Thursday, September 25, 2014

Genre Hopping

This post has been a long time coming. I've started it, erased it, and started it again. It's time to come clean.

I'm often asked when my next book will be coming out. Of course, there is always a story (or two or three) in the pipeline. Most recently I've finished my ninth book, Memories and Matchsticks, a romantic mystery, the first in my planned Sam McNamee Mystery Series. Right now it's in the queue for editing and cover art. If all goes as planned, it should be out in November sometime. It's a contemporary novel, a quirky romantic mystery that will, hopefully, make you laugh, cry, and have you rooting for the heroine, Sam McNamee, an accident prone romance writer who ironically avoids dating, until fate throws a wayward mutt named Bump into the path of her car and she meets veterinarian, Dr. Clint Chastain.

In the near future, I'll also be following up with a sequel to my first dog story Say No More which, although it had a slow start, has gained a steady following and rave reviews.

Some have asked if I'll be releasing any more historicals. The truth is, I don't know. Not soon, certainly, but in the future, who knows? Never say never, right? Some readers have even suggested historical figures I could write about. While there is an endless list of interesting people from the past I could explore, the reality is that my interests are leading me in a different direction. And I'm more excited about writing than I've been in a looong time, because now I'm writing stories that come purely from my heart and my imagination. There are no limitations.

The onus of writing historical fiction is that there is a great deal of responsibility that goes along with it. It is a VERY research intensive endeavor. I've often stated to friends that I could have researched and written an entire PhD dissertation with every historical novel I wrote - and I am not exaggerating. I spent two years digging up obscure scientific articles for a Biology masters degree, so I know.

Putting together a historical that is honest to the events of the time and people who lived it is not unlike academic research. When it comes to facts, you have to cover your a** -- or suffer the scrutiny of the Accuracy Police. In many ways, writing HF is like piecing together a puzzle. You have names, dates, places, events, and some details about each of these. Then, as a writer of fiction, you have to fill in the blanks and provide plausible motivations and reactions. You have to make the one-dimensional into three-dimensional. In that regard, few things have pleased me more than bringing people like Robert the Bruce, Isabella, and Owain Glyndwr to life and I am grateful to every reader who has reached out to me, left a review, or shared the books with friends.

Those stories came from a time in my life when I was in search of heroes. People in places of responsibility who fought against tough odds, who had the courage to lead, to fight, to stand against injustice, whether personal or political. I started writing about Owain Glyndwr first over fifteen years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom, who had the luxury of taking 2-3 years to write a book. I wrote five historicals while waiting for a publisher to discover me. And when efforts to find a traditional publisher fell through and the (better) opportunity to self-publish arose, I jumped at it. I was able to release my first several books more quickly because, for the most part, they were already written. They found readers and all was good. For a while.

It would be impossible for me to release new biographical historical fiction at a rate of more than one book per year, if that often. Putting out HF faster than that would, for me, compromise the integrity of the facts -- something I am not willing to do. Another bummer about writing biographical fiction is that you can't resurrect already dead characters. If you follow their story all the way to the ends of their lives as I have, you're at a dead end (pun intended).

To feed the beast, a writer must keep writing. And release frequently. Over time I've seen sales (and subsequently income) slip due to my slow release rate. The algorithms at Amazon are unforgiving, but they keep us writers on our toes. So about a year ago I started struggling with whether or not I was going to keep writing Historical Fiction. I even renewed my teaching certificate (gasp!), thinking I'd stop writing altogether in lieu of a regular job. It was a sobering prospect and a low time for me.

It took me awhile to realize that I still wanted to write, very much so, but my heart was leading me in a different direction. Circumstances in my life are vastly different now than ten years ago. I'm happier, more focused, and feel a deep need to connect to other human beings. Writing is also more than a hobby now; it is my career. I've brought to life the lives of a handful of real people that I was interested in, and I feel very fulfilled about that. But history also has its limitations. I wanted the freedom to create characters from scratch that just about anybody could relate to, in situations that are relevant to a wider audience.

Several years ago I joined a writer's site called Authonomy. One thing that being there did was open my eyes to a lot of new genres. I used to only read Historical Fiction. Now I read Romance, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult, New Adult, Cozy Mysteries, Literary Fiction,  General Fiction ... I never run out of books to read and I love that.

So when I sat down to write Say No More during the 2013 NaNoWriMo marathon that is November, the words gushed out. I LOVED writing from Halo's perspective as a dog. I couldn't wait to get the whole story down and out there. My passion for writing had returned. Soon I had a notebook full of new story ideas. Enough to keep me busy for the next five years.

Many writers explore new genres at different times in their careers. Some juggle them simultaneously, like Stephen King or Denise Grover Swank. Others, like Debora Geary, finish one series or genre and move on to something entirely new. 

New readers will continue to discover Robert, James, Isabella, and Owain. The fantastic thing about e-books is that they never have to disappear from the virtual shelf.

I am excited about the future, about Halo's story and Sam's, and hope you'll follow me. The possibilities are endless.

Until later,


Anita Davison said...

This sounds fascinating, and a brave move to switch genres, Gemi - may you wish you lots of luck with it, but that's hardly necessary as I know hat a talented writer you are.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Thanks, Anita. I've wanted to write a variety of other stories for a long while. The timing finally felt right. One of the great things about indie publishing is that you can go in new directions when the Muse inspires you.