Genre Hopping, Can a writer write across the board?

Every time I sign onto Amazon I watch the website frantically try to determine what book to recommend for me. I don’t read in just on genre and poor Amazon still hasn’t figure out what I want to read. Is this a bad thing? I sure don’t think so. I constantly am learning and seeing new things through the things that I read, I hear new and different voices showing me totally different sides of the world.

Now, with writing, genre-hopping can be a very bad thing. Let me rephrase, publishing in several genres can be a bad thing. For example, I have started to get known in the twitterverse for darker fiction, however, I also write romance, poetry, fantasy, sci-fi, and things in between. Now, say I were to publish a horror novel, and then a few years later, publish a romance novel. Now if you were following me as an author would you be confused picking up these two books?

For a marketing campaign and creating a following it does present a problem. A more focused platform makes it easier to keep your topic concise and make your name synonymous with your set genre. Imagine if Stephen King wrote erotic romance novels on the side, and had a line of Harlequin romance. Would that change his image? Could he still be the king of horror while having a line of traditional romance novels?

I’m very curious about what your thoughts are about the genre-hopping writer? Can it be done? Who are some of the best examples of a genre-hopper?

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9 Comments »

  1. Eric Said:

    One of the best examples I can think of is Ray Bradbury, not only as a genre-hopper but as a writer. He’s renown for his science fiction masterpieces, but he wrote several great mysteries and countless works of speculative fiction.

    One of his most famous novels, “Dandelion Wine”, is a poignant, semi-autobiographical story that elegantly describes the small-town life of his youth. Not exactly what one would expect from the author of the science-fiction classic, “Fahrenheit 451”.

    • Great example! He not only managed to write in several genres but also managed to break into the ‘literary’ realm with a work of science fiction, not an easy task!

  2. This is one of the ways pseudonyms can help an author. Nora Roberts and JD Robb are the same person, for instance, writing in two different genres. Yes, it’s now known who she is and what she writes, but she was able to establish her voice in romantic sci-fi as JD Robb without worrying about crossover until she was ready.

    I see no reason why an author can’t write in multiple genres, even with a single name, so long as they do it well.

    It might be much more difficult to be a writer of horror AND sweet romances under one pen name, but it’s still doable. Don’t limit yourself if you’re really interested in (and good at) writing in multiple genres.

    • I know there are several writers who, like Nora Roberts, have multiple pen names for different genres. Many of these write in the erotic romance genre by one name and YA under another pen name. It’s interesting to see the marketting behind that too.

  3. Chrysoula Said:

    It’s a challenge, I admit, to imagine somebody who can write pure horror and pure sweet romance without bits of one slipping into the either. I’m sure it can and has been done, but not, I think, without setting out to write as different authors.

    So I think an author who isn’t writing by formula may sometimes write something classified as one thing, and sometimes write something classified as something else. The key is for the author to become their own genre.

    Although, of course, there will still be plenty of readers who don’t want to read everything in Authorgenre, who will still genreize things. Although I think that happens most when an author has an ongoing setting, and also Some Other Books. The Culture and Those Other Books. The Dresden Files and the Alera Whatsit. The Discworld and that Other Book.

    • “The key is for the author to become their own genre.”

      I love that. That may seriously become my new motto.

  4. Laura Said:

    You made an example of Stephen King, but ironically, he does genre-hop. Though he writes primarily horror, he also wrote under a different name for a while (though in a similar genre, I think) and also has fantasy, mystery, science fiction/dystopia (“The Stand”), political allegory (“Under the Dome”), and has co-authored with Peter Strauss. He’s also written realistic fiction short stories&novellas—the movie The Shawshank Redemption was based on one of his stories, for instance.

    Basically I think the message is that once you’re well-known and rich enough, you can write whatever you want. For the rest of us who aren’t Stephen King, I’m not sure how that works. Maybe it’s better to find a niche and then branch out; maybe it’s better to be known as an author who writes many diverse things.

    • True. I guess for me, Stephen King has a particular flavor that permeates his work. Even in “The Stand” and the Gunslinger series he still has something that is ‘King’ which is why I suppose he is considered such an amazing author. Despite different genres he maintains something unique to him, similar to Neil Gaiman in that regard I suppose.

      • Laura Said:

        It’s voice and style. 🙂 I’d hope an author wouldn’t lose individuality just by switching genres. Like composers. In classical music, if you know enough of different composers’ work, you can usually tell who wrote a piece even if you’ve never heard it before.


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