Crossing Genres as Vast as the Universe of Imagination

I just read an online Writer’s Digest article about writing across fiction genres and the challenge this inevitably presents with marketing folks. Because if you dare to encompass more than one established genre or subgenre, you aren’t fitting into the traditional publishing world’s edict of how they can make money.

I’ve written about this in my blog before, because it’s downright maddening for authors like me, and has been since I naively spent years attempting to obtain a literary agent instead of continuing to write what I wanted to write.

They say you’re supposed to strive to be original, yet the moment you do so, you’re not moving in lockstep to produce what precisely fits their idea of fiction or an established genre category. Of what they’ve autocratically deemed the reading public wants.

Then there’s the advice about not writing to satisfy current trends, but they sure want those “comparable titles” in your query letter. Originality, in my estimation, is not at all what the publishing world seeks. It’s too risky for them, and too challenging for their marketing folks. As is crossing too many genres.

It’s not only an insult to writers who choose to exercise their vast imagination, but also a condescending affront to readers. I’m a reader, too, and I appreciate something fresh and inventive that defies boring predictable formula fiction and perhaps makes me think about the world around me. Not to mention the hubris of marketers lumping all readers into one homogenous group.

There are established series authors who venture beyond, such as Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels featuring snarky vampires in present day, but the publishing industry still categorizes these multiple works of wonder as “mystery.” That’s a mystery to me, because I’ve never seen myself as a mystery reader.

I didn’t set out to cross genres in my Other Worldly novels. I simply wanted to tell a tale of aliens set in present day, dealing with touchy current sociopolitical issues that many folks will tell you not to write about. Hell, they don’t want you talking about them either.

I wasn’t writing science fiction, as I saw it, because I’m not a fan of that genre, nor an avid reader of anything remotely resembling it. But because my books have extraterrestrial aliens, they had to be science fiction according to the publishing world. Especially for those literary agents who said they wanted a strong female protagonist and a story with depth, but absolutely no aliens.

How dare I think outside their banal box?

Why can’t a novel have aliens and tackle everything else as well? And what if those aliens are an entirely original concept as opposed to typical Hollywood depictions of evil forces out to invade or destroy Earth? As I show in my Other Worldly novels, humans are doing that quite obnoxiously on their own.

No way was I going to be constrained by narrow minds, because that’s precisely what my novels address. Bigotry in all myriad maniacal manifestations, including sexism. As in those who think a female protagonist has to be young, of baby-making age and capability, and seeking her one true love who will make everything right in her world. As in females who smile and appease as opposed to speak their mind (not to mention authors who won’t be bound by marketing dictates).

I used to read romance voraciously—when I was young, though I didn’t set out to write in that genre either. Yet as I begin drafting my seventh novel in the Other Worldly series, Aliens Watch, I must capitulate to having dipped my typing fingers within, albeit in an alternative reality—and sexuality.

Rowan Layne, my now-aged-sixty protagonist, is not exactly what the traditionally male-dominated publishing industry has in mind for how they can make money off the imagination of others. Despite the reality that 75 percent of those who buy books in the US are women, and chances are not all of them are twentysomethings or seeking stories about teen angst.

Maybe it’s because Rowan has multiple love interests, or lovers, some of them alien. Very hot aliens—from the perspective of a seasoned female who’s not going to let men or literary agents decide what she’s supposed to be attracted to at her age. Rowan is not obsessed with marriage or settling down into a publisher’s idea of happily ever after. But she is interested in exploring love, and its myriad facets.

Besides, there’s so many genres and subgenres floating about now that it’s absurd anyone would expect an author not to dabble in more than one. Mixing it up and making it work for any given story is the very essence of originality.

When I began writing my first novel, Alienable Rights, I had no knowledge of this new subgenre called speculative fiction. I also never dreamed I was writing “fantasy,” because the world I created was quite real to me and based on some actual personal experiences. Later, I thought, am I writing urban fantasy? Not really, although I do place imaginary elements in a contemporary urban setting.

I’m definitely not writing dystopian or futuristic science fiction. But as of the third novel, Aliens Abound, Rowan Layne began traveling into space, much to my (and her) surprise. And I use actual scientific concepts, to the extent that I can understand their basis in physics, to create fantastical concepts and technological capabilities far beyond that of present day.

