Today I’m pleased to host James DiBenedetto, author of the fascinating Dream series.
I was absolutely thrilled a couple of months ago when the first book in the Dream Series, “Dream Student” won the Awesome Indies seal of approval – it was a very nice bit of recognition. It’s also sold several hundred copies, been turned into an audiobook and gotten dozens of great reviews.
And, honestly, I’m really proud of it. What I’m most proud of is, ironically, the very thing that makes the book difficult to categorize: the way it straddles genres and balances several different aspects of Sara’s life.
It’s not exactly a traditional romance novel; it isn’t a straight-out thriller; it’s not primarily a coming-of-age story; or a slice-of-life. It’s all of that – or elements of all of those. I tried very hard to maintain a balance in the book (and in the later books, as well) – showing Sara’s dreams and following them as they lead Sara into danger, but also giving plenty of attention to her day-to-day life.
And in the reviews, I can see that one of the biggest factors in readers’ reactions is what they expected the book to be. Some people loved the time spent on Sara’s everyday activities and her friends and the minutae of college life; but others, who I think came to the book looking mainly for a suspense-filled thriller, didn’t like that at all.
Personally, I do think those parts of the book are important (obviously, since I wrote them!). On a basic level, I wrote the story I wanted to read, but on a story level, I do think it’s vital to ground characters in their world, and make their lives relateable to readers – once readers can truly see themselves in Sara’s shoes and see their daily lives reflected in hers, then her supernatural dreams will be that much more effective, and readers will be willing to accept them and follow Sara as she tries to handle them.
Which leads me back to the question: what do I call this book, how do I pitch it, what genre do I stick it into? I’ve been calling it a “paranormal romance/suspense” novel, and I’m still not happy with that, but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with…