A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an author round table on International Thriller Writer’s on air forum—Author’s on the Air ( blog talk radio ), talking about next steps in a debut author’s path. It was an interview of four other thriller writers for an hour long sharing of personal journeys.
With fellow debut authors, Matt Brolly, R. K. Jackson, H.A. Raynes, and Brendan Rielly as guests, I was among impressive company. I’ve since scoped out their books and have added all of these debut novels have to my TBR list.
What an opportunity it was to share our books with thriller readers. It was interesting to hear about the varied experiences on writing, publishing, and what comes next for a new author. There were some similarities among the group but as I listened to each writer talk, it was obvious my novel was slightly different from the straight thrillers featured. The line that kept running through my head was, one of these things is not like the others.
My debut, STILL LIFE, is listed as a romantic suspense novel. As a mixed genre with offbeat comedic wit among the pure thrill reads it seemed like a rose among more ominous corpse flowers. The comparison brought me back to an interview I’d heard about a month before where the author of a dark romantic suspense project had a difficult time selling her project to a publisher because of the genre blended concept.
Fast forward a few months and I have come to learn that it is challenging to market a genre-blended or genre-bent project. It neither fits neatly into the romance nor thriller categories and some readers have a problem with that. I consider my book a suspense mystery with a story thread that is romantic. I call it my kitchen sink book because it has a little something for everyone.
This blending of genres is challenging for some purists. They just can’t get past the mix. I’ve had readers think I missed the mark of writing a good romance, while still others don’t understand the quirky humor of my characters, strange plot twists or the need for graphic violence and profanity. Some have complimented my ability to nail a deep POV, while another opined my failure to flesh out a fully romantic character.
All of this has me shaking my head and wondering, can a novel with a hybrid storyline find a solid foothold in the book market? Me personally, I’m not opposed to reading romance novels, they’re just not the first books I turn to. My tastes run along a darker bent. I am first a fan of thriller and mystery fiction with page-turning suspense and influences from writers such as Blake Crouch, James Patterson, Stephen King, and Jeffery Deaver. However, I’m also a fan of Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Lisa Jackson. As such, it’s understandable that my writing may reflect some of the traits of both genres. I think that’s okay and based on these reviews of STILL LIFE I’m not alone:
“The last 10% of this novel is wicked intense, as our heroine runs for her life from a psychotic killer.” “But it was also surprisingly funny, sweet, and sexy as hell. Everything builds towards a suspenseful climax which will keep you on the edge of your seat.” ~ROMANCE4THEBEACH
“The first title in the “Randi Lassiter” murder mystery series paints a grisly picture of a deranged serial killer and the grotesque capabilities of a twisted mind. But romance readers don’t despair! Sparks fly between the jilted Randi and her hunky detective, and not even gruesome murder scenes can stop this pair from igniting.” ~Library Journal
According to Writer’s Digest genre-blended books have been around for a while now and can be successful when done right. Marketing and sales may be a challenge for the publisher trying to slot and sell your book, but the bigger issue is meeting audience expectation. Readers take great comfort in knowing that their latest book isn’t going to surprise them too much or leave them disappointed.
It’s important that the base genre be at the forefront or that the blended genres are equally balanced, with crossed lines nearly invisible so that fans are not distracted from the story.
Entertaining readers and meeting their expectations is the same. Romance fans want to be swept up in a steamy relationship, mystery fans want to try to solve the whodunit along the way, and genre fans in general want standard outcomes to still be met by the end of the book. Added elements or crossover should enrich the storyline, not throw it out of balance.
Again, I ask, can genre-blended fiction find a foothold in the book market?
It may be a challenge to find the right placement and there will always be readers who prefer their fiction to run to the traditional only and that’s fine. But let’s embrace those adventurous souls who want to mix it up and have a little fun. In fact, check out the unique favorites Lincoln Michel chose to talk about in Publisher’s Weekly last November ( 10 Best Genre-Bending Books ). Now there’s some bent genre reads to add to my TBR list.
Keep reading. And for goodness sake…try something new!