Last week, someone in a writing workshop called me a genre chameleon. We were discussing a story I’d written (well, actually, if you’re familiar with how writing workshops go, everyone else around the table was discussing my story while I sat there mute and took copious notes). The story in question was a mashup of queer fiction and noir detective fiction with (wait for it) vampires. Since this is a graduate MFA workshop, I thought it would get ripped to shreds. Since I submitted it with that expectation, I must be a glutton for punishment. But that’s another topic entirely.
As it happened, I was wrong. It got an enthusiastic response. They loved the voice, but they said the pacing was off (it got way too fast in the last ten pages) and was accompanied by a shift in the main character’s tone (which I figured was going to be a problem—lesson learned: don’t rush). Almost universally, they also said, there’s too much going on here for one story. This might be a novel.
Back to the genre chameleon comment. That was a great compliment and, I think, accurate, because I haven’t really been the kind of writer to settle into a niche. I’ve written horror (yikes), erotica (va va voom), science fiction (zap), and mainstream contemporary fiction (I’m not sure what that sounds like), and now, with The Unwanted, I’ve delved into YA fantasy, a place I’m very happy to be, but that I hadn’t planned on, exactly. At the same time, I hadn’t planned on any of those other genre detours either.
I credit my editor and mentor Greg Herren for this tendency. He’s written so many different genres, from crime fiction and horror to romance and erotica. His example has instilled in me a different reaction from the expected. When editors ask me to write a story in a genre I haven’t published in before, I try not to say, “Oh, I can’t do that. I’ve never written about chainsaw-juggling erotic mimes before.” Instead, I say, “That’ll be an interesting challenge to pull off without any dialogue from the main character.”
It certainly keeps writing interesting to me.
How the reader sees those jumps is a thing I keep in the back of my mind fairly frequently. Will the person who liked that erotica story feel let down when they pick up the vampire story? Will they wonder how they ended up reading a noir piece about a detective in St. Louis after that heartwarming romance about the dog walker?
Well, I hope it was heartwarming, at any rate.
Thankfully, I’ve found that if they enjoy the story, the readers will find you across genre lines. And someone who might typically only read erotica will pick up a noir anthology or download the holiday romance piece. And maybe people who don’t like clowns will take a chance on a hot mime.
Chainsaw juggling erotic mimes. That gives me an idea....
Jamie Thomas has enough trouble on his hands trying to get through junior year of high school without being pulverized by Billy Stratton, his bully and tormentor. But the mother he was always told was dead is actually alive—and she’s an Amazon!
Sixteen years after she left him on his father’s doorstep, she’s back and needs Jamie’s help. A curse has caused the ancient tribe of warrior women to give birth to nothing but boys, dooming them to extinction—until prophecy reveals that salvation lies with one of the offspring they abandoned.
Putting his life on the line, Jamie must find the courage to confront the wrath of an angry god to save a society that rejected him.