I personally think there’s a chance that some of that technology actually exists. The reality of reverse-engineering features frequently in my novels. And sightings of impossibly high-speed UFOs feature frequently in reality whether some want to admit it or not.

Therefore, am I penning “contemporary fiction” that just happens to involve aliens? Oh, and it’s also comedic, though I didn’t initially realize that. Humor is part of the catharsis of addressing real-life, all-too-human, experiences. You know, that oft-heard adage to write what you know.

I now also have a bit more action and intrigue in my novels than I do in real life, but I still don’t see it as “mystery” in terms of that genre. And I’ve got military and legal stuff here and there, but my novels are not in any way “thrillers” as defined by those subgenres. Think Constitutional law, not courtroom drama. Though there is some Congressional hearing action going on in Alien Sensation especially. I also delve into international intrigue, and further into the fantastical realm, in Being Alien, primarily set in Scotland and England.

Overall, this whole quagmire about aliens having to be science fiction is so silly really, given how all stories are about the human condition, as my Other Worldly novels certainly are. Which would make them not at all fantasy, and yet that’s where I’m still categorized by the dogmatic publishing powers that be.

It’s a tad tedious. But I’ll keep on writing my contemporary, comedic, speculative fiction fantasy, socially conscious, environmental justice, progressively political, feminist, alternative romance, not science fiction as I see it novels. Did I leave anything out? How about introducing fun food and wine as originating from other planets? What I call the galaxy-to-table movement. And then there’s flora and fauna that didn’t really originate on Earth. But you probably guessed that about your cat.

Because those “little green men” aren’t who you think they are, and fantastical creatures of legend or folklore might actually exist, either here on another planet. You might have guessed that about Scotland, too.

Altogether Alien, book six of the Other Worldly series, is coming soon. Wherein Rowan Layne travels back into the spiraling, fascinating world of outer space and to the otherworld known as Scotland, but also to New Mexico, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii, plus a state of existence defined as being capable of unconditional love.

I love and embrace my Other Worldly series, no matter what genre it gets pigeonholed into by categories I had nothing to do with creating and have no interest in being constrained by. As Rowan Layne would say, boy howdy!

 

8 thoughts on “Crossing Genres as Vast as the Universe of Imagination”

  1. I think there will come a day when literature professors lecture how authors of the late 1900’s and first decades of the 2000’s forced their novels into certain molds in order to be published “traditionally” with always-changing rules. Thus came the explosion of self-publishing.

  2. I totally understand where you are coming from.
    When i was trying to write my series about Shadow Warriors, everybody kept saying you need a tag line it is like ____ with a mix of ___.
    Like Pride and Prejudice with zombies. (never did read that book, the original, and have no interest in reading it with zombies. LOL)

    You keep writing as you do, and we will keep reading them.

  3. Lauryne,
    Please please please tell me you will put your work into audiobooks? It doesn’t have to be through Audible (look what Brandon Sanderson did, yes I know he is rather famous.) There is Chirpbooks dot com, LibroFM…. Spotify /Speechify, even?
    I bought the first book at a sci-fi convention, and am pleased to see others on kindle, my eyesight not being what it used to (should I blame my years of government legal work?) I am happy you made the leap to what you love, and look forward to reading -and hopefully listening to more of your clever works!
    Cheers! Sue (admittedly an Audible member for 11 years, and catching up on missed fiction since my retirement.)

    1. Hi Sue, and thanks for reaching out. It’s nice to hear from a former government employee and an avid reader 🙂
      And yes, I do plan on audiobooks, I just haven’t gotten there yet. In 2020 I even took classes at The Voice Actors Studio here in Las Vegas, thinking I might actually voice my own books. But the technical aspects seemed daunting, so I will ultimately have someone else in the profession due the voicing. I did meet and became friends with a woman from TVAS who is likely the ideal candidate once I’m ready to take the plunge. At this point I have focused my efforts and finances on getting the entire book series written.
      It helps to know there are those who are interested in my books becoming audible, so keep in touch, keep reading, and I’ll get back to you on this!

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