Okay, so this post may involve a little rambling. Of course, with such a name, can you expect anything less? To be honest, I feel like this is going to be a two-part post. Part One: Genre Hopping. Part Two: Genre Labeling. So let us begin...
Part one: Genre Hopping
Writers don't get to choose which stories jump into their heads at which time. While we may choose to defer ideas until others are finished, the initial thoughts hit us out of nowhere. They also don't seem to follow any kind of pattern.
Which is probably why writers who stick to one genre fascinate me more than anyone else. I know what it is to be in my own head. I know the kinds of strange things that appear at random. I've written copious notes on several different ideas that range from contemporary to science fiction to high fantasy. There's an ongoing list. So how are other writers capable of sitting down and saying, 'I'm going to be a romance author' and stick with just that? How?
As it is not a trait I possess, I hold no shame in being a Genre Hopper. Which is also why it was far more difficult to try and work out a particular brand for myself. Yet, there is one category of writing I feel it is easiest to form a brand in as well as bounce between genres. That is Young Adult.
The Young Adult category is so broad in encompassing SciFi, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, and Dystopian that there is virtually nothing you can't throw into the YA category. Just give your character the appropriate age range and you can do anything you want to them and still build up your brand to incredible levels.
Take Marie Lu, for example. Her Legend Trilogy was a dystopian novel about two prodigies in a military-enforced world. The series she began next, The Young Elites, is pure fantasy. We have a new world with a blood fever and children with incredible powers, to be used for good or ill. Being that both series are Young Adult, she's able to make a smooth transition between genres while retaining her large fanbase.
That sort of begs the question: What about authors who don't write YA but still want to genre hop?
For that, I don't think there's a better example than James Patterson. This is a man who I knew as a writer of mystery books, primarily. Then I started to see the commercials advertising books that go outside of his average genre. Things like YA or Middle Grade novels began to appear. It was a direct shift away from what I knew him for, which is why I've probably been more skeptical to pick up those books than I would be about a total unknown writing in that genre.
Wow. Just realized I'm kind of a book snob. Well then... Moving on...
The point being: genre hopping is totally natural. Being successful in it, however, is best done when there's a common theme running through what you write (such as character ages) or if you have built up a lot of name recognition.
Part Two: Genre Labeling
I have mixed feelings about genres. On the one hand, I dislike lumping all of the YA books together and not separating them into genres. Instead, you get like five shelves and it's just alphabetical order by author. Excuse me? No. I need my SciFi to the left as we gradually move towards the paranormal. There needs to be a separate shelf for contemporary. And yes, I know they are ALL romances. Which is why their third genre is so important to classify them.
On the other hand, genres are great things because I don't always want to read contemporary or fantasy. Sometimes, a cool SciFi is just what I needed. Urban Fiction also rocks. Maybe I really do want a gushy paranormal romance. It's possible.
But then you write your own books, and then choosing a genre becomes the most evil encounter ever.
Because, while there is some romance, it's not enough to lead the story. While there is a lot of magick, it's not really on an epic kind of scale to call it a fantasy. Paranormal seems all right, until you realize the only mythical creature is a witch, and that's not really in keeping with that genre. Oh, and can we really call it a YA series if it starts off with the character at age 9 and moving up to 18? Does that count?
Do you see my problem with genre labeling now?
When I began writing the Prideful Magick Collection, it wasn't with the thought that I would one day publish it. I didn't choose my audience, or plan out the marketing, or even choose the genre. It was a series bred of two separate scenes that were separated by years in one young woman's life. That was it.
Now, every time I try to choose the genre, nothing feels right. It's not some epic series about a witch that has to battle evil forces. Nor is it about a teenage girl just going about her life. It's somewhere in the middle. A Paranormal Contemporary, if you will. Lex's journey is about a young woman who possesses magick and has to deal with the everyday complications of that fact.
So you see, genres are fickle creatures. And trying to define a book by one or two facts seems incredibly misleading.
I may have a hard series to categorize, but I do not regret that. Stories have to be told in their own way, no matter the supposed restrictions. So write what you want, and figure it all out later. Sometimes it's the only thing you can do.