Jump that Genre

This week Jay Noel is here visiting at the tiki hut. For any of you who don't know Jay, he's the author of Dragonfly Warrior, a steampunk novel - which just happens to be on sale this week! More on this at the end of his post.

Following Jay's post is another cool surprise :)

So let's get started.

Ahhhhh...feels great to be here Under the Tiki Hut. My island blood is very at home. So TIRED of winter, so thanks so much for having me. I think we can all agree with Jay on this. I know I'm SO ready to break up with Old Man Winter I could scream!

The other day, I was in the middle of a very interesting debate among my fellow writers. Our discussion revolved around the practice of writers going into different genres. We're not talking a YA author "moving up" to NA or anything so subtle. What if a science fiction writer decided to try her hand at writing contemporary fiction? Or how about a fantasy writer delving into romance?

I had a mentor tell me that dipping your feet into different genres was career suicide. He told me that I would piss off my loyal audience. This is an industry that seems OCD about putting all its writers and their books into nice and neat little categories. I've heard from many successful writers who were pressured by their agents and publishers to stick with what's working. Write what sells. This is a business after all.

But my argument was that the world of publishing was evolving so rapidly, and that there was plenty of room for writers to experiment and go into a different direction with their work. Genres are being blurred more these days than ever before. I've read several books that didn't fall so clearly into one defined genre. With the blurring and combining of all these genres, I think the flexibility exists for writers to stretch themselves and try different things.

For authors that gain a massive following, there are ways around not angering your loyal readers. The best example of this I can think of is J.K. Rowling. She will forever be linked with Harry Potter. It's like George Lucas and Star Wars. The two are inseparable. So J.K. Rowling wrote a detective novel, The Cuckoo's Calling. The book was well received by critics, but it was so far removed from Harry Potter. She even used the pen name, Robert Galbraith, to keep her Harry Potter fans happy and not have readers/critics prejudge her new work because it had nothing to do with wizardry or magic.

My final answer to this question is simple: if an author has the ability to write in multiple genres, she should do it. On the other side, don't write in multiple genres poorly. I guess I'm in the "master one genre first" category. Gain some recognition and street cred first. Then you can try another genre. I think indie authors and those with smaller houses are able to do this a little easier. Most of us don't have to worry about having millions of diehard fans wanting us to stay in one specific genre. There would be very little outrage if I went from writing steampunk/science fiction to historical fiction. 

I'll tell you what, though....having such a huge and passionate readership wouldn't really be a bad problem to have.

# # # #

Jay Noel is the Amazon Bestselling Author of the Asian-inspired steampunk novel, Dragonfly Warrior, which happens to only be 99 cents until March 31st. You can pick up the ebook at:

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1kYA1G5

The second book in The Mechanica Wars series, Shadow Warrior, is scheduled for publication in June of 2014.

He's been blogging since 2005, and enjoys forging friendships with his fellow bloggers.

Jay often tells people that he was born on an uncharted island in the Pacific and was raised by elves and faries, but the truth is that he was born in the Bronx and lives in St. Louis with his family. When he's not banging away on his laptop late at night, he can be found either reading a book or playing tennis...but never both at the same time.

He's also a recovering cookie-holic, but is currently in detox for his addiction.

Author website: http://jaynoelbooks.com
Twitter: jnoelwriter

Next week, adult and NA author Melissa Maygrove will be revealing the cover to her new book, Come Back, a historical western romance set in the 1850s. This week, she's running a contest on her blog. You can find all the information on her blog.

If you would like to sign up to participate in the June cover reveal for my new novel, you can find all the details here. And scroll down for the signup sheet.


I'm with you, Jay. Although I'm so closely associated with my branding with the subgenre I write that I'd have to make sure that books in another genre have a very different look. And I might consider a pen name, just to be on the safe side. But I definitely plan on writing other genres at some point.
I don't have a problem with authors writing in more than one genre. Gives you a wider readership.
Slamdunk said…
Nice to meet you Jay, and good insights.

I like that the genre's are blurring in that I have multiple interests and it allows good writers to appeal to me on several levels.

David Oliver said…
You certainly make a convincing argument and I think the old adage is true - you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
L. Diane Wolfe said…
I've written in three different genres, so no objection from me.
Sean McLachlan said…
Readers often read several genres, so fans may follow you into a different genre. As long as the novels are clearly labeled so as to avoid any confusion, I don't see a problem.
If you can successfully do it, switching shouldn't be an issue for most.
Trisha F said…
I've written in quite a few different genres, and I love it. Not sure I have "mastered" every one I've tried though. haha.
Jay Noel said…
Elizabeth: I thinks times have changes where it's no longer taboo.

