I read an author interview on Shelley Wilson's blog the other day, in which children's fantasy writer Lynette Creswell talked about writing adult fantasy, too (by 'adult' I mean 'for grown ups', not thrusting groins and heavy breathing), and also veering off to the left with a book that is best placed under the heading 'women's fiction'.
The other day I was talking online to author of the fantasy Storm Trilogy, Anthony Lavisher, who says he's going to write a thriller next, possibly followed by something historical.
Is this a bad idea? Some might say yes, but I applaud them.
Since I've started this self-pub thing, one piece of advice I've read over and over again (and, indeed, have given myself) is to stay roughly in the same genre. This is why: if Angela Author has built up a fanbase for her historical fiction over the last 5 books, those readers are going to be a tad mystified/disappointed/sceptical if her 6th book is about space ships and aliens. "It's not what I expect from an Angela Author book," they will say, and may give up on her, not bothering to find out if she abandoned the little green men in favour of a return to Plantagenet lords for her 7th.
|I photographed various piles of books around my living room!|
The books I write are all character driven, from multiple POVs and with some "bloody hell I never saw that coming!" plot twists (I don't think I can match the 'awesome gobsmacking WTF' one in The House of York, so perhaps a change is the right move!). They're centred around relationships, usually family. The characters range from single mums on council estates to millionaire businessmen, from guys in rock bands to rebellious teenagers to the odd psychopath, but when you open a book by me you know more or less what you're getting.
However, after The House of York, I suddenly realised I was kind of over the family drama thing. I even had the whole plot for the sequel semi-worked out, but not the necessary enthusiasm. Then the story for The Devil You Know popped into my head. I wanted to write something more suspenseful, darker, and include the odd character with some seriously evil sh*t going on in their heads. I'd begun to go down this route with THO York (which contains an abduction, murderous intent, and a couple of people with heads filled with the aforementioned evil sh*t). So I've slid diagonally, I suppose, rather than changing genre....
.... but what I'm coming to is this. Most of us read several different genres, so if you love the SciFi of Joe Bloggs and the financial thrillers of Bob Smith, might you not like to read Bob Smith in SciFi mode, too? Should we be as fearful as we are that we'll put off our readers if we produce something that isn't along exactly the same lines as what's gone before?
|Bit of a GRR Martin bias on this shelf!|
The cheapness and easy availability of Kindle books means that most avid readers have tried new genres over the past few years, and discovered new writers. The facility for self publication means that writers are more free to write what, how and when they want than ever before. Six-ish years ago, I was told by a reputable literary agent that she couldn't sell You Wish to a publisher because it was written from multiple 1st person POVs. I had no desire to rewrite as she suggested, so I self-published it as it was. This format suits my style and authorial skill set (now there's a phrase I have not used before. I promise I never will again). Several years down the line, multiple 1st person POVs has become so popular that I rarely open a book that features the same narrator all the way through (I read about ten a month). Many readers didn't seem to care for it at the time, either (I read a lot of reviews, too), but now accept it as a popular style, like the variation and comment about the author's skill in changing 'voice'.
....so, my point is this. If a certain style/format used to be thought of as unsaleable, but is now not only accepted but the happening way to go, maybe authors writing in multiple genres might become more accepted, too. The norm, even. I know some have got round it by writing the alternative genre under a pen name, but unless you have a traditional publisher behind you it can mean starting off a whole new promotional platform for that pen name. And while Angela Author is writing her SciFi book under the name Wendy Writer, she isn't adding another title to her own list on Amazon Author Central.
Okay. *Deep breath*. My next book will be part one of a post apocalyptic series. No, not zombies, much though I love to read about them, but a pandemic. Essentially, though, it will still be a Terry Tyler novel. It centres around one family and their friends, their hopes, fears, love lives, joys and disappointments, but in an end-of-the-world setting rather than comfortable middle class life in East Anglia. I think that if you like the way I write, then you'll like Tipping Point (working title) as well.
I'm fascinated by survival after disaster, by the psychology of how people cope, by the manipulation of the population by the media (Tipping Point deals with this, too) ~ isn't it, therefore, logical that I would want to write about it? I read a lot of non-fiction history books because I have an endless thirst for knowledge about life in the 14th century, in particular; one day, when I feel confident enough, I want to write that histfic novel, too. If you like the way someone writes, then you like the way they write, full stop ~ surely? Unless they're moving from romcoms to air conditioning installation manuals, it's likely that you'll still have time for whatever they bring out. And with any author you like, even if it's action thriller after action thriller or vampire after vampire, you always have your favourites and not-so-favourites.
I hope I'm right and am not just trying to convince myself. I daresay there will be some readers who say, "I like her family dramas but I don't really want to read about a global disaster." I am still planning another history-inspired family saga (based on Henry II and his sons). But if more of us dare to branch out into other genres, it might give others the confidence to give it a go, too. It might also encourage readers to try genres they always thought they wouldn't like. I only discovered that I love zombie apocalypse books by accident. A lady who reads my books asked if I'd be so kind as to read her zombie apoc short story. I did so out of politeness, and bloody loved it, so much that I've bought three of her books since, and it's now my most-read genre after histfic.
Maybe it depends how orientated you are towards marketing. I'm not so much; I always have about 4 stories on the 'to be written' list, and when I've finished one novel I just pick which one I want to do next and crack on. I'm sure those savvy book marketing people would pour much scorn on this!
I don't know where else I'm going with this really, but if you've dared to publish in more than one genre, are thinking about it but are wary, feel hemmed in by your publisher, or have any other thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear about it!
(ps: the other night when I couldn't sleep, I got up at 5.30 am and wrote 5 pages of the zombie book I want to write but think I shouldn't. I loved writing it, and I think it might even be quite good, too. Hmm....!! We'll see how the pandemic goes down, first....)