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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Suspense, Paranormals and Steampunks, Oh My!

I tried to stick to writing in one romance sub-genre from the very beginning. 

Really, I did. 

I told myself I didn’t have time to develop multiple platforms and author brands, so I’d better stick to one. But whereas my first novel is a romantic suspense story, the second insisted on morphing into a paranormal romantic suspense. And the third…Oh god, let’s not even go there yet!

I told myself I was experimenting with different subgenres in order to discover The One, that magical arena wherein my stories would germinate, grow and blossom like well-fertilized morning glories. Surely when I determined my one true subgenre I would joyfully cast aside all other subgenres and write happily forever after.

Ha.

Classes and workshops taught me more about the craft of writing, but didn’t help me settle into a comfortable niche. I did find my core story (the theme that unfolds in every book I write, no matter the genre.) Mine is you have to decide who you really are.
 
Irony; gotta love it.

Contest judges loved my ‘light, breezy comedic voice.’ A famous writing instructor told me I write dark romantic comedy. 

What the heck??? 

While struggling through my identity crisis, I researched and outlined two more paranormal romantic suspense stories. Was I on to something? Was this blended genre The One?


Then something happened to me that had never happened before. Out of nowhere, the phrase the fixer-upper boyfriend popped into my head as if someone had spoken the words aloud. I stopped in my tracks halfway through the living room on the way to the dirty clothes hamper. 

Great book title, I thought. Reeks of teenaged angst.

My monkey mind was off and running with a YA story. I wrote a rough outline of the book and the characters. Loved them! Who wouldn’t love writing about a mad-scientist mother, zombie boyfriends, a frustrated medium, a tragic accident with a time machine, and a runaway teen protagonist on a quest for absolution?

Other than the fact that this story was not a paranormal romantic suspense, the plot holes were problematic—until I took a Steampunk class online and found the story a perfect home in an alternate Victorian Age.
Me, write a Steampunk YA? Ack!

In desperation, I brainstormed commonalities among my stories. This is what I came up with:

  •  Identity issues
  •  Secrets
  • Underdog protagonists
  • Family
  • At least one canine character whose actions affect the plot and/or character arc
  • Second chances
  • A comedic voice
  •  Paranormal elements (That first story? The RS? Originally, I wanted the protagonist to have a psychic ability, but I talked myself out of it.
I decided to build my platform around these commonalities. Publishers need to know where to shelve my books, so I’ll brand myself as a paranormal romance author. Overall, I’ve found paranormal romance readers to be flexible and adventurous readers. I don’t think mixing it up a little will put them off, whether they are adult or young adult readers.

What do you think?

5 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Great post about your writing journey! And I like that you made a list of commonalities in your stories - that makes sense to me both as another writer and a reader.

I seldom read paranormal romance so I'm not sure if mixing things up puts readers of that genre off or not. I do think the challenge for yet-to-be-published writers is having a great story that is well-written and promoted to the readers who will love that story. Once our names are out there and become better known, a reader will always be able to find us.

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Judith. Many of us struggle with identifying our audience, an essential step in building our platforms.

Writing teacher and author Jackie Rogers says that, if a writer writes in more than one sub-genre of romance, she can emphasize the tone of her books in her platform rather than a particular sub-genre. Good news for us gnere-hoppers!

Diana Mcc. said...

Great post sister! I am a firm believer that if you write a good book, get published and have a fan base, that fan base will follow you no matter what genre you are writing. I speak from experience as one of those fans who never would have bought a fantasy except I was a fan of the author's romance novels. And yes, I asked at Barnes & Noble where to find the 'new' book.

Vonnie Alto said...

Hi Sarah--I don't know if you signed off for the night. I wanted to tell you how impressed I am with what you concluded. I'm impressed that you found your core story and commonalities. I wish I could do the same for me.

Sarah Raplee said...

Diana. you're a dream fan! I'm lucky to have you in my court.

Vonnie, it's taken years and years to figure these things out. You'll get there.