I sent a tweet out today about a story idea I have, talking about how I couldn’t seem to write anything that fit one genre to a T. My UF novel had elements of horror. My dark fantasy had elements of lit and science fiction. And this newest idea is a mystery/urban fantasy/religion piece. So paranormal mystery? Who the heck knows what it’d be called.
What surprised me were the responses I got. All of them were positive, along the lines of “you go, girl!” I chatted back and forth with a few folks, and it was heartening how many people wanted to see more blending of genres. Because really–why shouldn’t there be? Elements from different genres mixing can make a compelling book. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files combines urban fantasy with good old gum-shoe detective work. Kim Harrison’s Hollows series sometimes has thriller aspects or mystery. I’ve seen Stephen Kind blend fantasy and westerns, as well as horror and sci-fi. So why can’t we do it? Why are we sometimes so afraid to cross lines?
I think a lot of it comes down to marketing. An urban fantasy mystery is all well and good, but where do you shelve it in a store? If the plot line is all cozy mystery, but the protagonist happens to be a ghost, who’s going to like the story better? Fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Agatha Christie, or fans of Patricia Briggs and Carrie Vaughn? Personal experience tells me the Briggs and Vaughn fans–my mother is a lifelong mystery reader and hates it when her favorite authors zig into the realm of the weird. But will all UF fans embrace a book where the UF is secondary? It’s no wonder the thought of genre-blending can give editors a headache no Tylenol can touch.
But I don’t think that means we shouldn’t write genre-mixing books. I think it simply means we should expect to face challenges when trying to get them published. And challenges are okay. We face them anyway, trying to be one of the few among the masses that get published each year. Why should one more stop us, if it’s a story that won’t leave us alone? Passion and obsession with a character or plot is what makes our fiction go from flat to something “wow.” So write what you’re itching to write and have no fear.
Have a good weekend, all! And check back next week for my first-ever book review. I’ll be talking about the always-funny j.a. kazimer and her latest book, “Froggy Style.”