Welcome to Part 2 of the Genre and Voice blog posts. Last week, we had a great post from Louise Rose-Innes, talking about her switch in genre, you can read her post HERE. This week I’m so pleased to welcome Joanne Phillips and Sheryl Browne, who have both written novels under the romance banner and, more recently, in the mystery/thriller genre too.
I’m often asked about why I chose to tackle a different genre (mystery) after being successful with romantic comedies. I think the implication is that my writing would need to be different that I would have to find a different voice for the mysteries. The answer to whether or not that is true turned out to be more complicated than even I expected! In many ways, my natural writing voice is the same in all my books but of course, the characters are very different. My first two novels had first person narrators, so my voice was channeled through the filter of the main character Im not as funny or as interesting as Stella! The mysteries are third person, and here I feel authorial voice is more noticeable. But my writing style in general is changing as my writing improves. Im studying for a Masters in Creative Writing, and I notice now that my approach to writing on the level of the sentence is very different to when I first started.
As for writing in a different genre, I think its great fun for authors to have a go at writing in any genre they enjoy reading. I love cozy mysteries; I had an idea for Flora Lively and so she was born. I also love reading contemporary romances but Im very a very fussy reader, and a romance has to have a lot of depth for me to enjoy it. Thats probably why my novels always have a more serious side, or explore serious themes albeit subtly! My advice to anyone tackling a change of genre would be to study the expectations/structures of that genre and follow them, but when it comes to voice, to be yourself entirely. A new writer said to me recently that she didnt like reading other fiction while she was working on her own first novel as she was worried it would affect her writing voice. I think this is a valid concern we can unconsciously mimic writers we admire but I advised against getting too hung up on it. Its actually very difficult to copy voice, our own way of writing will always win out in the end. And thats what makes us unique.
When I first started out writing many moons ago, choosing to write in different genres it seemed was a bit of a no, no. Even before social media madness, where online promotion became as essential as breathing, advice from those in the know in the publishing world was to establish a brand or platform, i.e. to stick to your genre thereby fulfilling reader expectation. So have I bucked the trend in choosing to write psychological thrillers alongside poignant romance? Have I confused people in deciding to continue to write both under my own name? Judging by the reviews, for which I am hugely grateful, I think not. I’m quoting a pertinent snippet from one reviewer here: “The Edge of Sanity lives up to its psychological thriller tag, and Sheryl has definitely pulled off the switch in genre with this un-put-downable book!” Thank you, Donna at Room for Reading
Whichever genre I write in, I tend to explore the fragility of love, life and relationships. If a character calls to me, I simply have to write his story. My books tend to turn around the family unit, looking at family dynamics and the tenuous bonds that hold people together, usually having a strong, but flawed, male lead. I think The Edge of Sanity, though most definitely edgy, does fall into that category. My ‘voice’ therefore, whether writing romance or thriller, or a combination of both, will always lean towards ‘poignant’ storytelling, in so doing, hopefully, delivering what the reader expects.