Saturday, August 22, 2009

Multi-Genre Author: Multi-Headache or Multi-happiness?



Please help me in greeting this week's guest blogger. Award-winning author Susanne Marie Knight specializes in Romance Writing with a Twist! She is multi-published with books, short stories, and articles in diverse genres. Originally from New York, Susanne lives in the Pacific Northwest, by way of Okinawa, Montana, Alabama, and Florida. Along with her husband, daughter, and the spirit of her feisty Siamese cat, she enjoys the area's beautiful ponderosa pine trees and wide, open spaces--a perfect environment for writing. For more information about Susanne, please visit her website at http://www.susanneknight.com/.




Greetings! As an author, you have a choice: stick to one genre of writing and build your readers’ base on that, or branch out with different genres. The pros and cons of both choices are many. I’m going to focus on the benefits of being a multi-genre author.

It’s important to have a working knowledge of your particular genre--that’s a given. The best scenario is if you’re a reader, a non-professional aficionado of this genre. As a reader, you know what works and what doesn’t in your chosen genre. Each area has its own vocabulary, its own dos and don’ts list. If, when you write your story, you’re not thoroughly familiar with the ins and outs--ouch! When readers discover a faux pas, they can be oh so unforgiving.

So given these demands on your expertise, why not focus on only one genre?

My answer is simple: why limit yourself? If you feel compelled to switch or combine genres, then I say, follow your dream. To paraphrase the famous phrase in Kevin Costner’s movie, Field of Dreams: If you write your novels, readers will come.

To illustrate, here are a few comments from reviewers on some of my books. What makes these comments even more rewarding is that these reviewers state they aren’t followers of the particular genre:

· This reviewer has never been a fan of Regencies.... TIMELESS DECEPTION is a remarkable exception.--Love Romances.

· For ALIEN HEAT: Normally science fiction is not something I will read. But I have read several books by Ms. Knight and with her writing style I know I would not have a problem reading the story. If you haven’t read anything by Ms. Knight, you don’t know what you are missing.--A Romance Review.

· I’m not a big fan of time travels or paranormals but REGENCY SOCIETY REVISITED is an exception to that rule.--Romance Reader at Heart.

Remember, when your stories are hard to put down, you will attract readers and become established in your different genres.

My personal genre favorites are science fiction, Regency, suspense, paranormal, mystery, contemporary, time-travel, and fantasy. Being a voracious reader at a young age helped me to write in these genres. One thing I thought was missing in most of the novels back then was romance, Naturally, when I started writing, I had to add my own dash of happily ever after, thus my motto: Romance Writing With A Twist.

Blending genres is an excellent way to begin your foray into becoming a multi-genre author. Time travel mixed in with your particular area of writing can be a great method to test the waters. To date I have five Regencies and five time travel Regencies published. As you can see from the above reviewer comments, I’ve attracted a few new fans to these genres.

Surprisingly, Regencies and science fiction are also linked. According to September 2002’s Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine, science fiction fans love the “alien” world of polite Regency society. This interest, the article states, is due to Regency author Georgette Heyer’s prose using “witty dialogue, costumes, rules and conventions of the Regency society...”

Readers of one genre *do* crossover to another!

Here are three of my recent books that blend genres:

· COMPETITORS!--paranormal, murder mystery, romantic suspense. Neanderthals are extinct, aren’t they??

· HAVE CHRISTMAS CARD... WILL TRAVEL--time-travel Regency. Christmas magic sends Meredith back to Regency times to find true love. But what will happen when the twelve days of Christmas are over?

· And my newest, FOREVVER, science fiction, futuristic romance. In the year 2102, the Fountain of Youth exists for only a select few. But you can’t cheat death ForEvver.

Writing is an adventure. With each new genre you explore, you move out of your comfort zone by learning the writing styles and formats pertaining to this type of story. This helps you grow as a writer. It’s fun to stretch your limits and see if you can deliver on a plot or theme. My idea of good storytelling is not only to entertain the reader, but to give the reader something to think about!

12 comments:

Yunaleska said...

Thank you so much for this interview - it rings true for me, because my wips aren't contained within one genre.

A question: does your agent handle all genres, or do have have two agents?

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Good morning! It's great to be here at Prairie Chicks. Thanks for your question, Yunaleska. I used to have an agent awhile ago, but the lag time between communications was more than I wanted. So now I'm footloose and agent-free!! :))

Susanne

Anita said...

