, and so – though not uncritical of suburban life – its themes are far more uplifting, its trajectory more hopeful.  Jerrod Beams experiences all the aimless ennui of any suburban fiction hero.  But although the ‘burbs in some ways embody the Faustian bargain he has struck with the Federal Mephistopheles – they and the life they promise are the false fruits of his soul-crushing labor – Jerrod is largely happy with what he has provided for his family.  Just not how he has provided it.  That’s what he hopes to change.

The great source of that hope – the ability to take stock and the courage to change – was inspired by a non-fiction work, and places the novel itself into a new genre, something I call entrepreneurial fiction.  Defining this new genre will be the focus of my next post.

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