Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stay or Stray?

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?


D.R. Ransdell said...

Eugenia, you pose a difficult question that I've often asked myself. The truth is, though, that I don't think I'm capable of sticking to any one genre. There are too many things that I like! And weirdly enough, I feel that I sometimes get better at one thing by doing something else that's related though different.

In fact, even though I find myself "straying" from one genre to another, there are also crossovers. I've just signed a contract for a murder mystery titled Mariachi Murder. And yet I spent four months last year drafting a memoir that's about the ups and downs of being in a mariachi.

On first glance, it might seem 'wrong' to cross genres like that, but while drafting the memoir, I got a lot of ideas I might later use in the fiction. I came to an even deeper appreciation of my own love of mariachi playing. I knew about this love, of course, but writing a memoir showed me a LOT more about it.

So perhaps the question has more to do with the kind of people we are. Some people are more focused. I imagine that's a blessing. I'm not... but instead of trying to 'tame' myself, maybe I'm better off trying to embrace my different interests and running with them. At least--I hope that's the way it works!

Charles Gramlich said...

I love to read and write in all kinds of genres. I never restrained myself to one, but then I don't have a large career either so maybe I should have. It's too late for me now.

William Doonan said...


Writing is our bliss, our hinterland, our own country. That allows you the freedom to do whatever you want with it. I'm still thinking of delving into pirate erotica, or Pirotica as I call it.

Dayton Ward said...

Though the bulk of my work is science fiction (or closely related), I like to wander a bit, if for no other reason than to stretch creative muscles in different directions.



KeVin K. said...

^ Yeah, Dayton, you're already a Bucs fan so it's a natural transition.

I have set aside my romance writing for the nonce, but when I do take that back up I plan on marketing under my wife's name. Though there are a few male romance writers gaining traction in the marketplace, a woman's name lends credibility. Everyone knows guys don't get romance. However I intend to write everything else under my real name. (And half my pro words have appeared with no name whatsoever.)

C.J. Cherryh used the same name for her sf and fantasy, though the two didn't overlap. Kristine Kathryn Rusch uses a different name for every genre.

Jewel Amethyst said...

this is one of the questions I keep asking myself Eugenia, because I love multiple genres. I guess that's why many authors who branch out use pseudonyms. At a conference some time ago I saw authors with name tags having up to five or more pseudonyms.

Eugenia O'Neal said...

Authors with FIVE pseudonyms! Wow, Jewel! But, then how do you find the time to market each one AND write? Kevin seems to agree with the name switch but it would seem like you'd have to spend huge amounts of time on marketing each name, alone. D. R. Ransdell, A Mariachi Murder is a great title. Music plays (pi) a strong role in your books, doesn't it?

Well! Pirotica! Alrighty, then! lol!

I like that William - 'our hinterland'. Sometimes I wish my country came with more milk and honey, though.