Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mixing Genres - Does It Work or Do Readers Want More of the Same?

By Ellery Adams

There's something a little daunting about writing a novel that crosses genre lines.

If you think about how a bookstore or library is organized, the categories are very defined: Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Fiction & Literature, etc.

Before I began writing Pies and Prejudice, the first book in my all-new charmed pie shoppe series, I thought about why I like to prepare food so much and I decided that it's the blending of unique ingredients that makes the experience so rich and rewarding.

I was terrified to combine a culinary mystery with fantasy elements and a sprinkling of romance because I'd never done it before. And what if it didn't do a good job right and it came out of the book-making factory looking and feeling like two-day-old fish? I was scared, but I really wanted to stretch my wings as a writer so I gave it a shot.

I know many of you read beyond the mystery genre. But I was wondering if you've read a book recently that combined more than one genre and really impressed you?

19 comments:

Bonnie K. Winn said...

I can't recall a recent title, but the same reasoning draws me to women's fiction which often combines several cross-genre elements. I love the idea of writing in a larger canvas and deeper character development. (It tops my dream/wish list.) Many of my favorite books combine a significant external conflict, some romance and mystery. The ones I'm thinking of aren't romantic suspense. Then I'm not a "more of the same" type of reader or writer.

Book Dragon said...

Copycat Killer has paranormal cats

Brownies and Broomsticks has magic

I love cross genres

Anonymous said...

Hi Ellery, I just finished your book and found it charming! Seriously, it was entertaining and intriguing. As for mixing genres, yes, I read a lot of cross genre novels, but I like to read a wide variety of books. Gino Koch mixes science fiction/fantasy with romance and mystery. I like J. D. Robb and Jayne Ann Krentz too. Juliet Blackwell and Annette Blair mix fantasy and mystery too, and I just finished their latest books, fun! Your novel's a winner, too! Kudos!

Aurian said...

The book still has not arrived, I think the mailperson doesn't want to haul all the books waiting for me with her/him!
I love books that cross genres. What about Steampunk? That is a mix of historical, fantasy and paranormal (Gail Carriger - Parasol Protectorate, very good and funny).
I love paranormal elements in my cozy mysteries as well, like Yasmine Galenorn and her Chint'z n China series.
And how about your own Heather Blake - It takes a witch.

Sue said...

It doesn't matter to me. I didn't think I'd like wish/witch craft mysteries, but I read it takes a witch and loved it. I used to read just "real" mysteries until I found out about the cozy mysteries and now I can't stop. No matter what you write, I'll at least give it a try and give you my honest opinion. Honestly, I'm loving Pies and Predjudice. Keep them coming. :)

Ellery Adams said...

I also adore steampunk and I think the YA genre is really doing a great job of genre-mashing.

And thanks for mentioning Heather's witchcraft mysteries. They are a wonderful blend of genres!

Joseph said...

Ellery, some of my favorite books cross genres. I really enjoyed the way you mixed fantasy and mystery with "Pies and Prejudice." I look forward to the next in the series.
Historical fiction and fantasy, such as Deborah Harkness's recently published "Shadow of Night" or historical fiction and mysteries, such as Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series and Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael series, are two other merges I enjoy reading as well.

Katreader said...

I love mixing genres and read a ton (pretty much what everyone else mentioned). I know it can be difficult to authors/booksellers though-just where do you put it? (In my bag, please, lol) I remember reading an article about Laurell K. Hamilton and her fist Anita Blake novel-she had a heck of a time as the novel doesn't fit in one category. I think all of the cozies that mix genres have it a bit easier-the main issue is a mystery-all the rest (paranormal, culinary, historical, etc) are just great additions.

Katreader said...

I nearly forgot-what about the Simon Kirby-Jones Mysteries by Dean James? The hero is a Southern gentleman who moves to the English countryside. He’s a writer who happens to be gay and a vampire. This series alone gives us 5 diverse subgenres: paranormal, Southern US, English Village, gay/lesbian, and writers!

Dru said...

I never thought I would like any form of paranormal but light paranormal mixed with a cozy mystery works for me.

Jeannie D. said...

