Monday, February 15, 2010

Cross-Genre = Where Do We Put Your Book?

As most of you know who've been following the blog for a while, I'm the least experienced writer in the bunch. This week we're tackling the topic of crossing genre boundaries within our writing and how we do it. My opinion on this topic is limited because I've only written one thing and I've only been writing for a year.

I didn't know I was mixing genres when I wrote. I had a story I wanted to tell, simple as that. I wanted it to have hot sex, so I wrote that in. I wanted action and adventure like my favorite movies have, which also meant it needed some suspense to keep the reader turning pages. Oh, and I wanted to make my own world up to play by my rules, so I threw the fantastical into the mix as well.

Hmm... let's see -- that's an Erotic Action/Adventure Paranormal Suspense. Gee, okay. And where do we stick your book on the shelves, lady? I'm not so sure myself. The books I buy range from horror, to romance, to fantasy, and finally to mystery. I like them all and I see elements from two or three genres crossing into the current bestsellers. I think Steve explained it best in his post on why he writes crime. Every story has a puzzle behind it, or it wouldn't be worth reading.

Now to the question of how - how do you successfully mix all these elements into a story and make it believable? I hark back on Greg's excellent post on believability equals credibility. You must plan well. You must be able to incorporate all of the facts about the world you've created, balance it with character developing subplots, manage to move the main plot of the book along in every chapter and make sure the sex is not gratuitous, but actually appropriate within the story.

How did I do it? I wrote it all out in a brief outline and had key points I wanted to string together - then I worked toward that goal. I knew my ending, I knew the sex scenes I wanted to write - heck, I even planned out a mild woman on woman scene and worked it in with the main focus being the monogamous married couple (and how, you may ask?  Read it to see! ;-)) Sometimes planning out a cross-genre book is simply stringing together a bunch of wild scenes you've imagined and giving them life.

I had an absolute blast writing my one and only book so far. Sometimes I made my husband read scenes right as I finished writing them because I was desperate to see if it came across as hot as I'd hoped.  And yes, he said they did. Scoff and laugh all you want - but sex sells. As long as it doesn't fill every page and there is an actual story to go along with it, then readers will love it (or at least that's one of things I love as a reader).

How about you? What's your favorite mix of genres? I'd love to hear because I'm working on my next book and learning what people like is invaluable.

Important Update: My husband and I discussed things extensively and made the decision yesterday that I would self-publish my book for release this May. Let's look at it as an experiment -- one I invite you along to witness each step as I take it. Who knows? The end result may surprise us all.


  1. Good luck, C.J.! I look forward to reading about your self publishing adventure.

    In regards to your question about mixed genres I enjoy reading. Start with horror and mix just about anything in and I'm happy.

  2. Thanks Wendy! Much to my surprise, Supriya was right there cheering me on when I called her. She said if I had asked her last year she probably would have said what she's always heard - "Don't do it, it could hurt your whole career." But last night she said "I've seen you do so much this past year that everyone said couldn't be done. I think your book and you are the exception and you should go for it."

    I hadn't realized how important her opinion would matter to me, but it did. Right up there with Pete's. I'm excited and scared -- all over the place mentally, really. But I'll rein that energy in and get a focused plan together this week. Daunting to say the least!

  3. Good to hear. You're a braver person than I, but I wish you well. And don't forget the post I did with Starlene Stringer. I'm sure she would be able to provide some good advice.

  4. Brave? Nah - just not afraid of failure. Hey, it builds character, right? ;-)

  5. Good decision, C.J. If self-pubbing is what you want for this book, then go at it with gusto! Ya just never know... take Matthew Reilly's story, for example (lifted from MR's website):

    "He wrote Contest while just 19 and self-published it in 1996, deliberately aiming to have his book noticed by publishers who talent-scout at bookstores. His dedication paid off, and was discovered by Pan Macmillan's then commissioning editor Cate Paterson. His first industry-produced novel, Ice Station, proved so monumentally popular, that it had to be reprinted six times in its first two years."

    As for cross-genres, I love action/adventure mixed with thriller, romance and paranormal. My current MS is all that and I'm finding it hard to "label" it...

  6. Thanks Alli. Appreciate the tip on checking out Matthew's site as well. Just filed my DBA with my existing business license and bought a block of ten ISBN numbers - whoot!! I'm officially a publisher! For all that's worth, eh?

  7. I had problems with the whole cross-genre thing for my novel, Release, so I can definitely relate. I think my entire trilogy may be difficult to place, since Release took place during WWII (but contained paranormal characters, so it wasn't traditional historical fiction), Return is set during 9/11, and Redeem will be modern-day. I've actually come up with my own genre -- Literary Paranormal!

    Your novel really reminds me of Urban Fantasy like Tanya Huff's novels, including the Smoke series. Smart, funny, sexy, with a mystery and paranormals a'plenty. I really do think you're making the right decision to self-publish. You've already been selling copies of your manuscript, so your edited, bound book will definitely make a splash and get noticed by the big boys! You go girl!

  8. Thanks Nicole! I'm excited, nervous, and in a tizzy trying to plan! I had hoped for May 1st, but may wind up having the release be near the middle to end of May, not sure yet.

    I loved Huff's series and thought she did an excellent job. Here's to hoping readers like my book even half as much as hers!

  9. I'm combining literary fiction and science-fiction. Which is probably like Kryptonite to agents, publishers and marketing.

  10. I don't know about that! Wouldn't some people say the same about Asimov, Sagan or Heinlien? I wish you the best and I have faith you'll find the right person. When? Now that's another story ;-)