Last night, I picked up a copy of The Writer magazine and read an article advocating that authors dip their toes into different genres. Write a mystery, it said. Write a thriller, a memoir, a science fiction tale. Try some short stories. Feed your muse.
"Yikes," I thought. "My muse hasn't even mastered the genre I've chosen to BE my genre yet."
"Yikes," I thought a few seconds later. "Who the heck has TIME to write in different genres if you're really trying to make this craft your career?"
Usually, when I think of authors dipping into different genres, I think of someone like Steffie Hall, who wrote category romances for Loveswept for years, but got tired of writing love scenes. She wanted to write more action, more humor. She took 18 months off, thought about what she wanted to do with her writing career, and began writing humorous suspense stories with a dash of romance and a heroine named Stephanie Plum. Oh yeah, and went back to her name: Janet Evanovich. We all know that turned out okay for her.
Or take Jessica Bird, who wrote nice little Silhouette romances for a few years until her career kind of stalled out. She had an idea for a dark story about the last purebred vampire on earth--a far cry from her novels like The Billioinaire Next Door or A Man in a Million. She wrote the first in her proposed series on this vampire, called it Dark Lover, named her band of vampire warriors the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and published them under the name J.R. Ward. She did okay with that, too.
They stayed in romance, but took a wildly different turn. Both of these authors had hit walls in their writing careers, though, and were looking for different genres both for fulfillmenet and, in JR Ward's case, to revive a career.
That seems to me a different issue than genre hopping as an experiment in writing--or it would have a couple of months ago. My first two books were urban fantasy "with romantic elements" and the one I'm revising is paranormal romance "with urban fantasy elements." I hardly considered these separate genres until I starting the PNR and realized just how very different they are. The base story stays the same, but the focus shifts big-time.
I think the genre hopping I see most is between high fantasy and urban fantasy. Jim Butcher hit the big time with his (oh-so-fabulous) Harry Dresden series, but he writes the Codex Alexa series in high fantasy. Patricia Briggs, who writes both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega urban fantasy series (set in the same world), also writes high fantasy Sianim series. There's Nora Roberts/JD Robb in the romance/suspense hop. Daniel Abraham/M.L.N. Hanover in the high fantasy/urban fantasy hop. Who else?
Then there's the whole Young Adult genre, which is smokin' hot these days. Popular adult urban fantasy authors such as Rachel Caine who completed her popular Weather Warden series for adults earlier this year (a new series starts soon), and just released her ninth in her arguably even more popular YA series, The Morganville Vampires.
Me? If I were to dip a toe outside my urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre, it would be to try my hand at a dystopian sci-fi.
What do you think? Is genre hopping best for when you've established yourself in one genre and have the time and the name recognitioin to hop? Should you use separate names for your separate genres? Or is genre hopping best saved for reviving a stalled-out writing career? Any of you writing in multiple genres?