I love cross genre books. Some of my favorites is Sophie Kelly's Cat's in trouble series with the paranormal cats. Also, Joyce and Jim Lavene's Missing Pieces mysteries. It has a psychic mayor combined with a mystery. However, I've just started reading your Pies & Prejudice and it is edging up to my number one spot. I am really enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

I grew up watching Bewitched, so I think the new trend of adding a little paranormal into the cozy mystery is wonderful.

Meg in Albuquerque said...

I love books that mix paranormal and mysteries together. I'm enjoying the new books with a little bit of paranormal, it's very interesting. I have your book I just haven't read it yet it's on my kindle but as soon as I do I know I'll enjoy it. I enjoy your other books so I know enjoying this one's a no brainer. I enjoy the books by Annette blair, and there are others I read and enjoy.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like a little romance mixed in with a mystery or suspense. I love Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mysteriers.

Chip said...

I personally am very much in favor of books which combine more than one genre, as long as it's clear from the outset that the work is of multiple genres, e.g. from the back cover, etc. There are times when I wish to read something that is archetypal of a specific genre, and then another is thrown in out of nowhere and reads as though it was tacked on unnecessarily or is part of a marketing gimmick to prove more viable to readers.

That said, what I love about multi-genre books is that it encourages the reader to expand their minds beyond what they think the book is trying to accomplish. For example, often when I read mysteries, I overanalyze the text, looking for clues to the culprit, that I gloss over other important elements, such as pacing and style, too busy trying to prove myself clever.

I believe that, in the end, it is the skill of the author which makes or breaks a multi-genre novel. Do they actually write well? Have they conducted the proper research so that assembled facts don't read as something cobbled from Wikipedia? Are their characters as engaging as the genres themselves? Strong and well-developed characters are what I look for when I read fiction, regardless of genre. If I can't identify at all with the protagonist or narrator, no matter how good the plot might be, I lay the book down.

One of my favorite multi-genre books, which I just recently reread, is Katherine Neville's "The Eight." It's categorized as a millennium thriller, which incorporates elements of history, mystery, suspense, etc. The amount of research done for the book is evident - which is not to say that it doesn't have problems, inconsistencies, and errors. Her prose, however, is so strong that I'm more than willing to overlook certain things.

Again, it all comes down to character. The heroine has gumption. She's not a helpless waif and doesn't chew her nails while waiting for a man to rescue her. She's intelligent but impulsive, clever but sometimes obtuse, courageous but sometimes too brash. In sum, she's flawed, and I LOVE that, because she's therefore relatable.

Basically, I most enjoy characters like Olivia Limoges, who are so well-drawn that you feel as though you're undertaking the journey with her, but you're enough removed from her that she can still surprise you.

I have no doubt "Pies and Prejudice" will be terrific.

Lori Cimino said...

I was very impressed with the first book in Heather's WISHCRAFT series and I am looking forward to reading your new book and the next one in Heathers series too

Nanc said...

Eleery,
I have over the years become more of a cross genre fan. It began with the excellent Outlander series, continuing with Sarah Addison Allen ( a writer with magical words...love her!) onto Lauren Willig and the Pink Carnation series, Tasha Alexander...
We have two kids seriously into Steampunk (they both cosplay Steam and anime)so that is another genre I am slightly familiar with. Heather Blake's witches are awesome as are Penelope and Jack from Cleo Coyle's haunted Bookstore series! Our daughter Emily likes Madelyn Alt, also...

If an author is able to engage the readers with a story that is compelling I believe the reader will happily step away from "reality".

Looking forward to reading Pies and Prejudice...our Jack Russell, Moo has agreed to critique it with me ;-)

Nanc

Mare said...

I agree with Chip on The Eight and Steampunk is delightful. YA is doing a wonderful job. I love Lea Wait's Shadows series, Laura Child's Tea Shop series, Shirley Damsgaard's Abby & Ophelia series, in fact with the exception of animal cruely, graphic seriel killers, and child hostage situations, I will read just about anything if you throw in a murder or two.

Anonymous said...

I love the magical cats series by Sofie Kelly. The two cats in the series have magical powers and use them to help the main character solve mysteries. I enjoy reading books with cross genres as long as they are a good read!