One of the things I kick around is whether I should write some of my books under a pen name. The dilemma is that I don’t stick with one genre, so maybe I should write under a couple of different names. One Night in Bridgeport is a legal thriller. One of the WIP – Terror in a Small Town — I hope to finish in the next year is a terrorist thriller. Those two go together. Weed Therapy is a slow-paced, introspective journey. One of the WIP – The Irrepairable Past — I hope to finish in the next year is a slow-paced, introspective journey. Those two go together. But they don’t go with Bridgeport and Terror.
Writing in the same genre bores me. The opportunity to take a stab at different types of stories, as well as different ways to tell stories, is one of the things that keeps motivating me to write. It’s what keeps writing fresh and new. Like I told a new friend earlier this week, I compare it to cooking, which has also held my interest for a long time. With both, there is always something new to try. A never-ending string of recipes and types of food to make and a never-ending stream of stories to try.
I recently started my first, real horror story. We’ll see how it goes. I’m still working on Northville Five & Dime. I’m not even sure how to characterize that. It’s an odd kind of thriller bent around a slow-paced, introspective journey for three different characters. Maybe it’s a genre-buster!
Some readers who enjoy Bridgeport may be turned off by Weed Therapy and vice versa. If my horror story goes anywhere, I’m pretty certain it would not be appealing to the readers of The Irrepairable Past. I’m not one of those types of readers though. I don’t get people who stick in the same genre or two. It’s one of the things that I’ve enjoyed about the self-publishing explosion and my commitment to it over the past year. I’ve read stories I never would have read before and that is a good thing. But even before self-publishing took off, I was a reader of great variety. Science fiction, fantasy, spy thrillers, legal thrillers, non-fiction (history, current events, biographies), the catch-all mainstream fiction, and anything and everything in between. I read. That’s what I do. Words on a page and I’m there.
If you look at most well-known, successful authors, they are firmly planted in a genre. People know exactly what they’re going to get from a King, Patterson, Koontz, Steele, Sparks, etc., and those readers want that certainty. The one exception that I can think of is Grisham, who has found success outside of his original genre and kudos to him for that.
The question is whether I cater to genre specific readers or to people like me. Should I be concerned about a reader who likes Bridgeport being turned off by The Irrepairable Past and not lead them to it by using a pen name for one or the other? Or should I not care and imagine a world where more readers are like me than not?
Should Mark Paxson be a writer of slow-paced, introspective stories and John Doe go after the thriller/horror market? My preference is that Mark Paxson is the name behind all of it because this is who I am, but I wonder whether this is a mistake I could be making as I continue down this path. And then, there’s the whole question of what to do when I get around to finishing my set of three erotic novellas. Ugh!
Some people can do it, build more than one marketing platform, but that seems to be what it takes. Grisham had a strong foothold in one genre before he ventured into others. Even J.K. Rowling has had difficulty asserting herself in a new, more mature genre. I love the idea of writers writing…once you master the craft of it…it really should not matter what genre you are writing in…it is all good. Marketing is the kicker though.