D.G. Kaye,  Historical fiction,  Humanity,  Inspiration,  Non Fiction,  On Writing,  Relationships,  That's Life,  THOUGHTS

Have Your Life Experiences Helped Determine Your Favored Genres?

What makes us gravitate to certain genres?


I’ve always preferred reading nonfiction to fiction since as far back as I can remember reading. I had a fascination with anything ‘true story’, going back to the days my mother left her rag magazines openly displayed on her bedroom night table. I do believe one of them was in fact called ‘True Confessions’.

I grew up as a child who felt compelled to keep up with the goings on in my growing up life, feeling as though I lived on a perpetual wheel of a ‘need to know’ basis. So, I’m pretty sure my curiosity about life and people began at an early age. I needed to know the truth and the whys about things. My chosen genre of reading preference came natural to me. I loved to learn fascinating stories about people, their dilemmas and resolutions. and I’d imagine myself – inserting myself in other’s stories forcing myself to think about how I would deal with that situation.

My hobby of studying people came to me by the time I was 7 or 8. And my mother was a fascinating subject to begin with. I was approaching 9 years of age, and when having to spend ‘electronic-less’ weekends at my paternal, orthodox grandparents’ house, I began reading the newspaper—mainly, the advice columns by ‘Dear Abbie’ and ‘Dear Ann Landers’.  I was fascinated by the idea that any random person could write a letter to these famous ladies who appeared to have all the magical solutions for people’s problems.

As the years progressed, to add some spice to my reading pleasure, I moved into reading women’s and historical fiction, and the odd book in the Chick-lit genre as a ‘great escape’ type of read. Of course, I do love me a good thriller too. After all, I do like to learn what motivates the antagonists too, to learn what spurs their evil ways. Even as a child I’d opt for a paperback over comics any day. People have always fascinated me, and I had developed a passionate curiosity of people and what makes us all tick. I’d take a true story over a fairytale anytime.

I do also enjoy watching certain themed types of TV shows to satisfy my entertainment and curious pleasure. I love an engaging storyline that makes me think, as opposed to watching mindless TV. Thinking is how I relax. Although I do know that thinking is an action word, my relaxing is me always doing something, keeping busy, even while watching TV. My go to favorites:  documentaries, historical WWII era survival stories, family sagas, medical and legal dramas. Why do I gravitate to such shows? Because these kinds of shows all encompass a sense of the human condition. These may seem like differing genres, but in effect, all these genres tie in with human relationships, saving people, injustices, compassion and sometimes redemption.

I also enjoy watching police serials such as Dateline and Twenty/Twenty. As sad as these shows can be to watch, they ignite the element of human nature and emotion, demonstrating what makes people motivated to do the things they do, for both the good and the bad.

I suppose it’s plain to see I enjoy writing about what I also like to watch, read and observe. So, depending on the genre of our choice, we often write about things we’ve seen and observed and translate into a story that fits best in our preferred genres of writing. For me it’s truth and why that captures my attention.

One doesn’t have to go much further than their own couch to study people. There is much to be learned from human behavior from watching TV. Crime, justice, medical shows all involving the human condition–reasons for actions, actions despite consequences, desperation inspired crimes, manipulation – it’s all connected to the human spirit. And I just find human beings fascinating to study.



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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • Marian Beaman

    Like you, I naturally gravitate toward true stories, especially in my adult years. As a child though, I liked fiction, the magic of fairy tales.

    Now, I like non-fiction unless it’s historical fiction. (Yes, I can stand a little embellishment!)

  • Debbie D.

    As an avid young reader, I devoured all the Agatha Christie and James Bond novels, along with other crime thrillers. My favourite book genres now are similar to yours: non-fiction, memoir and historical fiction. They do say, “life is stranger than fiction.” 🙂

  • Carol Taylor

    In my early years, I read annuals and stories about ballet…Giselle being my favourite and then I discovered Dennis Wheatley…Black Magic or reference books…Never been one for true stories my TV viewing are shows like Question Time/Panorama, nature, a good thriller …I like historical novels/Fantasy or books like Climate Justice which I am currently reading…The Girl who kicked the hornet’s Nest I loved that…Nothing lovey-dovey or anything… No memoirs from me…haha