Welcome Susanne. I'm pre-pubbed and write in these main romance genres:
- contemporary
- western contemporary
- western historical
- inspirational (same as above)

I have a broad tagline: 'Stories to Stir the Heart'. I need to give more of an indication of what the stories are about. But until I read your post, I didn't have a clear indication of what it could be.

Now, writing my genres above, I remembered being introduced a couple weeks ago to 15 ladies of a new blog and they said my stories are 'of the prairies'. And they're right. Regardless of the genre, every story is set somewhere on the Cdn or US prairies/plains. So maybe I'll add that to my tagline.

Because you see, I don't want to pin myself down to one genre, either. And unless I have an editor or agent with an offer too good to refuse, I won't.

Good post, Susanne.

Vince said...

Hi Susanne

Reading your post is like a breath of fresh air. Right now it seems too many authors and aspiring authors can’t wait to be ‘branded’ – and not only in one genre but in one subgenre.

This reminds me of teenagers wanting to get a tattoo. The idea is, “If you want to build a fan base, and thus a career, you must be known for something. While this is true of marketing toothpaste, authors are alive and can grow. I think early branding is a major mistake.

However, in a way, you have developed a USP (unique selling proposition) in saying you write “Romances with a Twist”. I’ve read your website but I still can’t tell what the twist is.
Is your ‘twist’ a secret? Is it the fact that you combine genres? Is it that you don’t have HEAs, (as in ‘Love Story’, the heroine dies.) Is the twist in the way the whole novel is written or is it in the ending? (I just read that an author should create ten endings to insure coming up with an ending that has a twist and has not been written before.)

I think whether to go multi-genre depends a lot on the individual. Is the writer good enough to get her works published? If not, she better get one genre down pat first. Is the author a prolific writer, writing a book in two to three months? Then multi-genre makes a lot of sense.

Does writing an 'out-of-genre' book every few books make the author's prime genre books much better? Then write the occasional off-genre book. Does the author have two areas of expertise making it a shame not to use both: like a doctor writing medical dramas but who also excels at folklore based fantasy romances? Then use both areas of expertise.

Of course, the market may dictate the choice if one genre takes off like Harry Potter.

I’d sure like to know what your ‘twist’ is. Does ‘Forevver’ have a pronounced twist?

I think I'll just have to read 'Forevver' today to satisfy my curiosity.

Thanks,

Vince

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Thank you, Anita! I enjoyed reading your info and I think it's great that we all can share and learn from each other.

Great feedback from the other blogger group on your writing. My tagline is Romance Writing with a Twist, which is broad too, but all my writing does seem to have a zing of the unexpected.

Thought about your tagline and came up with: Stories from the Prairie--Past and Present--to Stir Your Heart.

Brainstorming always helps to get ideas!

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Hi Vince! Thanks so much for your in-depth post! Funny you should mention the "twist" aspect to my tagline. Kathryn Falk, of Romantic Times, commented on that as well, and suggested I address Romance Writing with a Twist on my website. So I took her advice. :)) The address for the actual page is: http://www.susanneknight.com/TWIST.HTM, and I've copied the main points here:

"Unique. Innovative. Original. Unpredictable. Out-of-the-Ordinary. All of the above words have been used to describe my books. In fact, the title of an interview in my local paper states: Out-of-the-ordinary just right for author. Okay, I admit it, I do like things unusual... deliciously different... with a bit of a twist. And my writing reflects this. I love to run the gamut by exploring the outer reaches of the galaxy... to savoring the subtle nuances of Regency society. Here are just a few reviewer comments on my Romance Writing with a Twist."

You make very good points on multi-genre writing being up to the writer--what the writer feels comfortable with. Personally, the only "brand" that I'd like to have is that I write an entertaining tale, no matter what the genre is. In fact, I just polished a horror flash fiction short (500 words), no romance involved, that has a really cool twist at the end. It was a blast to write!

How do you feel about the advice to write 10 different endings for a novel? For sure, that would drain the creativity out of me! Besides, supposedly, there's nothing new under the sun. What's new--as in never been written before, is the writer's take on a situation.

Back to your question on ForEvver: I'd say the twist is in the storyline: one man striving to be immortal, with a futuristic society set on earth and on the moon--posed to expand further into solar system and beyond. But time is running out--which translates into danger for the major players.

If you do read ForEvver, I'd love to know your take on it, Vince! Thanks again.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Susanne,
I'm so glad to have you with us today. Writing in so many different genres is an inspiration.

