So, what do you write? An innocent enough question, yet one that tends to fill most writers with instant fear and panic. Unless, of course, you’re one of the sensible ones who only writes in one easy to categorise genre. Oh, how nice that must be; to be able to answer quickly and succinctly, ‘I write romance,’ or ‘I write crime thrillers.’
For those of us who write in multiple genres, this is the question we dread people asking. Imagine the scene. You’re getting to know someone, or chatting to a stranger to pass the time at a bus stop or in the doctor’s waiting area. They ask politely what you do for a living and you say you’re a writer. (You probably wave a dismissive hand almost immediately and tell them that you also have a day job…) Or maybe they already know you’re a writer, maybe someone told them and they’re asking out of curiosity. They like to read, you see, so of course they want to know what you write. And you freeze. You look for an easy, quick answer, as neither of you want to drag this out too long, but there isn’t one. So, you start mumbling incoherent sentences about, ‘a bit of this and a bit of that…’ Before you know it, their eyes have glazed over and they no longer take you seriously, if they ever did.
I have always dreaded this question. When I first started publishing my work, I had no idea what genre my books were or how to categorise them. Amazon and other platforms force you to think about this if you haven’t already. You need to allocate your book a category and you need to choose keywords, for example. My first novel was YA but I didn’t actually realise it at the time – I had just written the story that was in my head, and at that time, I had no plan to market it towards a certain audience. Obviously, since then I’ve learned a lot and I now realise how important genre is in marketing your book, from the cover, to the title and the blurb.
My next books were The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series and I still struggle to explain what genre this is! The main character is thirteen in the first book, but twenty-four in the fifth, so I can’t really call it YA. It has a lot of crime and drama, but I would say the psychological elements are stronger. Having said that I wouldn’t really want to call is a psychological thriller. It has elements of suspense and horror, plus coming-of-age. Heaven help anyone who asks me what it’s about…. They’ll be stuck there a while.
Not being sure of genre or category is one problem, but what if you also continue to release books in different genres? It makes it hard to build a loyal audience, that’s for sure.
After that series, I released This Is Nowhere. At heart it’s a family mystery – the main character returns home to try and discover what happened to his mother who vanished when he was a boy – but it’s also an examination of mental health and in our ability to find meaning in life. Tricky. After that I wrote The Tree Of Rebels, probably the one and only time I decided to write a book to fit the market. At the time YA dystopian books were becoming very popular and as I had an idea for one, I decided to write it and market it as such. It ended up being the hardest book to write for that reason. Like someone was watching over my shoulder the entire time.
Since then I have released Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, a book I still find hard to categorise. Its literary fiction; character driven with a young narrator, yet its not YA. My YA trilogy Holds End was easier to classify as YA, but it’s also a mix of things; coming-of-age, crime, drama, thriller, murder mystery…
I’ve released two short story and poetry collections, and two books so far in a co-written YA supernatural/paranormal series. I’m currently editing The Day The Earth Turned series which is YA post-apocalyptic, and I’ve written first drafts for more crime/drama/thrillers and a YA horror/fantasy… That’s not to mention the zombie apocalypse story I started a while back, and the family mystery/psychological thriller I’m making notes for…
It would be great to write in one genre. It would make life far easier for me. I would be able to call myself a horror writer or a crime writer and I would be able to market my blog and social media pages with this in mind. I would be able to work on building a loyal following of readers who know what to expect from me. Instead, the small amount of readers I do attract, never know what to expect next. YA supernatural, followed by YA post-apocalyptic, followed by gritty, crime drama?
There’s no doubt writing in multiple genres makes it harder to market and sell books. It’s almost as if people don’t take you as seriously as the writer that always writes to one genre… I’m not sure why.
I have come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t waste too much time worrying about it. Sales and reviews are hard to come by, but ideas certainly aren’t. My head is full of them. And whether the next idea is a murder mystery, a post-apocalyptic horror, or a story about shape shifters, I don’t think I’ll be ignoring it. How could I?
In many ways, writing in multiple genres keeps things fresh and new. I’m having fun so hopefully my readers are too. And there are a few things that all my books do have in common and I’m not too shy to mention them here. They are all a little on the dark side, often examining the worst elements of human nature, and they are all very character driven. My aim is to make you fall in love with my characters as much as I have. So, if you like things a bit dark and you want to make some new friends you will wish were real, you’ve come to the right place.
And the next time I get asked what I write, do you know what? I am going to hold my head up high and tell them the truth. That I write in many genres, and therefore, have something for everyone, no matter your tastes!