    • dgkaye

      Hi Carol. Thanks for sharing your interests. I do enjoy learning about my writing friend’s insights. And keep on reading and writing about climate change. The world needs to keep hearing it! <3

  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Debby – fairy stories, historical romance (young to start with), then murder mysteries … then the work days and sport kicked in – little time for reading … now I still don’t read enough … but I scan, write, read all kinds of things – the lack of educative learning has really kicked in with a vengeance. Now since I’ve been blogging … I do see the stories in the series I watch on tv … or learn from … fascinating to read – cheers Hilary

  • Joy Lennick

    Hi Debby, I think we are related!! So much of what you’ve written is true for me too. I may have been a little shyer than you? But I was also fascinated by people: young and old, and would chatter away…especially when released from the confines of a garden at home during evacuation. Then, I had SPACE and new folk to chat to, from aged seven. The library was a lure and I was soon addicted. Like you, most of what I have written is based in fact. I read everything I came across: cereal packets, newspapers, magazines – especially US ones about murder and crime (as a teenager).Comics and books about every subject under the sun. Of the seven books I have written, only one is a novel – and that is based on a true story with fictional characters…(The Catalyst). I am more comfortable with reality, and history, although I am swayed by good writing whatever the subject and genre, Not too much occult or fairies though… Had better get on with my book – not a werewolf or vampire in sight. Cheers! Hugs xx

  • Sally Cronin

    I loved encyclopedias and my godfather gave me a set when I was about 7.. facts and more facts… then I found my own age group of fiction stories a bit tame so by 10 I was reading War and Peace and pinching my father’s library books, definitely not age appropriate, but left me with a love of thrillers and adventure novels…With regard to television we only stream what we want to watch and we have a mix of documentaries, police dramas and a lot of Scandanavian television which is excellent.. Thought provoking post Debby ♥♥

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing some of your own preferences here Sal. It does not surprise me that we were both precocious little girls. We would have been best friends for life no doubt! War and Peace at 10, typical you. While I was getting an education at 9 from ‘True Confessions’ magazines. LOL <3 xx

  • Carol Balawyder

    oh, oh, let me see. Little Women was probably one of the first novels I read. I must have been ten then and really didn’t understand much of it – at least not consciously for when I recently saw the movie it was not really awakened memories from the book that came back to me but I understood how Joe March’s passion had inadvertently influenced me to become a writer. I saw parts of my writing journey in her own struggles to write. Although Little Women has nothing to do with the crime genre, my interest in writing about crime came from reading novels, such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and the Sara Paretsky series.

    • dgkaye

      I never grew up reading the classics Carol. In fact, there was not a book in our home. And I did love the movie The Postman Rings Twice. I do enjoy those kinds of books too. 🙂 x

  • Pete Springer

    You have chosen such a thought-provoking topic, Debby. My reading habits have changed so much over the years. I suppose that’s not that shocking as we evolve in many ways throughout our lives, I would be more likely to reach for realistic fiction when I was in middle school and high school. As I’ve gotten older, I mind myself reading more non-fiction because I enjoy learning new things. Biographies are especially interesting to me. I still love a good mystery, though. Depending on what kind of mood I’m in, I also gravitate toward drama or humor.

    What I found the most intriguing about your piece is developing a habit of watching people by age seven or eight. Since I taught eight-year-olds and older, I can tell you that this is unusual for a child of that age. Given your life circumstances, it does make more sense. “Electronic-less” weekends forced you to focus on other things.

    • dgkaye

      I came from a very dysfunctional homelife Pete. I spent most of my childhood trying to listen in on my parents fighting and wondering if my dad would still be there in the morning. I spent many years hiding in the stairway to eavesdrop. I had to keep up with what was going on in my family and that’s the only way I got information. I was four when I was already quite attuned. Survival mode hits everybody differently. Some kids – like my siblings hid in their rooms, they didn’t want to hear. I was the eyes and the ears. The electronicless weekends was where we spent our childhood years on weekends, so my mother could have her social weekends without kids. My dad would come visit us on Saturday then come back Sunday to pick us up and take us home. No fantastic memories. So, is it any wonder I write? lol

