The Dilemma of Genre Switching


I’ve often referred to writing as turning on a faucet. Sometimes when the water starts running, it doesn’t want to stop. Other times it turns on and flows in a completely different stream than intended. Flow is great, but what do you do when you have an amazing new book idea, but it doesn’t fit nicely within the genre in which you’ve established? What’s an author to do when faced with the dilemma of genre switching? As a multi-published romance author, I honestly believed I’d found my place, my niche. I knew the kind of book that I wrote, and I liked it. I even branded myself “Author of Your Next Happily Ever After.” My readers knew what to expect from me, and I knew how to write romance. It was a symbiotic relationship, and things were going along fine. My writing path was predictable and under control, just as I liked it. Looking back, I should have known better than to grow comfortable inside my box.
One day I was reading an article about a serial killer who murdered several people in my hometown in the 1950’s. As I read about the man, who suffered from schizophrenia and committed terrible acts, I asked myself how something like that could have happened in my small town. I wondered about the man’s family and the impact his choices must have had on them. I thought about his mental illness and how he somehow slipped through the cracks. The house where it all took place was still standing, and it was supposedly haunted. As I read his obituary, I discovered that his sister shared my mother’s maiden name. When I asked my grandfather, it turned out that he knew the man. It was all quite creepy.
For some reason, that article stuck with me. I thought about the story
far longer and more often than I intended. I read everything I could find about it, wondering if the house might actually be haunted, and contemplating the legacy passed down when such a tragedy strikes a family.
Before I knew what was happening, a new idea was taking shape. My mind morphed and changed the facts, characters, and house into something else entirely. Fictionalized events and people took the place of real ones. Like any creative venture, it took on a life of its own and became a new thing.
Although completely unintentional, a book was blossoming, and it shocked me. It was way outside of my established genre, and I kept insisting that I didn’t write that kind of book. Rather than go away, the idea became firmly rooted and would ultimately change the path of my writing career.
The book simmered in the back of my mind for about two years while I did my best to ignore it. The storyline was dark, eerie, intricate, and had the potential to be unique and amazing. It featured a family history of mental illness, a house that was as alive as any character I’d ever created, and an ancestry filled with ghosts.
Sounds great, right? In theory, it was. But the book was such a departure from anything I had written up to that point. In spite of that, the story was there, the characters were chattering, and the voices refused to be silenced. At that point, I had a decision to make. Should I stay firmly planted within my chosen genre, or should I open the door and venture out into the unknown?

Read the entire article in the October 2019 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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