Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing a genre you’re not used to, is brought to you by Velda Brotherton.
Escaping the Comfort Zone
Writing romances in the mid Nineties came about by accident. When a western won first place in a contest, an editor at Penguin informed me westerns with women protagonists weren’t being published. He wanted me to turn it into a romance and send it back. With a lot of coaching from other writers I did just that. As a result my historical romances found a niche and are still being published.
But what happens when we want to try something new? Is it possible to step out of that comfort zone where we’re being published? It may well be if what we like to read is eclectic. Should we do it? Those are questions each one of us can answer for ourselves.
A few years ago I stepped out of that comfort zone and finished a horror novel I’d worked on sort of in secret when I needed a break from romances. A fan of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, it never occurred to me I could be published in that genre. So what really happens when we try to break the mold? First, we have to ask ourselves a lot of questions, which are showing up here. I discovered that I had trouble leaving hot sex scenes out of my horror novel. But it was mine, after all, so if I wanted to include what I’d become fairly good at, why not?
When a small publisher agreed to take a look at it, my first fear was there would be too much sex in a non-romance novel. It turned out they liked it, but sadly they went broke before they could publish it. So back into its plastic storage box went the manuscript. And I wrote another western historical romance.
But then people kept asking me why I didn’t write what I knew, namely stories from the nine years I’d worked for a newspaper as a feature writer. Weekly newspapers require that each employee wear different hats, so I did everything from chase ambulances to hold a huge python in my lap to sit in on city planning meetings. Then there was the time I flew with a barnstormer who just happened to be America’s first real space man. Well, you get the idea. Never did cover a murder, though, but I got to thinking that a mystery series set amidst all the characters I’d met and the odd stories I’d covered, might be of interest to readers.
So began A Twist of Poe mysteries. And guess what? Up reared that hot sex scene or two or three or more. It wasn’t long before my new publisher branded me. Sexy, Dark, and Gritty. It fit every genre I write in. The second book in that series, The Tell-Tale Stone, was published last month, and, oh yes, the horror novel, A Savage Grace, will be out from the same publisher in October in time for Halloween.
So my message, in a nutshell is, write what you want to write, then worry about the rest. Yes, you can promote in all genres, because the important message here is that you are selling yourself as a writer, not your individual books. Chances are readers who like your writing will follow you anywhere. Because it’s more than the genre readers like. It’s style and voice, the characters you create, your way of putting words down on paper that make them sing. As writers we are all unique. If we aren’t we don’t last too long.
My advice to writers who are a bit adventuresome, step way out of your comfort zone, come up with something wild and different, but don’t abandon your style or voice or your ability to spin a wonderful, intriguing yarn. Then begin to promote yourself and people will follow you anywhere.
Morgen: As someone who usually writes crime but has written a chick-lit novel, it was fun to go astray. I don’t read science-fiction or westerns but having written short stories in both genres, it was surprisingly easy. Writing a novel in them though, would be another matter. Thank you, Velda. It was great to have you back.
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The Tell-Tale Stone blurb…
The body had been buried in a shallow grave then dug up, probably by coyotes, and scattered out like a feast for other smaller animals. Crows then fed on the face. Looked like they’d already removed the eyeballs and a couple of them had worked on the tongue until the gaggle of humans arrived. Several of the black birds perched in tree limbs, others circled above, cawing in anger, their wings slapping at the wind.
Could Dallas Starr and Jessie West solve two murders while searching for stolen diamonds and pursuing their favorite pastime. Finding love in all the unusual places.
A short excerpt from The Tell-Tale Stone…
She grabbed his arm, but he pulled away. Best she didn’t get caught up in the attack from those dark places while he did his thing. Something neither he nor anyone else could fully explain. His muscles went tight as cables, and he shuddered, tightened his fists, and squeezed his eyes tight, as if he could see more in the shadows of his imagination than in the reality before him. In truth, he often did. Too often, he existed in both worlds at one time.
An abnormal stillness settled over the circle of deputies who knew better than to say anything. Or were too scared to do so. He never was sure which. He wasn’t the easiest to work with, and for the most part, they kept their distance. Suited him just fine. He never made friends easily, and didn’t really give a damn. Wished they weren’t even around to witness his unusual interrogation.
and from this blog, my guests who have written on the topic of genre are…
- Genres – crime / mystery / thriller / suspense: Connie Knight, Graham Smith 1, Graham Smith 2, DJ Swykert, Jim Webster, Joyce Strand, Marietta Miemietz, Marla Madison, Quentin Bates, Warren Bull, and Wayne Zurl.
- Genres – fantasy: Andy Barten, Rae Z Ryans, TJ Perkins, Vonnie Winslow Crist, and Yvonne Hertzberger.
- Genres – historical: Alison Bruce, Connie Knight, Joyce Strand, Lou Allin, Margaret Muir, Phoebe Matthews, and William S Shepard.
- Genres – horror: Armand Rosamilia, and Marla Madison.
- Genres – humour: Sophie Duffy, and Valerie Laws.
- Geners – literary: João Cerqueira.
- Genres – non-fiction (inc. articles, biography, memoir, essays): AJ Kirby, Amanda Klein & Allyson Wuerth, DJ Swykert, Dr Friedemann Schaub, Graham Smith, Helen Bailey, Jane Hertenstein, Jeff Rasley, Jennifer Boire, Jonathan Taylor, Karen Robbins, Kate Funk, Kristine Millar, Nina Bingham, Sean Gray, Tonya Vrba, and William Shepard.
- Genres – romance / erotica: Cherry Radford, Jane Wenham-Jones, Melodie Campbell, Quentin Bates, and Sarah Clare.
- Genres – science-fiction: Dal Burns, Joy V Smith 1, Joy V Smith 2, Paul Lell, and Robin Matchett.
- Genres – mixed: Alison Bruce, Anne O’Connell, Nowick Gray, Robin Leigh Morgan, and Shaundra Kennedy Wenger.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. Guidelines on guest-blogs. There are other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
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For anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.
If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.