  • Colleen

    We’ve discussed this, Sis. I LOVE fiction. It was escapism for the life I lived growing up. I guess I still love falling into the fantasy story where magic makes everything all right. I went through a gothic romance period when I was a teen. I do love science fiction too so I suppose that goes along with my escapism philosophy. I love what you write, but reading about other people’s true-life stories doesn’t do it for me. None of that really matters. It’s what you love and that is the important thing. <3

  • Adele Marie Park

    As you know, sis, I grew up hearing tales about magical creatures and fairies, so yes they have influenced my two genres. Fantasy and horror. Although I am also a people watcher since an early age and would make up what I thought was going on between different people. When we moved into the house in Lossiemouth when I was a teenager it was haunted and during that time I started to read Stephen King in earnest. <3

  • Amy M Reade

    Debby, this was fascinating. Having read your work, it’s exactly what I would have thought. I am all about the mysteries, though I love biographies, too. Like you, I love to learn about other people and what makes them the way they are. My favorite biography so far has been Amelia Earhart. I am also fascinated by books about Biblical archaeology and people.

    What a great topic for a blog post. Thank you!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for joining in Amy. Yes, I love the discussions on this post. And there you are proving again, loving your preferred genre and writing in it! 🙂 x

  • Robbie Cheadle

    I just love to read, Debby, and I read most types of books. I love classics, historical fiction, memoirs, poetry, children’s books, horror, dystopia, romance and paranormal (is there anything left). I will also read the odd western and sci-fi book. Maybe that is why I haven’t settled on a genre with my own writing which includes children’s books, historical, supernatural, horror, poetry and I am attempting dystopia now.

    • dgkaye

      I know you’re a dynamo when it comes to reading Robbie. And clearly, your diversity in reading is what has shaped your ability to be a multi genre author! 🙂 x

  • Pamela

    What an interesting premise, Debby. And one that makes sense. What we liked as a child, and our life’s experiences, definitely seem to affect the genres we read now. I remember LOVING fairy tales when I was first read to, and I dreamed in fairy tales. I read all of the Grimm stories. I also remember delving into Little Women (and being entirely inspired by Jo March – aka Louisa May Alcott and her passion for writing). THEN, I got a bit older and fell in LOVE with Rhett Butler and Gone with the Wind. So. Yup. Now I love romantic fiction (not bodice rippers, but a good relational family and love story), suspense (my gosh, all fairy tales are full of suspense) and historical fiction. I live near Louisa May’s home and have toured it dozens of time. I keep hoping her writing spirit will rub off on me. <3

    • dgkaye

      Fascinating Pam. And see, it’s not hard to follow our growth in reading and where it stemmed from younger years! And yes, it great to have writing influences, but your writing is you Pam, and that’s what makes you unique. <3

  • Diana Peach

    It makes total sense, Debby, and I can clearly see the progression as you talk about your life and interests. My dad was a fantasy reader and our cabin was wall to wall used paperback books that he got for a nickel from the church attic. It just made sense that I read what was available – all of them. Without electricity, there was nothing else to do (besides play outside). 😀

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    How interesting, Debby! I prefer writing non-fiction, probably due to my journalism background and why I prefer to read fiction; Some medical thrillers, decent chick-lit, paradise crime (Toby Neal), and sci-fi/fantasy. I like the escape but also the human condition and relationships just set out of the ordinary. Hope your new year is off to a great start!

    • dgkaye

      Hi Terri. Thanks for adding to the conversation. I love these responses from everyone. And not surprised as a photographer, your interest in nonfiction.
      January is speeding along nicely before I head to the beach! 🙂 x

  • Hugh W. Roberts

    I’ve always been drawn to the unknown, so that’s why science fiction, the paranormal and horror have always interested me. I much prefer to watch TV than reading, because my brain seems to be able to function far better in knowing what’s going on when I can see what’s happening in front of me. When reading, my brain doesn’t always show me what is going on. In my younger days, I used to be drawn to slasher horror movies like ‘Friday the 13th’, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc., yet I can no longer watch anything that has too much blood and gore in it.

    Maps have also fascinated me. As a child, I loved to study an atlas of the world. Even today, I still love to study maps. I like looking at how places are connected and seeing the names of places. No wonder I did well at Geography at school.