Alex: I'm with you there.

Slamdunk: Nice to meet you too. If a writer I like puts out stuff that I"m not so hot about in another genre, it's easy for me to just "sy no."

David: That's a saying to live by

Diane: I think writing in multiple genres is becoming the norm.

Sean: Yes, be fair to the readers so they know what they're getting

David: That's the tricky part. IF you're successful. I know a lot of writers that are more successful in their heads than in reality. But yes, if you are capable, then go for it.

Trisha: You probably have one genre that is your strength, even though you enjoy all of them!
Anonymous said…
Surely if a person feels like writing in a different genre then by all means try it. If you don't try one will never know.

Robin said…
I know that I check the blurbs on any book that I buy... even it is written by an author that I adore. The exception to that rule might be if the book is part of a series I have been reading... I kinda know what to expect there.

I think the readers who are ticked off when an author writes in a different genre is the unprepared one. The one that didn't read the blurb. Didn't read the *note* that this was a different genre, so their expectations were off.

Another author who changed names was Nora Roberts. Her early work was romance/suspense/mystery but she segued fairly easily into anything with a romantic element using that name. When she wrote the mystery series featuring Eve Dallas she used her pen name J.D. Robb. I think she (must have) worried that it was different enough from her larger body of work that it might not be well received as a Nora Roberts novel. Of course, that was many years ago and those genre lines are more blurred now than they were.

I all for it if it is well-written. Great topic!
L.G. Smith said…
It's hard for creative people to be told they can't do something. We like to experiment. I might like to try writing historical fiction some day, rather than speculative stuff.
Shelly said…
It's good to stretch ourselves and move into the unfamiliar, like trying a new genre. Enjoyed this interview!
JoLynne Lyon said…
I enjoyed this, though I agree with the advice to make sure whatever you write is high quality. I think the time has come for writers to step out of the boxes that corporations want to put them in. But then, I'm biased. I love mixed genres, fusion cooking and classical bluegrass.
VR Barkowski said…
Excellent post, Jay. There is no reason we should be locked into genre. Readers aren't nearly as stupid as big publishing would like us to believe. I know, because I am also a reader. Yes, sales are important. Publishing is a business. But the current trend toward branding seems designed to suck the creativity from the writer and replace it with a perceived marketable commodity—genre.

VR Barkowski
Carol Kilgore said…
It's great to see such a warm welcome for Jay from all of you. Thanks for commenting.

One of the reasons I write "Crime Fiction with a Kiss" is because it lets me move within the sub-genres of mystery and romance. For the foreseeable future, everything I write will fall into this broad category without being the same.

Kudos on a great post, Jay.
randi lee said…
I write in every genre imaginable so Im fine with writing different things at different times :-)
Melissa said…
Thanks for the mention, Carol. :)

Authors shouldn't be restricted if they have talent that spans genre lines, but they need to be careful and consider using a pen name(s) for vastly different works.

As a reader, I've been disappointed to find a book I really love, only to discover the author's collection of works is a hodgepodge of genres and anthology bits--none of which is remotely close to the book that brought me there.
I don't only read one genre so it is more than a little unreasonable of me to demand that writers only write in one. Some of my favourite works cross, blur, meld the genre lines. Character development is important to me. Genre not.
So flex your writing muscles so I can flex my reading muscles. Please.
I think that an author's ability to write in different genres is an amazing thing!
Liza said…
I like to think that writers who continue to write, continue to grow and if that evolution demonstrates itself in a different genre, than I'm find with it. Good writing is good writing, no matter what the story.
Anonymous said…
With or without a pen name, I'll read an author's work if s/he jumped genres. I'm jumping genres myself.
Christine Rains said…
Great post, Jay! I agree that writers can write in multiple genres and not lose readers. If done well, of course. I think it shows a writer's flexibility, and it helps to expand their knowledge of the craft. I have several short stories in many genres. Ones I never thought I'd try, but they were so much fun.
Jemi Fraser said…
I think one of the advantages of the new publishing landscape of e-books is the ability to jump genres more easily. But I'd build a base in one before jumping around too much :)
Southpaw said…
I think it is okay too. There are several authors that write in different genres using different pen names to do just what Rowling did, and keep everyone happy.
Mason Canyon said…
As a reader, I like the fact that authors write in more than one genre. Great post, Jay.

