Thursday, March 25, 2010

Genre and Style Hopping--Good, Bad, or Completely Uglies?

By Nichole Giles

Okay, this is a topic I get to tackle because I’m totally guilty of writing in different genres. Granted, it was unintentional and completely accidental, but that’s beside the point. I now have to my published credits one humorous anthology with a religious theme, Mormon Mishaps and Mischief, and one historical, reality fiction, The Sharp Edge of a Knife. Both are written under the name D.N. Giles, because they both have inspirational undertones, and that’s the way I chose to do things.

There’s a reason for this. I’m not really an inspirational author. I mean, I hope I’m inspirational, but I’ve never set out to write books with inspirational themes. Does that make sense?

Generally, I write young adult urban fantasy or paranormal. And there’s always the possibility that I’ll step into the realm of dystopian, which isn’t a different genre at all but a different style. For this reason, I’ll write under my full name for all my young adult work in order to avoid confusion. The question begging to be answered right now is how far will readers follow an author through all their forays into different types of writing?

Case in point. I’m a fan of Scott Westerfield’s work. Loved the Uglies series. Loved So Yesterday. Loved Midnighters. Except the end. Not thrilled with that, so much, but the concept and execution was there. So when I first saw Leviathan hit shelves, I picked it up and bought it, expecting that my teenage son (also a big fan of Westerfield’s) and I would have to fight over the book. He got it first, since I technically gave it to him for Christmas. Only recently have I snagged it from his shelf and started reading it.

I was completely surprised to discover that this book is completely different from Westerfield’s other work. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it did throw me off guard somewhat. This book fits in the steam-punk category. And while steam-punk is totally okay, and the book well written, I’m five chapters in and completely bored. I’ve decided that steam-punk isn’t my thing. Because Westerfield’s writing certainly hasn’t fallen in quality, nor has his ability to plot. At least, to my knowledge. Although, maybe I’ll change my mind later on in the book.

My point is I was completely taken off guard when I first got started. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so, because I continue to trust in the author’s writing ability. However, I will be a bit more cautious the next time I pick up a new book by him, and I’ll probably be a lot more careful to read reviews first.

So again, is this change a good move for an author or a bad one? What are your thoughts on this subject?


L.T. Elliot said...

I'm okay with author's crossing genres but I like when they do like you have and use different names to identify them. However, Shannon Hale switches up things a bit and it doesn't bother me. I just make sure I know what I'm reading before I pick it up. =] Smart post, Nichole!

Carolyn V. said...

I talked this over with a fellow writer who has been in the business for a while. She told me to start with what I like and stick with it. Once your names out there, it's okay to switch it up a bit.

I would totally be okay with a writer taking on another genre. But you are right, I'd read the review first. =)

David J. West said...

Having not read any of Westerfields stuff yet I can only guess at what the differences are-but I'm wondering, did the Uglies stuff have more romance elements in its speculation? as opposed to Levithan's Steam Punk speculation?

I just wanna know what grabbed you with the others.

I would like to write in a few differing genre's myself-but think basic elements of what I do would always be present.

Krista said...

I've been wondering about this very thing. I feel like I'm still getting to know myself as an author, and I want to try new things, and at the same time, I'm feeling pretty comfortable in my genre. But, in the eloquent words of George Costanza, "Comfort Shmumfort."

Nichole Giles said...

Great thoughts, L.T. You're right, Shannon does cross genres. As does Dave Farland and Orson Scott Card.

Carolyn, when you're just starting, I think it is smart to stick to one genre. Personally, that's what I intended to do. It just didn't work out that way. Go figure!

David, I like Westerfield's style. This steam punk one, though, is a lot slower and harder to get into. It might be because the protagonists are both younger than in his other books. Or because this book requires so much more explanation and description. I'm not positive on that. If I get back to reading it (after I do some review reading) I'll let you know.

Krista, I love George! But I think--especially when you're starting out--sticking with what you know and where you're comfortable is definitely a good thing. Build your name now, and experiment later if you have the need.

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone.