Do you read or write across multiple genres? What would make you follow an author (or not) from one genre to another?
This week I’ve been up in Derbyshire again, handling the final details of my mother’s house sale and thinking about the great discussion that came out of last week’s post about my home county as the perfect setting for a steampunk series.
Right now, my focus is firmly on finishing and querying my WIP, a 100k-word contemporary love story set in London and the Scottish Highlands, and I already know that I want to write at least three more contemporaries set in the same world, but as I was whizzing around the Peak District and dreaming a dream or two I got a lot ahead of myself and wondered whether I might eventually want to write in more than one sub-genre and if I did, how I’d go about it.
As a reader I choose my favorite authors for their voice – they words they choose to tell their story, and the kind of story they choose to tell. I like love stories with a happy ending, peopled by smart, funny, kind, passionate, larger-than-life characters and lashings of community. If I love the author’s voice, I don’t really mind whether the community is peopled by dukes, werewolves, SEALs or plain old billionaires.
Many other readers must feel the same way, because some of the most successful romance writers of all time have managed this juggling act with stellar results. I’m not thinking about authors who’ve chosen to switch or experiment with a new genre (writers like Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor and Alyssa Day/Alesia Holliday/Lucy Connors), but authors who’ve consistently published fiction in more than one sub-genre over a long period of time.
Michaeline wrote this post yesterday about Georgette Heyer. Heyer is legendary as a historical romance writer, but she also wrote a dozen contemporary mysteries. She released one romance and one murder mystery per year between 1932 and 1942, all under the same name.
Jayne Ann Krentz writes contemporary romantic suspense under her own name, historical romantic suspense as Amanda Quick, and paranormal/futuristic romantic suspense as Jayne Castle. She uses three different pen names for her three different worlds, so that readers know what to expect when they buy a book, but she only has one website for all three pseudonyms, making it easy for fans to follow her from one sub-genre to another.
Nora Roberts writes contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense under her own name, and futuristic suspense (the In Death series) under the name JD Robb. All her books under both pen names are now listed on her website, but it wasn’t until the release of the twelfth In Death book that her publisher revealed that JD Robb was a pseudonym for Nora Roberts.
My guess is that writing in multiple genres works for authors like these because they’re outstanding story-tellers, they’re well-established and most of all they’re incredibly prolific. JAK has published more than a hundred books, and Nora Roberts over two hundred. Hopping genres is a way to keep their work fresh, for themselves and their readers, and to offer something extra, a bonus option clearly branded so that their readers know what to expect and can choose whether to make the jump.
Even for established writers, I suspect branching out could become problematic if they stray from the core elements that their fans love. Our McD teacher and mentor, Jenny Crusie, has written on her blog about the adverse reaction she faced when she published a book that was not romance, even though it was clearly described and packaged as not a romance. I understand. I bought and read the book with all its caveats because I love her voice and I’d read anything she wrote, but the thing I took from it and wished there was more of was the beautiful love story that accounted for maybe ten per cent of the book. (Sorry, Jenny).
For me as a newbie writer, I’ll be sticking to contemporary romance, at least for now. I think in time branching out is something I might want to try, though I believe I’ll always stay within the romance genre. When I have a little time, maybe over Christmas, I might try sketching out a steampunk love story or two, but I’ll do it as a personal experiment to see if it helps to top up my creative well, in the same way I’d read a book, or go to the ballet, or watch a movie. If I really, really love what I come up with I’ll report back here, but don’t hold your breath 😉 .
What do you think? Do you/would you read an author across multiple genres or sub-genres? Why would you follow a writer, and where would you draw the line?