Hi Carol!
Any writer who has the ability to successfully write in different genres should definitely take the plunge. It's interesting how JK Rowlings decided on a male pen name for her detective novel. Carol, Thanks for hosting Jay!

Lexa Cain said…
It's SO hard to balance the market with one's personal preferences. Dean Koontz didn't want to write horror - he loved scifi. Lucky for us horror fans, he bowed to market pressure. But he wasn't happy about it even with all the millions he made. Why does it have to come down to love or money? Very interesting post. :)
As a reader, I read multiple genres so I don't really think it should be a problem.
Carol Kilgore said…
It looks like a lot of us who write either write in more than one genre or may be thinking about it at some point. I think Jay wrote about a healthy topic that often goes untalked about.
Good writing is good writing, and if a writer can write well in multiple genres, I think he should go for it. Life's too short to be forced into one small genre box.

That being said, I don't think I've ever read any steampunk, but I will soon, because I just bought Jay's book. I'm looking forward to it.
Helena said…
This was a really entertaining interview with Jay, and since I love steampunk images it's about time I read a novel in the genre, and Dragonfly Warrior is a good place to start.

Other people here have made the wise suggestion to just use a different name for a different genre. As writers, we should be able to write anything we please! It's getting enough readers that can be tough, but maybe if we write it, they will come.
Shelley Munro said…
I've always read in different genres, and I did the same thing with my writing. I don't know whether it's a good plan or not, but I know myself well. I get bored writing the same thing all the time, and I need the challenge a different genre brings.

I think this is much easier with self-publishing while trad publishers like to pigeonhole writers neatly.
LR said…
I admire authors who can write in different genres. ;)
Rula Sinara said…
Excellent advice. You can't take a creative bunch and try to wrap them up in tidy boxes ;).
Jay Noel said…
If I love a writer, I'm going to check out whatever books she writes - in whatever genre she decides to tackle. I think the days of stuffing authors into little boxes are over.

Time to stretch our legs, and our imaginations!!!
Crystal Collier said…
Wise words. Until you understand a genre completely, don't try the jump. I've dabbled in about 10 different genres, but there are really only about 4 I feel I could pull off successfully. I'd like to add one thought: as an author, I think you can hint at a secondary genre in your work, and thus open a door with fans for your future expansion, but it has to be done carefully.
klahanie said…
Hi Carol and Jay,

Good to see Jay, here. And I notice he's been blogging since 2005. Dude, you should get some sleep :)

As for variety genre writing. Absolutely! I'm a created character by a famous dog and acclaimed pawblisher named, Penny.

Stay away from cookies....

Gary :)
cleemckenzie said…
If you can't jump genres, someone should have told E.B. White. I love to dabble in different kinds of writing. It keeps me fresh. So I guess we agree. :-)
I guess writers can get typecast just like actors Jay. A great guest post Carol.
Carol Kilgore said…
Great seeing everyone. And a pawsitively great hug to Pawblisher Penny :)
Jay Noel said…
Crystal: I'm with you. My imagination believes I can write in a dozen genres, but the reality is, I can probably only pull off 2 or 3

Gary: Yes. I need sleep! Cookies...I miss them, but the withdrawal only lasted 3-4 days

Cleem: I too love to dabble, but I do want to be really good at it. My perfectionism doesn't let me dabble too far away from my wheelhouse

Maurice: That's exactly right!

Carol: Thanks again for having me here!
Emily R. King said…
I agree, Jay. Write what you're moved by, regardless of genre. :)

Hi, Carol!!!
Anonymous said…
From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to pigeonhole ourselves; but from a creative standpoint, I can't imagine not writing whatever the heck I want to. I'm currently querying a YA thriller, a western comedy, and a sci-fi horror novel with various agents. Will I stick with whatever genre sells first? Nope.
Old Kitty said…
Hi Carol! Hi Jay!! Lovely to meet you here in the Tiki Hut - where the air is always warm and where you'll always get sand in places you never even knew you had until now. Anyway!! Wishing you all the best with your book and your detox!!! :-) Take care
Carol Kilgore said…
Thanks to all of you for stopping by. And thanks to Jay for a great post that made us think.

And so true, Old Kitty, about places we didn't know we had :)