Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Switching Up Your Genres

Some experts will tell you not to change genres. That once you are known for one genre you could lose fans who know and expect that in your books. For 6 years I wrote gay crime fiction. I always loved cops, most of my favorite TV shows over the years have been crime stories, Starsky and Hutch, The Rockford Files, Columbo, Baretta, Cagney & Lacy, Cold Case(which I still watch) and on and on. Even today, I prefer crime shows to all others. My faves today are Blue Bloods, Castle, and my favorite of all time: Southland. Ironic, really, since I've only been able to see the first season, since the channel it's on now is unavailable.

So you'd think when I first started writing I'd do crime fiction. Instead I wrote Science Fiction. Okay, I was a huge Star Trek fan and even watched the Next Generation. I wrote them—about 7-8 novels—but made little attempt to sell them. I'm not sure to this day why that was, but I didn't have the conviction. I always thought there was a disconnect—my writing wasn't like the books I read. They were real, mine were just for fun. No one would possibly be interested in what I wrote.

I'm not sure why that changed, but in the early 2000s, after reading Jonathan Kellerman, something clicked. What if I wrote about a gay cop, like Milo, but not Milo and make him the main protagonist. I decided to put him in the closet first, then be forced out because of love. Even from the days of writing SF I usually had some form of romance in them, so I never imagined writing a novel without it. David Eric Laine came along and I envisioned him as being the antithesis of the gay culture. He'd be big, slightly overweight with a pockmarked face, certainly nothing another gay man would look at twice. It didn't help that he was terrified of his colleagues finding out what he was. His life was narrow and limited. Meeting Christopher Bellamere changed his life irrevocably, forcing him to choose the closet or love. He chose love, but even so, over the following books he had problems he had to work through.

I wrote Geography of Murder as a personal challenge to myself. I wanted to know if I could write about a character who did things I totally despise and make him someone readers cared about. I was also a huge fan of Josh Lanyon, and his Adrien English stories. But I admit I was annoyed that Jake the cop was supposed to be into bondage, yet actually did that. So I got to thinking about a cop who was into bondage and master/slave relationships, who also has no interest in a long term relationship. Spider needed to meet someone who tested those bounds and it seemed to me that man needed to be unsure and in need of love and support, things he's never had before. I'd done some mild bondage with David before, but nothing as intense as what Spider did. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to a few people who were into the scene and could give me some insight into them. Because, for me, the whole master/slave thing is the opposite of anything I've ever experienced. Somebody tells me I belong to them and my back goes up. I don't belong to anyone, yet I had Spider saying that often and Jason loved it. He wanted to belong.

I was never sure if it was going to work, but I was really surprised when it turned out one of my most popular series. Who knew? But I wouldn't have done any of it if I hadn't been open to trying something different. Which I did again when I wrote my first historical, Placing Out, set in 1932 Los Angeles, at the end of Prohibition. Like all my other books to date the characters were gay men. But nothing since then has been. I now write only historical fiction and it looks like I've found my m├ętier.
But none of that means I won't write something else in the future. I've learned not to say never. In writing, at least.

How is it with you? Do you like experimenting with new genres, or mixing genres into something else? How did it turn out? How did you find your genre?

Leave a comment and win a copy of my latest novel, Latin Boyz, which will be released February 26th.

Latin Boyz


Gang aggression and hatred tear Gabriel Aguila's family apart, while the unwilling love he has for LAPD patrol officer Alejandro Cerveras would make him whole again if he could accept it. Tragedy strikes fueling his rage. As the need for vengeance drives him past all reason, violence and hatred erupt, spiraling out of control, leading to tragedy and the greatest loss of all. Making the wrong choices at every turn, Gabe struggles to keep his family safe without succumbing to the gutter level of his enemies. But he has to learn to trust Alejandro and he’s never trusted anyone before.


Tina Donahue said...

Experts say a lot of things, then a writer comes around and blows all of their theories out of the water. Stephen King may be known for horror, but his Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile are so freaking good, with major mainstream elements, I don't know who'd be crazy enough to say they wouldn't read those books because they're not straight horror.

I don't think readers or audiences are that dumb. If the story's good, they'll read it, no matter who wrote it or what genre it's in.

jean hart stewart said...

I've recently tackled erotica instead of just sensual and find it's not only a challenge but lots of fun. Love stretching my imagination a little..Good column..

Debby said...

I do like to try new genres. I have read some bondage but only like a few authors. If an author wrote something and I liked their other books I would be willing to give it a try.
debby236 aT GMAIL DOT COM

Fiona McGier said...

I've been wondering how you got into the gay cop genre...now I know. Genre-hopping has worked out well for you. I've got 3 books I'm "working" on sporadically, when I'm not working. 2 are straight erotic romance, one is part sci-fi. I've been hesitant to change genres, but reading your story might make it easier. Thanks.