The Genre Gap

…Monday

The Reckoners

Wolf Hunt

Dun Lady's Jess

Yes! It’s true! I have a genre auto-adjust function in my brain!

And it comes in REALLY handy. Because everything I write, I also read. (I mean…duh, right?) And without the auto-adjust, there might be some ugly genre gap issues.

Ug-LEE, I tell you.

Okay, not for mysteries–two of them so far for me. Easy to tell apart from the rest, and obvious what to expect.

The tie-in books…well, those are pretty much self-defined.

And the Bombshells. No question about that marketing. Kick-Ass Chick books. Jane Bond. Alias. Sums it up right there.

The confusing part?

The fantasies. The different flavors thereof.

SF/Fantasy vs Silhouette Nocturne category vs single title paranormal. All fantasy–but all entirely different.

With my first fantasy books–of the SF/F variety–I had a lot of freedom. Of course there were relationships in these books–our lives are made of relationships. But the books were structured around plot, and built primarily on worlds, magic, and character. I could and did hit from between 90K to 150K words.

The Silhouette Nocturnes are contemporary, relationship-driven category romance fantasies. World building and plot are vital–the pieces always have to be there!–but the book grows around the relationship. And the length is 70K words or less. That means the developing relationship takes priority over extensive world building and layered plot lines (and it means there are pages of Sentinel notes, history, and factoids that haven’t ever made it to print).

Single title paranormals–like those in the Reckoners series–are a blend of both worlds. They’ve got the world building, the relationship, the characters, the layering, and a whole cast of supporting characters. At 120k words, they’re crammed in tight!

But here’s where it gets tricky. Because the expectations formed by reading any one of these sibling genres won’t match the reading experience in the others. Picking up a fantasy won’t fulfill the yen for a relationship-driven story. Picking up a Nocturne won’t provide deep world building and multi-layered plots–and it’s not meant to. Picking up a paranormal single-title provides a great balance of both–but the specific focus of neither.

So picking up one of these genres and blaming it for not being like one of the others? Well, it feels odd to say this about fantasies, but…that’s not exactly realistic. Or, thank you (and here comes the opinionated part), fair.

In fact, the key to a happy read while genre-surfng turns out to be pretty basic. Know what you’re reading. Set expectations accordingly. Voila!

In which case it’s really handy to have an auto-adjust function.

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
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14 Responses to The Genre Gap

  1. Elizabeth says:

    You are SO right.

    Readers need to understand that a) a writer may be as versatile as you (I’m not, alas!!) and in that case Book Three may not be anything like Book Seven…and that’s OK. That’s not the writer’s mistake, or failure–that’s a feature, not a bug. They should test out your various book types, and then follow the one they like.

    And they need to understand that b) some writers _aren’t_ that versatile (raising hand) so blaming us for not writing the way their favorite writer writes is both useless and insulting. If you don’t like one-track-mind-writer’s work–just don’t read it. Don’t hassle the writer with “Why don’t you write like X?” commentary. (The answer: because no two writers are the same person and thus I can’t write like X–or you–or a dozen other writers I really admire and would love to be able to write like.) Some of us are trying to be more versatile, with varying degrees of success (the center of a football team is not likely to turn into a world-class gymnast…the build’s different) and I doubt I’ll ever write a salable mystery.

    Anyway–you’re right, as well as talented. I hope you put the different definitions of your “lines” on your website so potential readers will have no excuse for being surprised.

  2. Doranna says:

    Elizabeth–a feature, not a bug! OH! I’m going to steal that!

    Yes, you may have guessed that recently I’ve seen reactions that indicate expectation dissonance–most likely because the past year has seen the launch of the two series against the backdrop of the original fantasies. And really, expectation is everything.

    Now, on the one hand, some authors use pen names for this very reason. But none of my editors wanted to do that, so here we are. But these publishing lines are pretty well defined–especially the categories.

    I do intend to put this post up as a permanent here on the blog, and am pondering how I might add it to my web site…

    PS I know several Xs I would LIKE to write like…but I am what I am.

  3. aj chase says:

    You know, I think that when people cross genres looking for a book from a writer, they’re looking for a feeling and an experience, not necessarily a specific type of book. They’re looking for an enjoyment of your voice. Those of us who read a lot know what to expect from a genre. We have an unwritten agreement with the author that we will read them given they provide a specific feeling and ending. So they’ll be okay with what they get. And less experienced readers might have a slight shock but they’re really in it for you, so they’ll probably adjust

    • Doranna says:

      Hi, Janet–thanks for your thoughts! I think you’re right–ideally it works this way. But it’s obvious to me that it doesn’t work this way for *everyone,* because it’s obvious to me when someone, for whatever reason, is holding one of my books to expectations/standards that apply to one of my other genres. That, I think, makes it worth talking about. 8) Because really…I don’t think that makes anyone happy!

  4. Giselle says:

    I agree – I read a lot of different genres, but not all the books by a specific author.

    If I like the author’s ‘voice’ and writing style, I might dip into their other books/series, but I know what I like and generally stick to them.

    I’d never chastise an author for not writing in the manner or genre I want or am used to from them. Not very polite, for one thing. And useless, for another – there are many reasons why authors write what they do, and you know that much better than I.

    I love the Dale Kinsall series (more, yes?), recently read and enjoyed greatly The Reckoners. A Feral Darkness cries out for more like it to me. That was an amazing book.

    There aren’t too many people who can write abt fantasy/supernatural and dogs with credibility – IMNSHO – and without getting too twee or offending my dog trainer/owner/positive sensibilities.

    I haven’t been able to lay my hands on your other titles – am limited by what I can get through my library atm.

