Genre specificity: that exhausted theme addressed over and over again on this blog and others. Here I am revisiting it, beating it like a dead horse. But here’s my question: why are authors pigeon holed into one particular genre? Is it chance, or choice?
When one of my colleagues discovered that I wrote romance novels, her first question was, “You’re a scientist, why not science fiction or medical drama?” My answer for her was simply, “Why not romance?” A similar question arose when I did an interview on Shauna Robert’s blog though phrased differently, “How did you become interested in writing romance?” My response was “It was a natural fit.” The thing is writing for me is an escape. An escape from the mundane or hectic things of life: my work, my daughter’s constant questions, changing diapers, figuring out what to cook for dinner, trying to keep my house from deteriorating into a pig sty. I don’t write science fiction because I’m not inspired to. After spending all day in the lab repeating experiment after experiment, analyzing data that makes no sense, and reading scientific journals why would I want to revisit that in my imagination?
The truth is, I write by inspiration. I have a lot’s of stories in my head and partially written from various genres (not sci-fi though). But nine out of ten times the stories that come to me are romance stories. Which leaves me to revisit the question: are writers known for specific genres because of choice or because we a pigeon holed into a particular genre?
I couldn’t help but notice many well known authors who cross genres do so under different pseudonyms or in collaboration with other writers. Is it a case where like actors, once we establish ourselves in one genre of book (or film) that we are expected and thus steered into writing that particular type of book? Or is it where our passion sends us?
Even great actors find themselves stuck in repetitive roles. For years it seems Denzel Washington kept doing the role of the great all American hero (with some notable exceptions), until “Training Day” seemed to break the mold. Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock seem forever stuck in the role of romantic comedy. Most likely they are pigeonholed into those roles. Is that the same for authors?
Though I’ve never attempted to publish fiction other than romance, I would love to publish other genres as well. But is it a case that once we start with romance we’re expected to repeat it? How difficult will it be to break into a different genre?
There are some authors like James Patterson, who break the mold. He writes across genres: crime, drama, sci-fi, even romance. Others, like John Grisham, stick mostly to legal drama. But to tell the truth, I as a reader have certain expectations of authors. When I pick up a Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts, I expect romance. Maybe that’s the driving force behind the genres we write: the readers’ expectation.
What causes you to select your particular genre: passion, chance, or expectation?