Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Insanity of Being a Multi-genre Writer

So many people ask me--when they hear I'm an author-- "What do you write?" My response: "A little bit of everything." Then I proceed to rattle off the list: Military Thriller, Romance, Sci-fi, Supernatural Thriller, Fantasy, Drama, and Erotica. Then they give me the "deer in the headlights" look. Yeah, it's weird, I admit. Most writers who are famous (I'm still patiently waiting) will write only one genre. Those of us intrepid individuals in the literary world who write more than one tend to get looked down upon. Most figure: "How can you write more than one thing with any kind of experience?" Simple- YOU CAN! It's not easy; I'll be the first to admit. You have to be willing to do your homework in the chosen genre. There's no just sitting down and banging out a 44,000 word sci-fi story without first having a clue about some science. For the series I'm working on (the "Space" trilogy), I had to do some research on warp drives, galaxies, space, and create an entire fictional galaxy for my characters to live. I poured tens of hours into the project, and even have a big piece of cardboard with "The Ontarrin Galaxy" laid out on it- drawings included! 

The same thing applies for my military thrillers (The Dragonslayers Saga)- loads and loads of homework. Depending on the story line, I'm researching drug cartels, terror organizations, human trafficking rings, explosives, weapons, aircraft, and a host of other things that are needed to make my stories believable and relevant. The reader needs to think this is (or could) really happen. And they need to believe in your characters as well. Having spent 20+ years in the military, I know how officers and enlisted interact, and how officers interact with each other. You must understand the chain of command, and the rules and codes of the military. Otherwise, the books won't have the right feel to them, and anyone who is military will immediately discredit them. Funny enough, many of my fans are former vets- they love the books and that makes me feel good.

I have been accused of bending genres. I can throw romance into a military thriller, and make it work quite well. Add a helping of comedy into sci-fi; and contemporary issues into a romance. It's really all in how you see your characters interacting with the world around them. In my romance "Cowboys and Olympians" the main character, Leo Richards, is struggling to keep his family's ranch in the beautiful Red River Valley of Texas. At one point, he's so desperate that he's selling off his prized rodeo trophies just to get enough money to pay his bills. I think we all can feel his pain in these hard economic times.

There isn't one genre that I'd call all my own. Over time I've grown in my writing and branched out. I started out writing the military thriller series, and then I had a thought pop into my head. Before I joined the military, I'd lived in Memphis, TN. There was an old castle-like building that I passed on my way to work. I'd long thought it would be a great place to set a horror novel. Twenty years later, I had a working draft of "The Hall." In speaking with other writers, I was told it wasn't exactly a horror, but a supernatural thriller- yeah, OK, whatever; but it was a step away from what I'd known. I found a horror writer on Facebook and asked if he'd read it. He did, and couldn't believe how good it was. The book still isn't published; I'm needing to make a trip to Memphis to do some final research before I send it to press.

It was that same horror writer, who goes by the name of Blaze McRob, who DARED me to write sci-fi. I told him I thought he was out of his mind- what do I know about sci-fi?! He persisted, saying that I had it in me, and it was only a matter of getting a start on a story line and I'd be off and running. I swore he was nuts. But I took him up on his dare, and "Space Junk" was born. Blaze read it and said that it needed to be a trilogy. Again, I thought he was nuts. Then a thought hit me- maybe start from the beginning. I sat down at the laptop and played around with ideas. It wasn't a matter of a few days and "Space Crazy" was taking shape. I decided to do that as a prequel to Space Junk, and then came up with a great title for the sequel: "Space Available."

Like all writers, I have a very busy mind. Ideas pop in like popcorn; and I've learned if I don't write them down, POOF! They will disappear. So I have folders on my laptop for all my ideas. In the beginning, I wasn't too great about writing synopsis--I figured them a real pain. But after using them to write erotic short stories, and taking bits of them to do back copy on books, I realized I needed them. Now, one of the first things I do when forming a story is to write a brief (and sometimes it's really brief!) synopsis of what I plan to do. Does the story always follow this? Heck no! But it gives me a place to start if I need to do research, and helps me with choosing character names. Once I have a name and a general idea of the character, I'm off and running. 

Finding my target audience has been the hardest. Since I write such a variety of genres, folks aren't sure they want to take a chance on me. I have a good number of what I call "die hard" fans that have read my books and really like my style. Getting new readers is difficult. I've talked to successful Indie authors and asked what they have done to get successful. I've been told to write a "freebie" book that they can download, read, and hopefully get hooked. Check, have done that. "Space Crazy" is a free ebook on Smashwords. For the erotica side, I published, well, the aptly named "The Freebie." I've had hundreds of downloads of each, but I have yet to see any appreciable sales. Maybe that will change--I hope so. I've been doing my best to politely promote on Facebook, Twitter, and any other sites I can. But truth of the matter is, it may still take 6-9 years to get a good following.

In the meantime, I continue to write and publish. It's not something I can just quit doing, it's part of me and I don't feel really whole unless I'm up to my knees with a character in one of their adventures, either helping or hindering them in the quest toward their goals. They are just as much of a part of my life as I am theirs.

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,



  1. Thank you for being so kind to Blaze, my friend! It was very easy for me to say you had it in you to write great sci-fi. I love reading the genre, and you write it so well, adding in romance and humor to the mix. When I read about Dar, I put myself in his place, saying "oh, crap" one minute and "ooh,la la" the next. That's the sign of great writing: the reader becomes a part of the story. I'm Dar. There is no denying it.

    You are such an amazing, prolific writer as well, cranking out quality tales in a short time.

    I will always support your writing. I have to. I want to read more of your sci-fi, mystery, military, and erotica. You will do well, Kathy: it's just a matter of time before you are well known. I will smile broadly and email you asking when the next story comes out.


  2. Hey Kathy, thanks for the great post! I, too, write in different genres, as difficult and fun as it is, and it's great to read about another author who does this.

    And I love your "creatively obsessed," it's great! Now I know what's going on with me...

  3. Well done piece, Kathy. Informative. Thanks. (And thank you for your service.) R.M.M.

  4. Glad this is the first thing I saw on facebook, in a link from Blaze this morning, especially considering we're starting a new year. You touched on a few things that have been running though my head in regards to goals and success for 2012. I enjoy writing about whatever comes to me, regardless of genre, but enter the new year feeling a bit stuck in horror and paranormal. This was great inspiration to just go with the flow again.

    Building a readership is also top of my agenda this year with my first episode based novel coming out. I spent too much time last year watching the unethical promotion practices of authors in this changing publishing industry; everyone blaming publishers when a lot should be looking in the mirror. Maybe I'm overly sensitive because I spent a number of years helping small business owners network the right way. It's sometimes like being stuck in the room with a bunch of financial planners and multi-level marketers who don't have ears.

    I'm going into 2012 thanking the Universe for the great author friends I have made and WILL not obsess over sales and whether my books are on the Amazon top 100 list. I'd rather take years to ‘make it’ while connecting with each and every story I create than lose my integrity and my mind in regards to book sales along the way.

    Thanks for the venting space.

  5. Very thought provoking post from a writer's perspective. Only a writer can relate to the need to write and that often times the characters that come alive inside us don't always necessarily pop up in the same genre. I look forward to discovering your work.

  6. I just want to add how happy I am that when writers take the time to spread the word about other writers, good things happen. That you fine people should be as pleased as I am with what Kathy has done, and is continuing to do, makes me very excited for the future. Not only for her, but for all of us!