A friend who was reading my latest book, The Water of Sunlight, emailed me while she was still on chapter one to say, and I quote, "Wow! You've strayed far from your romance roots!" And I have. It's true. Sunlight is a gritty story of one's woman redemption after she is imprisoned for the attempted murder of her drug dealer. There is no romance of any kind in sight! Yet, my first novel was a light novel set in the Virgin Islands - lots of sun, sand and sea, a handsome hero and a strong-willed heroine.
So, how have I found myself in Sunlight tackling issues like drug abuse, women in prison and HIV/AIDS? Aren't I, perhaps, damaging my career by writing all over the map? My second novel, Dido's Prize, was a historical adventure romance and the third, Jessamine, hmm, well, that had a bit of romance, a bit of suspense, it had a strong historical element but it was also partly contemporary so it was quite the callaloo as we would say in the Caribbean.
A lot of what I've read on the subject (see here and here) suggests sticking to one genre and becoming known in it before branching out and, hopefully, taking your readers with you. The argument is that when you jump from one genre to another, you don't get the chance to establish a relationship with readers who may trust you enough to follow you to another genre. I can see the merit to this argument. Nora Roberts is said to have waited until she was well known in romance before branching into her J. D. Robb series. But I read in all genres - why shouldn't I write in them, too? (For a discussion on the topic, check here.) I like romances and will probably return to them but there are other stories I want to tell, as well, and not all of them will have a happily ever after.
What do you think about multiple genres?