Dear Auntie Romaniac… How do I go about changing the genre of a book?

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Dear Auntie Romaniac,

I have recently decided to re-write one of my books but change the genre of it. What started as a light hearted romance, has morphed with each edit into a darker, more serious novel. Whilst I have edited and gradually changed things, I feel it needs a complete overhaul to cross that bridge from one genre, to another. But how do I do this? Do I start chapter by chapter, or attack it like a first draft again?

I just don’t know where to begin.

Lucie

Sue: I’m not sure how I’d do this. Maybe, I’d go back to the very beginning of the process and make sure I knew the motives of the characters and the outcome I wanted. Then I’d take it scene by scene, ensuring that each scene fulfilled the motive/outcome criteria and rewrite it darker. It may be some scenes need to come out completely, others need tweaking and others a complete rewrite.

Vanessa: I’ve been through a similar process, Lucie – trying to make a book much darker. The way I tackled it was to write the new scenes it needed in a separate document so I could get a feel for the new direction, then added in scenes and chapters from the old ms to the new draft, rather than the other way around. I treated it like a whole new book.

Catherine: Long answer: I would try not to get too wrapped up in labeling what genre the story is and concentrate on what will make it work. I know our books need to neatly fit into genre categories, but overall a story needs to work sentence by sentence. I would write an elevator pitch first of all, then do as Sue and Vanessa have said and work out what stays and what goes. Keep your elevator pitch pinned up near your desk so you don’t deviate from what the story has set out to be.

Short answer: Gin.

Advice always gratefully received.

Multi Genre Writing with Debbie Johnson

Hi Debbie and welcome to the Romaniac blog, it’s great to have you here. It’s been a busy few weeks for you, normally I would congratulate someone on the publication of their book, but, with you, I have to say books – emphasis on the ‘s’. Not one but two books published within a few weeks of each other with two different publishers. That’s quite an achievement.

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How does it feel to have two books published so close together?

I think the best word would be ‘insane’! I didn’t plan it like this, honest – one was planned well ahead, and the other just kind of leapfrogged ahead of it…I think it’s a dastardly plan by my publishers to shut me up!

Cold_Feet_at_christmas_(2)Your books, Cold Feet At Christmas (Harper Impulse) and Fear No Evil (Maze) are very different to each other, one being a romance and the other a suspense and, as if that wasn’t enough, you have also written an urban fantasy, Dark Vision (Del Rey UK, part of Random House) with a follow up, Dark Touch, due out in 2015.

How do you juggle writing in these very different genres?

In all honesty, I don’t find the writing of them that hard. I mean, I read all kinds of different genres; I love crime fiction and fantasy and romance. I think all kinds of different things, my life is varied and rich. My brain is – to put it politely – an eclectic mix! I like different aspects of all of them – and possibly I have quite a short attention span! But on a semi-serious note, I do think too much pigeon-holing goes on – not just in writing, but in life in general. I think readers are smart people – they’re capable of liking more than one type of book!

Some authors use different pen names for the different genres they write in – is this something you considered and what influenced your decision on this?

I did consider it, and in all honesty it may have made life easier. But in this day and age with all the social media, and the importance of that, it would be very difficult. That does leave me in the strange position of having a cute Christmassy chick-lit cover and a scary crime cover on my twitter page! I think it may have been easier if you’re already successful in one – like Nora Roberts creating JD Robb.

Do you think it is easier these days to write in different genres? Is it more acceptable in the publishing world or have you come up against any barriers?Fear_No_Evil_final_(2)

I think it’s harder. My agent, Laura Longrigg, told me about her father, who was a well-known author called Roger Longrigg. He wrote more than 50 books, in all kinds of genres, using a handful of pen-names. These days, as I said earlier, people want you to be one thing or another. Publishers are, understandably, looking for books they can easily package and market – things that straddle different genres are harder to sell. Fear No Evil, for example, took ages to find a publisher – because it mixes crime with the supernatural, which is more accepted now, but caused problems when it was first being submitted. It’s nice to have found an editor at Maze willing to take a chance on it. Then, as well, there’s the social media – you want your potential readers to identify with you, but that’s not so easy when you write fantasy, and romance, and crime! I just need to figure out how to clone myself and it will all be fine.

