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Writing In Different Genres

Piles of booksMark Dame | Mark Dame

A reader recently asked me why I switched from horror/thriller to fantasy for my second book. The simple answer is “I wanted to.”

I like to write in a lot of different genres. My next book was going to be the first book in a sci-fi series about a space-faring swashbuckler who crashlands on an alien planet. I actually started that book before Dark Ties. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the right tone for that one yet, but in the process, I began to develop an idea for a world of slaves who rebelled against the race of immortal beings that had enslaved them. Eventually, the character of Flyn emerged.

As the ideas firmed up, I realized that the freed slaves would have to start over from scratch, with no technology, nothing but what they could build on their own. That meant the story was really more of a fantasy than a science fiction story.

The character of Flyn developed as a descendant of the rebels, generations removed from the war that freed them. With no knowledge of the past, he is just a restless young man who grew up on an island, destined to become a farmer, like his father. But he wants more out of life than just plowing fields and picking beans. He’s an adventurer, an explorer. Flyn drags his best friend, Kel, with him on his adventures, in spite of Kel’s objections.

After playing around with the characters for a while, I knew I had to write their story, so I put the sci-fi book on the back burner (again) and started writing The Andor.

I initially thought of publishing The Andor under a different name, since it was so different from Dark Ties. I was even tossing around the idea of maybe coming up with a pen name for each different genre I want to write in to avoid brand confusion. I know of a lot of authors that do this.

The thing is, the idea of single-genre authors is really a marketing decision by big publishers. It’s easier for them to market Stephen King as a Horror author and James Patterson as a Thriller author. The truth is that most readers read in many genres. They may think of Ray Bradbury as a sci-fi writer and Tom Clancy as a military thriller writer and Lee Child as a Jack Reacher writer (yeah, Jack Reacher could be a genre on its own, just like Jason Bourne). But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t read a book by those authors in another genre. Would you read a horror story by Ray Bradbury? Something Wicked This Way Comes is horror. What about a fantasy book by Stephen King? Have you read The Dark Tower series? What about The Talisman? A Middle-Grade Urban Fantasy by James Patterson? Witch & Wizard.

There are countless examples of big name authors who get away with it because they’re big names, but what their getting away with is telling their publisher what they want to write. All the reader cares about is that they write a good book. As long as the author doesn’t try to fool his readers into thinking the book is something that it’s not, what’s the problem?

Will publishing different genres under one name cause me to lose readers because they’re confused about whether one of my books is horror or sci-fi? I don’t really think so. I like to think readers are smarter than that.

If I’m wrong, I can alway republish some of my books under a nom de plume or two. And you, my faithful reader, will know the secret.

And don’t worry. I have plenty of horror/suspense/thriller books in the queue. And that sci-fi series should make its debut next year as well.