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Episode 7: Jazz Hands

Excerpt from my debut novel So Far, So Bad - read the beginning on Tabulit Books.

She hurried along the street, furiously checking her Google Maps to make sure she was on the right path – even though by now she knew exactly where she was going. She crossed the river Liffey via the romantically lighted Ha’penny Bridge. A guitarist serenaded by-walkers near the Mercantile Arch; she was in the middle of Temple Bar, surrounded by drunk tourists and Dubliners alike before she knew it, but she artfully maneuvered around all of them. Before she realized what was happening Trinity College loomed over her. Her heart pounded as she kept checking her phone for his messages: he was already there. Would she recognize him? Why was she so excited and nervous? She had been on these dates before, many times in fact. Bar for one occasion, she had never felt this way before.

A couple of weeks ago, I published my debut novel through my friend’s digital platform. Every time people (friends and acquaintances) asked me about where to find it, I would be quick to add: “Oh it’s not my usual style – very different from what I usually write.”

At some point, adding that tiny explanation felt like I was putting down the hard work I put into this book. Why did I feel the need to say it wasn’t my usual style? What is so wrong with the current novel? There’s nothing wrong with it. Honestly, I like it. It’s fun. Writing it is fun.

I had (and in some part still do) have an issue with the idea of being branded as a “romance” writer – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The explanation I add stands true: the style of So Far, So Bad (which I dubbed “millennial style”) stands in stark contrast to my usual flowery, loaded style (close to how I write on the blog).

One of my favourite singers, Kyuhyun, released a Japanese album not too long ago. He’s known in Korea as a ballad singer, and all of his Korean releases are exactly that: ballads. There are a couple of tracks on the albums that have a faster pace, more upbeat lyrics but he does not promote them. (In all honesty, that bothers me because his voice would suit jazzy songs so well.) But, surprise, surprise, his Japanese album consists mostly of upbeat and rocky songs, apart from Japanese covers of his Korean ballads.

Why? Because in Korea he’s known as a ballad singer, he’s restricted to the image the public has of him. In Japan, he might not have that image which allows him to experiment with more sounds (or maybe the Japanese audience isn’t down for more ballads). Whatever Kyuhyun’s reasons for releasing and promoting upbeat songs, that contrast struck me and explains well my concerns.

What if I get branded as a romance writer, and my subsequent releases don’t do well because people expect this style from me – a certain demographic will read it, when the audience of literally all my other current novels is completely different? I am obviously nowhere near Kyuhyun’s level of success, so perhaps this shouldn’t be on my mind. (Let's be clear about one thing: my current biggest worry is getting So Far, So Bad out there and read by as many as possible).

But the same stands true for acting – the so-called “stereocasting.” Think of Rachel McAdams (The Notebook). You know what kind of movies you’ll see her in – Nicholas Sparks style. Some casting directors will even tell you to figure out your stereocast and focus on that. “Expand after you make a dent in the industry,” they advise.

But then, think of Jim Carrey. He’s an incredible actor – but the moment he tried to do something different from comedy, it failed. People didn’t believe him.

Hugh Laurie (House) came to act in the States because the British audience couldn’t see him play anything other than comedic roles.

Of course, it doesn’t stand true for every actor. (Also I should mention McAdams actually purposely picks those movies – she loves them, which fair to her!).

And I can already hear you: “but Rux, no offence, you’re nowhere near their level.” True! And who knows if I’ll ever be? (Jokes, I will be.) Who knows which project will launch me?

There are too many types and facets of my work for me to even wish to be branded in one way versus another. CDs do know what they are talking about though: it can be good to find a niche, an audience and exploit that. What if I can’t break free of that brand though?

So all of these thoughts crossed my mind – and still do. But then, here’s this: why does the world need to know my worries? Why should I tell them that it’s different from my usual style? Why should I be worried about being known for writing a book à la Sex & the City? I love Sex & the City. Please do compare So Far, So Bad to that.

And, when I do get to Kyuhyun’s level, hopefully I won’t struggle with my branding – because I will have successfully branded myself as… myself. I’ll also make sure to write a jazz song for Kyuhyun (should be just in time for his release from mandatory military service!).

I've been obsessed with The Weeknd these past months. I shall thus leave you with my favourite song, I Feel It Coming ft. Daft Punk, off his last album Starboy:

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