Have you got any tips for anyone else thinking about writing in different genres?

Apart from stock up on the vodka, you mean?? In all honesty, I am just starting out on this adventure. It may or may not pay off. One genre might be much more successful than another, I don’t know. I suppose that from my own perspective, I’ve written in genres I truly love and read myself – I’m not doing it to be contrary, it’s because my interests have taken me in different imaginary directions! So if you are going to span different genres, make sure you are passionate about all of them. And be prepared to get slagged off in all of them as well – you need a thick skin to be an author, no matter what genre!

Thank you so much for chatting to us, Debbie. Wishing your books much success.

Thank you very much for having me!

 

Ella Harper/Sasha Wagstaff Talks About Pen Names and Voice

Today at Romaniac HQ it’s a case of two for the price of one – I’m delighted to welcome Sasha Wagstaff /Ella Harper.

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Hello Sasha, or should that be Ella? 🙂

Can you give a little bit of background to your writing career as Sasha Wagstaff?

Of course. I started writing when I was still in banking but what started out as a hobby soon developed into a passion I couldn’t ignore. I left my job to focus on writing full time and after a few years and some other part time jobs to keep things ticking over I had my first book deal with Headline Review! I wrote four books with them (Changing Grooms, Wicked Games, Heaven Scent and Recipe For Love) – these novels are glamorous, aspirational novels…lots of fun and frolics with lovely leading men and beautiful backdrops. Pure escapism.

Your latest novel, Pieces of You, is published as Ella Harper; what made you decide to write under a different name?

This was more of a publishing decision – as Pieces of You is a complete change of direction, it was felt that a different name should be used. I am hugely proud of this novel so at first I wasn’t sure about using a pseudonym but in the end, realised that it really didn’t matter. And I rather like having a split personality…

Do you find you have a different ‘voice’ as Ella Harper and, if so, is it difficult to separate Sasha from Ella?

pieces_of_youI definitely have a different ‘voice’ as Ella Harper, but to be honest, it’s not difficult to separate the two voices. Every writer puts part of themselves into their writing, which is why it can feel quite exposing when a novel finally hits the shelves but this is simply a different part of me. I wrote in the first person for Lucy’s chapters in Pieces of You as well…a first for me, but I really enjoyed it; it felt completely natural.

It’s a fab name, how did you come up with it?

Thank you! I gave my publishers a list of first names I liked or that meant something to me and a list of surnames I felt were strong and full of character and they picked ‘Ella’ and ‘Harper’ and that was that! I was extremely pleased; Ella was the name of the lead female character in the first novel I ever wrote…one that won’t ever see the light of day! And Harper is just a good, strong name that works very well with a soft, pretty first name. Perfect!

If Sasha could give Ella one piece of advice, what would it be?

Oh, what a great question. I would say that Sasha should just tell Ella to continue to write from the heart. To write about emotive issues – even if they’re scary or personal or heart-breaking (writing as Sasha, it wasn’t appropriate to be as deep or as emotionally raw). To write books readers can relate to, with characters they’re rooting for. Even if they cry now and again when they read said books.

What can readers look forward to next; are you working on something at the moment?

I am currently working on my second Ella Harper novel. And it’s going to be rather different to Pieces of You – but mainly because it hopefully won’t make as many people sob on the tube! (Sorry about that, everyone). It’s still going to be poignant and emotional…and possibly even a bit heart-breaking in places, but it won’t be a full-on weepy.

This one is about two best friends. A man and a woman. They’ve known each other for…oooh, about twenty years. They’re probably in love with each…at least, they have been at various different moments in their lives but time…and other stuff keeps getting in the way. As they both face the biggest challenges of their lives in the form of serious illness and unexpected parenthood, can they find one another again or is it going to be yet another case of missed opportunity for them? Oh, I can’t wait to write this book! It’s going to be properly romantic. And funny. And maybe a bit sad. But readers won’t need as many tissues for this one. I promise.

Thank you so much for talking to us, it’s been lovely to have you on the blog.

