Our guest blogger this week is novelist Heidi Noroozy. I met Heidi through Sisters in Crime last year, when we both discovered we write about main characters straddling two cultures. I was more than a little intrigued when I found out that her novels feature an Iranian private investigator who solves crimes both in the U.S. and in Iran. Equally fascinating is Heidi's background. She's an American who travels regularly to Iran, is fluent in Farsi, and writes about a culture few of us have an opportunity to see close up. Heidi is contributing to this week's topic on writing and marketing cross-genre novels.
Thanks, Supriya, for inviting me to blog with you today. And on one of my favorite topics, too.
The first time I realized my novel was cross-genre was the day I started querying agents and had to come up with that important little phrase: my completed 90,000-word…what? Couldn’t I just call it a novel and be done with it? Nope. I had to find a way to set it aside from the hundreds of other fiction queries agents receive every week. I had written a crime story. That was a start. But there are whole shelves of crime novels in every bookstore – even entire bookstores devoted to the genre. So I thought some more. My book featured a female private investigator. So far, so good. The problem was, without even taxing my brain, I could think of at least ten other authors who were writing series featuring female private investigators. I dug deeper. She’s Iranian. Born in Tehran, raised in California – a person of two cultures. Bingo. I had it: a multicultural P.I. novel. A cross-genre story.
It may be that some authors set out to write cross-genre and combine various interests to come up with something new and different. Mysteries populated with supernatural beings (Charlaine Harris), police procedurals set in the future (J.D. Robb), a medieval knight-turned-private investigator (Jeri Westerson). For me it started with a challenge.
I’d been hanging with Iranians for years. I’d been to Iran, spoke the language, could even cook a decent pot of saffron-scented rice without burning the tadiq – the crispy bits on the bottom of the pot. But everywhere I looked in the media, I saw images of Iran that didn’t fit with what I knew. On TV there were women enveloped in black chadors, crowds raising fists and yelling “Death to America”, those propaganda murals painted on the walls of the former U.S. Embassy that seem to be mandatory footage for every CNN newscast on Iran. In the movies, the Iranians were the terrorists who got blown up by the good guys in the end.
Where were the funny, teasing people who were always cracking me up? The bottle-blonds with pouty red lips and cats-eye mascara jobs? The bossy matrons who lay down the law in the home and out-bargain the savviest merchant at the bazaar? The big, noisy family gatherings with enough food to feed a small nation? The taxi drivers who can recite Rumi poems while performing death-defying maneuvers in Tehran’s killer traffic? I put them all in my books. And added a mystery/suspense plot.
My entire series is cross-genre in a way. The first book is a straight whodunit-type mystery. The second suspense, with the murderer revealed up front and a sleuth determined to make him pay for his crime. The third? Well, I haven’t written it yet, so that’s anybody’s guess. It definitely won’t have a terrorist in it. That’s been done to death.
Thanks so much for blogging with us today, Heidi! Your novel sounds incredible and exactly like something I'd pick up in the store.