    But, I too, have a genre auto-adjust function, its the only way to be. ^_^.

    Have you thought abt including some of your ‘notes, history, and factoids’ from your books on your website? There are a couple few authors I can think of who do that – and one, at least, who allows/encourages and posts fan stories too.

    Giselle
    with Bea and Da Punkinator
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7337863@N02/show/
    “You ask of my companions. The hills, sir, the sunset, and a dog as big as myself.” Emily Dickinson

  5. Doranna says:

    Hi, Giselle!

    Knowing what you like is a very good thing. 8)

    I’m so pleased that you like The Reckoners! And oh, yes…I love Dale & Sully, too–and A Feral Darkness is an enduring favorite. It’s a book where I feel I accomplished more than my initial vision for it, which is super cool.

    When it comes to what a given author writes, there are logistical factors–behind-the-scenes industry factors–that make some of the choices for us. For instance, I have to target projects that will find a publishing home–and one that will allow me to earn a living from what I write.

    I’ve often thought about including the tidbits you mentioned on my web site. What stops me? A severe shortage of time. That about sums it up. The poor site needs a facelift at the moment–been thinking about that for a while now…

    I appreciate your thoughts about this! All I have to extrapolate on is my own experience with my reader hat on, and being inside the industry changes what that is.

  6. Robert says:

    I think I have read the gamut of the genres you write and I enjoy them all. I guess I am just an omnivore when it comes to writers I like. Story is always important to me, whether it be relationship driven, character driven or plot driven and when the author’s voice is one that speaks to me with a good story–

  7. Doranna says:

    I’m glad you’re so omnivorous! I am, too. In fact, I suspect many people are. The expectation dissonance, I believe, comes from not giving the book the space to be in the genre it’s supposed to be in–or not being aware of the genre differences in the first place…

  8. KarenJG says:

    I really think, for me, in most cases, it’s all about the author. I think I’ve read everything you’ve written now, and I liked all of them. But (I think) that’s because you have a writing style and an approach to a story and characters that I like. The genre isn’t as important as that style/approach (again, for me – every reader’s different, I suppose, just like every writer’s different).

    I admit that I held off buying some of the books in genres I don’t normally read (romance and tie-in, to be specific). I think because I felt that if I didn’t like them, I’d be being disloyal somehow. (I feel this way about all my “favorite” authors who work in more than one genre, not just the ones I’ve had contact with through the internet.) But when I finally read them, I found the style/approach relatively consistent with what I expect from “a Durgin book.” Yes, relationship-driven is slightly different than plot/world-driven, but still recognizably your work, and I did like them, although I still don’t feel much impetus to seek out other authors in the genre.

    It might be a function of reading regularly in several genres, or it might be a function of liking a particular style/method of storytelling, I couldn’t say. But most of the time, the authors I like in one genre, I will like in other genres, unless it’s a genre I truly don’t enjoy reading. And there aren’t very many of those!

  9. Doranna says:

    Karen–wow, as with the other comments, the thoughtfulness of the discussion here delights me. Thanks for your insight!

    I tend to like authors across genres, too. But again, I think the point is that we know we’re reading across genres, and we know there will be differences in each. I think some of what I’m seeing are readers who are discovering my work for the first time–this is my chance to prove myself as an author. But the comments I see indicate that the disappointment comes from something *I was supposed to do* for that genre.

    My stuff may still not be for those readers. Heaven knows, different strokes for different folks. But I’d rather have them not like it for what it is, if you know what I mean, than because it wasn’t the genre they thought they were getting.

  10. KarenJG says:

    I see your point, but I’m trying to imagine each of your books being my “introduction” to your work, comparing it only with that genre, and wondering if any of them would have NOT induced me to not pick up more of your books. I don’t think so. The closest thing to it would have been the Sentinels, but only because I don’t generally read “category romance.” But the thing is, they probably *wouldn’t* have been my “introduction” to you, because I probably would have never picked them up in the first place. I wouldn’t have been looking there for stuff to read. Thus, I really can’t get into the mindset of a devoted romance reader, and figure out if your books are somehow not what they expect.

    The Reckoners? Hmmm. Seems to fit comfortably within the paranormal romance genre to me. It’s not one of my top fave genre, but I’ve read and enjoyed quite a bit of it, so I can’t see that being a “Oh, this SO isn’t what I wanted” read, either.

    I really suspect you’re seeing people who are looking for a different author’s work, and amazingly enough, not finding it in yours. But! I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

  11. Doranna says:

    Oh, but I’m not being clear. What I’m seeing is indications that people are picking up a single title and blaming it for not being a category book. Or picking up the category book and blaming it for not being a fantasy.

    That’s a matter of expectations. Expect a category to be a category–70K, relationship-drive. Expect a single title to have more going on than just the relationship. Like that.

  12. Lady Jade says:

    And now…for something a little, um….childish: “one of these things is not like the other….”

    *headshake* I got it before there was even a “question” about the genre gap…sheesh. I’m not crazy about Silouette books, they are romance. Pure and simple, with a bit of living and “real life situations” all driven by romance in one way or another.

    Hmmmm…Nocturne…also not my general liking, but I might pick one up just to see if it interests me.

    SFF more up my alley, and SFF/Romance is an ok category with some exceptions. Chicks series (come on…Chicks in *whatever* is a great short-story series)

    Hello….readers….READ THE DAMN BACK OF THE BOOK. Then open it up and read a couple pages….

    ok, getting off the soap-box now.

  13. Doranna says:

    Hey, Lady Jade…not a soapbox, a cool conversation! And you know what you like, which is very important for both reader and writer…

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