Cue awkward smile to be followed by choking.
How I wish, hand on heart, I could say that I finally have this one sorted. "Mystery suspense" is the answer I give these days - and I have a book on submission so, heaven help me, I ought to know. But am I alone when answering the dreaded genre question in always wanting to add a little rider?
"Mystery suspense....ahem, I think?"
All agents and publishers look away now. We do not mean to torment you, to be unprofessional or to ignore your wisdom and long experience. And yes, I absolutely do see that readers like to know what they are reading. And marketing people need to know what they are marketing.
The problem with writers is we just want to - well, sit down and write. So it's hard to face up to the genre police with all their categorical categories - though I guess in the end we all learn that we have no choice if we want to sell.
Which, of course, we do.
When I first started writing novels, I was lucky to be signed by an agent pretty quickly with my fair share of near-misses re publishing deals to follow but I was warned along the way that I needed to be careful not to "fall between genres".
Ooh err. Sounds terribly painful, doesn't it?
I promise, cross my heart, that I have been watching my step ever since - worrying that I may disappear down some dark (genre) chasm never to be seen ( or published) again.
Thankfully my lovely agent at Pollinger Ltd has been eternally positive and supportive throughout any identity crisis. I know my place now....I think.
Though I have just realised that I may have made a financial faux pas. While googling the difference between "suspense novels" and "thrillers", I learn that in terms of an advance, the difference is "around six figures".
So on reflection, if anyone asks...
...I write thrillers.