    Like you, Debby, humans also fascinate me. I love ‘people watching.’ Sometimes, I wish I could be invisible so that I could sit in a hotel, restaurant or bar, and study people. I could sit there for hours watching what they do and, of course, ideas for my stories come from watching people.

    • dgkaye

      Signs of a true writer Hugh! Humans are a fascinating subject to study lol. And maps! Yes, I love to read maps too. I’m an ace navigator. 🙂 xx

  • Annabelle Franklin

    I’ve always believed the world is vaster than our five senses can perceive, and I’ve always loved fairytales, fantasy and horror as long as it’s done well. I think it’s possible to explore human nature in these genres if the characters are well drawn. On the other hand I like to watch reality TV – it’s a great way to watch the human ego at work!

  • John Maberry

    Meant to come back sooner (oh well). Used to like historical fiction when young–not so much today. Gravitated to space travel, sci-fi early on–primary grades through college and beyond. Somewhere I picked up mysteries (most of the subsets) and suspense thrillers. Have watched crime and legal shows or movies but haven’t read as much of them. So, that leaves the impulse to write sci-fi and mysteries. Now if I can just get rolling before the brain goes. LOL.

  • Olga Núñez Miret

    A fascinating topic, Debby. I’ll have to give it some thought, but in my case, I’ve been a reader from a very young age and I am not sure about any links, other than being an only child and enjoying making up stories. I hope I have plenty more genres to discover yet. 😉

  • Norah Colvin

    I enjoy reading biographies, autobiographies and memoirs too, Debby. I like to find out about people’s lives and what makes them tick. It is sometimes said that truth is stranger than fiction, and it often is. I also enjoy fiction. I think fiction also holds a lot of truth. I’m not keen on horror, dystopian or stream of consciousness novel though. I think for me, as you have stated, I tend to write what I read. I also read a lot of education non-fiction. It’s probably my largest writing output at the moment.

  • Deborah Jay

    I totally agree with the notion that our upbringing sets our reading preferences, and I say as much in the ‘About Me’ page on my website!
    Growing up with the excitement of the moon landing, and the arrival of Doctor Who and Star Trek on TV, I don’t think I stood a chance of writing outside of the speculative genre. SF was my first love, then my horizons were broadened at age 12 by a class read of Ursula K LeGuin’s ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’, and that was that. Trying to write anything that didn’t allow for such scope of imagination seems too mundane, and although these days I read more widely, I don’t think I’m ever likely to change my writing genres.

    • dgkaye

      Just goes to prove what I said. We’re influenced by genre from a young age! Thanks for sharing your journey here Deb. Always fascinated to learn where our writing grew from. <3

  • Michelle James

    I love historical fiction, fiction, some fantasy if it is woven into a good novel, a good memoir, biographies, and children’s books (I’ve never grown-up). I don’t read anything with a dark theme or anything spooky. I’d prefer to read than watch television unless there is a good football game, and then I’ll both watch TV and read.

    • dgkaye

      Interesting selection of genres Michelle. I’m with you on – nothing spooky, that stuff plays on me, lol. And did I hear football? My favorite sport! What on earth happened to the Ravens???????????? lol 🙂 xx

  • Liesbet

    Yes! Humans are fascinating to study – people watching would be one of my favorite hobbies, if I would have the time for it.:-) But that doesn’t mean I like people in general; they bug me more than they please me. I’m talking about inconsiderate strangers here, or people on the road. I’m digressing…

    Like you, I’ve always enjoyed reading true stories and non-fiction books, especially at a later age. With so little time to read, I better learn something, whether it’s about something in the world or about the writing craft. Luckily, that last one can be done by reading fiction as well, which would be the more relaxing way to read.

    I never watch TV, so I’m not in touch with what is going on. But, in the past, while on our sailboat or sometimes while house sitting, we binge watched series we really enjoyed. That was relaxing. Until I realize just how much time went into that. 🙂 Now, blogs have taken over my reading time in the evenings.

    • dgkaye

      Always something to learn for sure. And like you, I too read newspapers online to stay abreast – although there’s so much bad news in the world, it’s either impossible to stay on top of everything – or depressing! 🙂

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