While I feel like I would like to write in more than one genre and not limit myself to one type of book, I have to agree with Vince. It's probably a good idea to get established in one genre first before trying your hand at another. Is that more or less what you did?

What do you think is in the future for you? Would you like to try straight science fiction or mystery? Or do you think you will always have an element of romance in your stories? Is there another genre you'd like to give a whirl?

Jana

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Hi Jana! It's good to be here. Thanks again for the invite! When I started writing for profit, my first book was a time-travel Regency--way back when there were no time-travel Regencies on the market. I wrote this book because I wanted to read this type of book. I wrote 3 more before selling the last one I'd written. Then I "branched" out with a straight Regency.

My next sale, however, was a paranormal romantic suspense, so I wasn't really established in either genre yet. I just kept plugging away at writing what I wanted to write, then submitting. Some of my readers prefer certain genres, but as I mentioned, I do have crossover readers, too. :))

After the paranormal sale, I was able to eventually sell my backlist. I don't know if my experience is typical for other writers.

As for the future, I'm open to try new genres... with the proper research, of course! Since I'm a self-confessed incurable romantic, most of my work does contain that element of romance although I've sold science fiction short stories to strictly SF outlets. Currently I'm working on a murder mystery series that also chronicles romance between a fitness instructor and a homicide lieutenant. Doing a full-fledged series was something I wanted to try, and I'm really happy I did!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Susanne,
Your new murder mystery series sounds great. Doing a series is something I've considered myself. What are the benefits of doing a series? Are there pitfalls to watch out for?

Are you a fast writer? Writing in multiple genres with several different publishers, and now tackling a series of books, seems to indicate that you are!

What's your writing schedule like?

Jana

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Thanks, Jana! Writing a series gives you more time to get to know your characters. I highly recommend it! I've found that I have a better understanding of how my recurring characters will react in those situations I throw their way. That's one benefit. Also, many of the locations will be the same, so that saves time in creating settings.

In doing a series though, there's there's one area that can be a drawback. As a reader, if I start a book that's not the first book in a series, I don't like to feel like I've walked into a story that's already in progress. I like serials that are stand-alone stories. Referring to things that happened previously is fine. What bothers me is a lost feeling that I get sometimes when reading certain serials.

So, to prevent this, not only do you have to write your story for the reader that's new to your series, you also have to make sure you don't repeat information (ad nauseum) for your veteran readers. I found this to be a challenge, and fingers crossed I'll be successful.

As for being a fast writer... *sigh* I've been told I'm fast, but some days (too many days!) the time flies by without much to show for it. Actually, I'm happy if I'm able to write 4 pages a day. :))

Vince said...

Hi Susanne:

I just read Chapter one of "ForEvver" and it is kind of strange (even for SF)with baseball and people with Roman names and a ring made from an ancient coin. Will I learn if the ring is an aureus or solidus?

I’m a big fan of science fiction and of ancient history. Have you written a time travel novel to ancient Rome?

A writer name. Michelle Styles .wrote a Roman romance “The Roman’s Virgin Mistress’ that takes place in 69 BC in Baiae which was a very rich seaside resort. What is so unique about this book is that it is a Roman Regency. If you are into Regencies, this is a very fun read. I wish there were more Roman period romances but they just are not popular.

Well, I have to get back to reading your book.

Thanks,

Vince

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Hi Vince! So glad you're reading my book! ForEvver is a precursor (definitely a stand-alone novel) for the two books in my Janus world: Janus is a Two-Headed God and Janus is a Two-Faced Moon. With the year being 2102, I envision many things to be similar to today, plus some different situations as well, hence the baseball theme with Flavia and her client. :)) In fact, in Janus is a Two-Faced Moon, I invented a Galactic Olympic sport called air ballet, so that SF has ballet information since the heroine is an injured ballerina, along with an alien invasion.

Anyway, Roman things do seem to run rampant in many of my writings. Flavia's ring, as you'll read, was made from a Roman coin venerating the god Janus. I didn't go into the details on the monetary value of it (aureus at 25 denarii or the less valued solidus) but that's interesting information for another tale. Actually, that info would be perfect for another Janus book: Janus is a Two-Sided Coin!

No, no time travel Roman novels as yet, but I did do a fantasy short story with Roman gods interferring in a contemporary Joe Average guy's life. That Roman Regency sounds right up my alley! Thanks for the recommendation, Vince. I'll look for The Roman's Virgin Mistress.

Best,

Susanne