Let’s Talk with Terry Odell

Blending Genres

by Terry Odell

As readers, most of us have favorite genres. Some like romance, some like mysteries, some like science fiction or fantasy. Of course, some like more than one. But within each genre are many sub-genres. Romances can be sweet, hot, suspenseful. Mysteries can be cozies, police procedurals, suspense. And so on. Some authors write series in several genres. But what happens when a single series moves across genres?

I never paid much attention to genres when I started writing. I thought I was writing a mystery, but my daughters told me it was a romance. My romances still dip their toes into the mystery genre. And my first “real” mystery, Deadly Secrets—at least according to the editors I sent it to—was part police procedural, part cozy. As I continued the series, things moved more into the police procedural genre.

When I wrote the novella, Deadly Places, I kept the police procedural genre but had Ed Solomon, Gordon’s second in command take center stage while Gordon was away.

Now, I’m undertaking a second Mapleton novella, filling in the blanks as to what Gordon and Angie were doing while Deadly Places was unfolding in Mapleton. I thought it would be interesting to tell the story through Angie’s eyes. She’s been in all the books, but never had her turn to shine.

What does this mean? Angie is a cook, not a cop. Instead of a police procedural, I find I’m writing a cozy. What will it mean for readers? Have they accepted that all of my Mapleton books also include what’s going on in Mapleton with glimpses of its people? Does that make them all straddle the line between police procedural and cozy?

I’ve already taken several steps into new waters with Identity Crisis. Although it’s a Blackthorne, Inc. book, it’s branching out and introducing new characters. My original thought was to bill the book as the start of a spinoff series, “New Blood at Blackthorne” but I decided to fold it into the existing series even though this book has less covert ops and more security detail.

What do you think? Would you follow a series that sidesteps into a slightly different sub-genre? Do you have examples to share? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Deadly Secrets.

While you’re here, check out our monthly Booklover’s Bench giveaway, from Sept. 1-18, of a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Click to enter the contest.

Comments

  1. Of course! Variety is the spice of life, right?
    I switch up the genres every time I start a new book. Just finished a historical romance set in 1800s, now I’m reading a nonfiction about Saudi Arabia.

  2. I expect books within a series to hold to the genre of the first book. That’s where the expectation is set. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve learned to forget about the words “never” and “always” because that’s the diversity we live in. Bottom line – I enjoy well-written books! And I reserve the right to blend all genres in my own work, LOL!

    • And it’s those exceptions that can make or break a series. I think it’s important to make any changes gradually, not just spring an entirely new genre in the middle of an established series.

  3. I don’t mind when subgenres blur the boundaries. In a series, though, I prefer consistency in characters and place. I get hooked on certain people and want to continue along with them for the ride. For the most part, this involves the same hero/heroine from book to book and their recurrent characters. This is more common in the mystery genre, whereas romance often does spinoffs with different main characters linked together through theme, setting or family ties.

  4. I have no problem with blended genres/sub-genres in a standalone. In a series, I do expect reasonable consistency, which doesn’t mean it can’t emphasize a bit more of this or a bit less of that as time goes on. However, if I’ve read three or four of an historical series with no paranormal elements and in the next book paranormal elements appear (other than through an historical context — for example including the spiritualist church or a con artist who purports to be a medium), then I will be taken aback.

    If the story and writing were great, I’d keep reading — the author has a capital account with me — but if I thought it was a crutch, I’d be on to the next book in my TBR pile.

    ~ Jim

  5. I’d have no problem with a book using multiple genres. Isn’t that basically what paranormal romance is? (Thought of that before I read your reply to Karla.) Urban fantasy always has a suspense or mystery aspect to it. Many cozy mysteries are starting to add a supernatural element, usually in the form of a ghost such as Tonya Kappes’ Kenni Lowry mysteries and a series by Rose Pressey (but there are many others I’ve read).

    (Don’t put my name in the giveaway, I already have Deadly Secrets.)

  6. My go-to genres are historical and contemporary, but I have a wide range of tastes. I’m a fan of Dan Brown and John Grisham, as well as Stephen King, who is the king of horror. I’m not generally a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, although I’ve read some of those genres that I’ve enjoyed as well. At the end of the day, I enjoy a well-written book, regardless of genre.