Friday, August 1, 2014

Pushing the Boundaries - What is literary fiction?

I have often wondered to myself - what is literary fiction? We, at Regal House Publishing, have been forced to define ever more precisely the exact nature of literary fiction as opposed to other kinds of fictional works. Literary fiction is, after all, our stock-in-trade. Despite our professed proclivity for historical fiction, it is not the general genre of historical fiction that we seek, so much as it is literary fiction placed within an historical context. Historical fiction, of the kind that appeals to us, can be more readily defined as a subset of literary fiction. Which of course, like a verbal labyrinth, brings us back again to the beginning; to literary fiction. What is it? What distinguishes it from other works of prose? I have come to the conclusion (prompted by a recent article on accepted conventions within the 'literary fiction' genre) that the kind of literary fiction we seek has a broader range than might have been typified by it in the past, or than might currently be so for other publishers of this genre. We seek, above all, a novel that is beautifully phrased, a novel in which characters are complex and engaging, and a plot that is deftly managed. In this regard, it might be a work set in the future or the past, in a setting surreal or realistic; it might contain scenes of sexual explicitness or it might not; it might have a philosophical bent or it might comprise a straightforward narrative. In other words, we, at Regal House, are expanding the boundaries of literary fiction - seeking works that are, above all, well-crafted examples of a unique voice.