Woman reading by light of moon

Writing in Genres I Like to Read? Not Always

When folks ask me what I write and I mention aliens, I inevitably don’t get asked, “Have you read…?” whatever the current popular sci fi novels are, I’m asked “Have you seen that TV show with aliens?”

This makes me worry for the future of the book-reading world, although I suppose I could hope there might one day be a cable TV series based on my Other Worldly novels, but folks would have to embrace a protagonist who is actually aging throughout the books and who didn’t start out as a spring chicken to begin with. Though there may be an alien solution to that…

But back to those alien TV shows. No, I haven’t watched anything recent, but I did love Mork and Mindy decades ago. Mostly because, now that I’m writing about aliens, I strive to be original in the twists I’ve conjured when it comes to traditional concepts of aliens. I don’t want to muddy the waters or galaxies of my imagination by overexposure to what’s already out there.

Kind of like an author adage I once thought I’d embrace that says one should read widely in the genre you wish to write. Problem is, with my Other Worldly series, I started out writing about aliens, but they live among humans (who are actually human hybrids) in present-day realities dealing with current hot-button sociopolitical issues.

No futuristic, dystopian sci fi novels for me, because I don’t read them. I don’t like them. For example, I hold the unpopular opinion that Dune is unreadable. Maybe it was because I was too young and forced to read it for a school book report, but seemingly endless pages hinting at giant sand monsters rendered me comatose and confused, and ultimately uninterested. Get to the point already.

Here’s the thing. I still read widely, but across various genres. The impetus, if any, for my novels have no aliens whatsoever. And nothing that could be labeled pure science fiction by dedicated fans of that popular genre.

When it comes to book series, my favs have been the fantastical Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels of Charlaine Harris that the HBO series True Blood was based upon. And I love (and channeled for my writing) the funny family stuff in Janet Evanovich’s “by the numbers” series featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

I didn’t know my stuff was comical when I began my Other Worldly journey, back when otherworldly was still hyphenated or two words per the dictionary powers that be—way to make a change that fouled things up for me! But I credit brilliant author and journalist Carl Hiaasen for showing me how humor is done and done well.

Plus, my books have journalism tidbits woven throughout, along with another thing Hiaasen does best, social consciousness when it comes to degraded ecosystems. He’s not subtle about pushing a pro-environment agenda, so neither am I.

My work has definitely evolved into that “crossover-genre” category, but still gets labeled science fiction or fantasy simply because it has aliens. Although by book three, Aliens Abound, my protagonist Rowan Layne does begin traveling into space. I hadn’t anticipated that, but I should have. It was inevitable. As was the challenge of writing about the environments, including flora and fauna, found on other planets.

I’ve now infused touches of mystery, intrigue, action adventure, and a whole lot of steamy romance (with aliens) into my speculative fantasy novels, romance being a genre I read prolifically for years. Though I was also big on military and spy-related series for a time too.

I’m not into either anymore, but that doesn’t keep me from drafting elements of each into my story. I’m actually working on weaving in a little intergalactic spy intrigue as I draft book six, Altogether Alien.

Oh, and I used to be a lawyer, though not a litigator, so I like reading legal thrillers and court-room drama tales, but I would not enjoy writing them.

The reality is, it’s the human element that makes any novel or TV show involving aliens interesting, regardless of what books I’ve read.

Recently I watched the fun and compelling summer series Paper Girls on Amazon Prime, probably because I didn’t realize it was “sci fi.” Based on a comic book series of the same name by Brian K. Vaughan, I found the typical alien monsters to be trite and campy. Then again, I never read comic books. But the time travel was fascinating—and for once not at all confusing. Perhaps because I’ve lived in the decades covered.

Paper Girls focused on young teen females (another plus) from the eighties traveling into the future to 2019 to deal with versions of their grownup selves. The best part of this drama series wasn’t about scary monsters, powerful aliens, or futuristic technology. Its ultimate message involved people who come from different worlds learning how to work together.

That’s actually the underlying theme of my Other Worldly novels, even if I didn’t realize it when I began my fantastical yet all-too-real journey nearly five years ago. Five novels and counting later, I’m still reading, and writing, in genres all over the map and into outer space. But it will likely never be traditional sci fi for me.




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