It struck me today, as I finished writing a story which is somewhere between a historical horror story and a romance, before moving onto the next in my list – which is Irish fantasy and humor, straight and simple, and getting some edits on the piece before that which was Urban fantasy/humor, and considering that I’ve recently done the edits on a steam-punk/alternate history, and a High Fantasy, and I’m sitting with proposals (which if the publishers don’t jump very smartly, will head their way into being e-books) of everything from 17th century Historical Romance/fantasy, to humorous Space Opera. And, yes, almost everything in between. I’ve written hard sf, sociological sf, fantasy, alternate history, even something that probably qualifies as paranormal romance. You name it… I’ve had a go at it. Okay, I take that back. Modern Literary Fiction I leave to Margret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson. They’re welcome to all of it. Wouldn’t dream of depriving them. But something us lowbrow types might enjoy… I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Now, this is, according to conventional wisdom, and most agents and all publishers, not a good thing. And maybe it is not. After all, readers wanting 1632 Alternate History and getting Eric’s Joe’s world books might be a bit peeved if they got what they didn’t want. I’m obviously not such a good writer of any one of these sub-genres that it’s made much difference to my numbers… of course, that’s a hard one to judge, because the distribution hasn’t exactly provided what any statistician would call directly comparable numbers. A MANKIND WITCH for example beat the rest as hardcover, and was simply out of print before it had a fighting chance. Obviously I’ve had some readers say “I love the Heirs books, but can’t bear Rats Bats and Vats,” and vice versa. And yet… I’ve got other readers who have inflated my ego to the point where B has to puncture it, by telling me they buy it if I write it. Dean Koontz certainly proved this concept wrong and took his readers with him. I’d buy a telephone directory if Sir Terry Pratchett wrote it.
It is something I often wonder about: I seriously don’t believe that endless books on one ‘narrow’ canvas are good for the quality of anyone’s output (no matter how the readers want yet another of those beloved characters in the same setting yet again. As a writer you spend a very long intense time in those universes. Maybe where there are spin-offs and alternate characters, this can work. But as a straight sequence… well, I’m actually vaguely glad that I’ve never been that successful early on that I was stuck writing one because that and only that was what publishing would buy.
So what think all of you? Should authors fit in boxes? Should we pen-name our different styles?
Oh BTW – after much HTML heartache… I got my first e-book short story up on Amazon and onto Smashwords (as Barnes and Ig do not deal with us dodgy furrin types, that is my option. Amazon and Smashwords.)
I’ve felt like a poor luddite doing all of this stuff.