Genre? What genre?

One of the most enduring traits of authors is that, for the most part, they tend to stick to one genre. Stephen King, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, David Baldacci; these names evoke a sure idea of what any given book they write will be about. They branch out from time to time - I know Patterson has done some YA stuff, and King sometimes goes for walks along the horror spectrum - but for the most part, when you think of an author, you know what kind of book you're going to probably find.

And then there's me. Growing up, I was a fan of books in general. I read Goosebumps, and Fear Street, and Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew, and as I got older, I got into James Patterson and Stephen King, I read Harry Potter along with the entire world, I fell in love with the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. If a plot sounded interesting, I would read it. There are some genres I just don't like (particularly spy stories... just not my thing), but I'm willing to try most anything once.

Now, though I don't read as much as I used to, my preferences remain the same (i.e.: wildly varying), and this has extended into my writing. The very first original thing I wrote was a post-apocalyptic thriller, more or less, set in the White House 50 years in the future (one day I'll clean this up for publication). Next up was The Only One, a romance through and through. After that was No Safe Place, formerly called An Eye For An Eye, which is a kidnapping thriller. Finding Home Again is difficult to pin down, though I generally market it as a romance. Becoming Family is going to be even harder to put a genre on, though it too will likely be marketed as romance, but at least Crimson Hollow is contemporary fantasy. Winter's Noelle will be romance with science fiction elements (namely, time travel), and I'm toying with the very faint beginnings of another thriller.

If you were to ask me what my genre is, I would say characters are my genre. My favorite thing to do is to come up a setting, and then come up with characters to put in it and see how they react. Plot is important, of course, but to me, the plot is almost secondary. It's there, generally as a static thing in the background, and the point of the story is to figure out how my characters fit into it, and sometimes, how the plot fits around the characters. But my favorite thing will always be playing with my characters, deciding how they'll react to certain situations, and sometimes realizing that my initial ideas have to change because of the character.

Extending from that, my other favorite part of writing characters is writing their relationships to each other. And that doesn't just mean romantic relationships, but also friendships, parent/child dynamics, and even rivalries. I've gone into stories with general ideas of how certain characters will interact, and by the end of it, some relationships are completely different from what I imagined they would be. Becoming Family explores the idea of found family (a favorite trope of mine), as does Crimson Hollow, which will especially explore many different kinds of relationship dynamics, while also being about vampires and witches and mermaids.

And this is what I mean by plot, and genre, being secondary. Crimson Hollow is fantasy, for sure, but the most fun I've had working on the series so far is writing these characters and their relationships. The genre informs the characters (in terms of things like vampire vs. werewolf rivalries, how humans can interact with mermaids, how all of these characters handle the modern world depending on what they are), but ultimately, it's still about the characters and their relationships. I just like writing about people, and making them as real and multifaceted as I can.

I can't commit to one single genre, and I think that makes my writing so much more interesting, and also fun, because with every new book, I get to play in an entirely new sandbox, and I get to learn so many new things. I'll allow that this could be confusing for those who read my stuff, but hopefully I can eventually get to a point where people know what to expect from me, which will always be "characters reacting to a really interesting setup," and they can look beyond whatever the genre is and still love the characters.

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