Thank you very much for having me! Great questions and an absolute pleasure to answer them.

Amazon UK HERE

 

Genre and Voice Part 2 : Joanne Phillips, Sheryl Browne

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.

 Joanne Phillips

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cupids wayI’’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 – I’m 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. I’m 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 it’s great fun for authors to have a go at writing in any genre they enjoy reading. I love cozy mysteries; Iflora_v6__lighter_red_v5 had an idea for Flora Lively and so she was born. I also love reading contemporary romances – but I’m very a very fussy reader, and a romance has to have a lot of depth for me to enjoy it. That’s 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 didn’t 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. It’s actually very difficult to copy voice, our own way of writing will always win out in the end. And that’s what makes us unique.

Joanne’s Website

Sheryl Browne

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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

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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.

Sheryl’s Website

Genre and Voice Part 1 : Louise Rose-Innes

Sue : I’ve been asked quite a lot recently as to what genre my second book Closing In actually falls in, there have been mixed opinions by those who have read it as to whether it’s romance or thriller.  For me, it falls somewhere between the two, under the romantic suspense category. All this made me wonder about the placing of a book and if it’s possible to sit between genres successfully or to even write in a completely different genre. I’ve found it’s a topic that causes quite a lot of discussion and, as such, decided to ask around for other authors’ experiences and thoughts on genre and voice.

I had originally intended to do one post on this, but I received such great advice from the authors I approached,  I didn’t want to cut anything down and have it over three installments.

I’m delighted to welcome Louise Rose-Innes to the Romaniac blog today. Louise is probably most known for her romance novels, but has recently turned her hand to a more dangerous story line.

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I have a split personality. With books, I mean. My teenage reading list comprised of young adult romances, and progressed to Joanna Lindsay and Jilly Cooper fairly rapidly. In fact, I remember getting detention for reading the “naughty bits” from The Thorn Birds out loud to the boys in my tenth grade English class.

Running parallel to this was a deep-seated hunger for thriller novels. Sydney Sheldon was my all-time fave. His direct, suspense-laden style has probably influenced my writing more than any other author. Clive Cussler and James Patterson are close seconds. But then there’s also Michael Connelly and Robert Ludlum and of course the all-time spy-master, John le Carré…

Occasionally, I’ll read a Booker Prize winning novel for the literacy value, and because I feel incredibly guilty if I don’t, but other than that my personal book collection is fairly evenly spread between the romance and thriller genres.

Naturally, the same would prove to be true with my writing. When I began, I thought romance would be the easiest genre to master. I’m not convinced I was correct, but the ten years I’ve spent writing the genre have taught me a huge amount about character development, internal and external conflict and (the hardest part) how to write a good love scene. Because romances are character-driven stories, you need to understand your hero and heroine extremely well and develop them and their relationship throughout the story.

Thrillers on the other hand are primarily plot-driven. Planning is essential. All the various elements of the story have to be factored in at the right moment, from clues and red-herrings to action sequences and reveals. And this has to be done in such a way that the pace doesn’t falter, so the reader keeps turning those pages. No mean feat!

There are parallels. The lessons I learned (and am still learning) writing romance, are definitely applicable to thrillers. For instance, I found characterising my protagonist in my current thriller series fairly easy. His faults, his demons, his personal journey are all extremely well developed. The same goes for my antagonist. The depth of character that I’m able to reach in my thriller writing I attribute to the many rejection letters I got when I started writing romance. Those early submission editors saying my inner conflict wasn’t well enough thought out or my characters lacked emotional depth. Hurtful at the time, but beneficial in the long run. 🙂

My latest novel, Personal Assistance (Entangled Ignite), is a romantic suspense set in a Middle Eastern kingdom on the brink of an Arab-spring type conflict. The heroine, an employee of the Arab prince, stumbles upon a highly classified document and is now on the run for her life. With the embassy shut, the only person who can help her escape is a disgraced SAS commander with a hidden agenda. But can she trust him to get her out, or will he sacrifice her for his own ends?

Personal Assistance is available now from Amazon and other online retailers. Read the first chapter here…

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