Being mis/labelled is an occupational hazard for a novelist. I shrug, think, Well, that's marketing for ya, and move on. But for some reason I seem to get bent out of shape when people describe the Aud books as noir. I've been trying to figure out why.
I think it has something to do with love. Hang in with me while I ramble (I haven't had time to assemble a clean and coherent line of thought).
So, okay, when I picture noir I think claustrophobic and urban: neon-splashed puddles in an alley outside a seedy bar peopled by the desperate and criminal (who are often actors on a very small stage; their minds, too, are small and sort of rat-in-a-maze-ish--as though they forgot to take their meds just before the story begins). Yet the Aud books, particularly Always, are about hope and change and growth, stuffed with food and sunshine and love. A lot of it is set against pastoral rather than urban backgrounds. And bursting with Big Feelings and Events--sex, betrayal, explosions. Pretty much the opposite of noir.
When I consider noir prose I think: clipped, stark, spare, even frugal. The tone is a little mysterious because, essentially, the protagonists are ciphers. The tension and pace tends to be relentless. Yet, to my mind--or at least in my intent--Aud is laid bare, to the degree that she understands herself (and she's always trying to learn more) and the tone and pace are varied: some despair, some joy, some fear, some rage, some contentment, some stress...
As a reader and writer I love tempo change, love variety in all things--character, pace, metaphor. I love clarity and focus, yes, but I also love generosity and profligacy (one of the reasons I'm such a huge fan of Patrick O'Brian).
Love, love, love and love. Yet how much love of any kind, how much joy is there in noir fiction? The protagonists tend to be anxious, self-destructive and self-focused. They are closed. They don't love themselves, don't love the world (they hide from it, they fight it, they try put one over on it) and they don't love other people.
My favourite fiction is zesty, it pulses with joy, it takes risks. (No doubt you'll be shocked to find I've written a whole essay about this, Brilliance and Beauty and Risk, /grin/.) The best books give me a sense of expansion, of doors opening.
I believe a lot of our reading is aspirational, it reflects who we think we are and what we want. I want an open mind, I want variety and joy and depth. For me, In the end, it comes down to what I love.