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.