The Challenge of Changing Genre: Two Authors' Experiences - Robert Stone and Suzy Turner

Writers do change genres, say going from romance to thrillers, and when they do, they risk losing their fans. That's why publishers generally insist on writers taking on a new pen name. 

But some don't. 

Notably, Robert Stone, dubbed a "literary giant" by the Wall Street Journal (see article below), hasn't bothered. He has just come out with a short thriller, "Death of the Black-Haired Girl" in contrast to everything he's written before (complex dramas with multiple narrative threads coming together). 

Moreover, he's stacked the chances against himself: he hasn't published a best-selling novel in 15 years and his previous novel came out in 2003. He admits he's slow and procrastinating... Yet on Amazon, his new book is steadily gathering reviews (23 at the time of writing this post) and is ranked #19 in literary psychological fiction and #31 in literary thrillers. Doing pretty well. I would say he hasn't lost his readership, even though, the reviews are mixed, his overall rating is 3 stars out of 5 (see here; many thought the book too short and the characters not likeable.)

So there is some danger in changing genre but also hope for a writer to stick to his name and still succeed. 

It's a toss-up. 

Personally, I think it can be done (and I've done so, moving from Young Adult paranormal romance to literary contemporary fiction and now science-fiction). But I thought I'd ask fellow writer Suzy Turner her opinion as she has just changed genre. When I first met her, she was writing YA paranormal and had a successful series going, called "The Raven Saga". Now, with her latest book, "Forever Fredless", a light romantic comedy, she's into women's fiction.

Claude: Suzy, can you tell us briefly why you decided to write in a new genre?
Suzy Turner

Suzy:
Of course. In my early twenties I began to write what I loved and at that time it was chick lit. I'd grown up reading it and it just seemed the natural genre for me to write in. However, some years later I was introduced to another genre that also piqued my interest. That was the YA urban fantasy genre. I just knew that I wanted to write for that audience too, so I changed what I wrote for a while until I eventually decided it was time to go back to my former passion, hence my releasing my latest novel, "Forever Fredless".


Claude: Can I be a little provocative? To tell you the truth I never really liked the term "chick lit", there is a connotation about it that comes out fully into its own when you compare it to its "older" pendant called "hen lit" (honestly!) and I've never felt comfortable with such terminology referring to chicken and hen... I much prefer "women's fiction". How do you feel about this controversy?

Suzy: I'm really okay with it, to be honest, because that's what we've always called it. To me, chick lit just refers to women's fiction - it's literature for chicks! It's just a fun name... I don't take these things too seriously!


Claude: Cool! In fact you're right, these are just quibbles. Let me get to a crucial point: in spite of the genre change, and contrary to much of the standard advice in the industry, you haven't changed your name. What would be your advice to anyone contemplating a genre change?


Suzy: One of the reasons I didn't change my name is because I write books that can be read by the same audience - both young adults and women therefore I'm probably not best placed to give such advice! If you're planning a complete genre change, for example from YA to erotica then I would strongly advise you to take on a pen name for obvious reasons. The only other advice I can give is to write what you love, which is exactly what I do.


Claude: I noticed your book cover is noticeably changed from the style of all your other book covers. And rightly so, it fits your new genre. Do you believe that change is enough to signal to your readers the new genre and is there anything else you've done to draw your readers' attention to the change?


Suzy: I just wanted the new cover to appeal to women who love chick lit and I believe my designer achieved that, especially with the lovely, girly colors! The only other thing I've done is to create a completely new blog dedicated to all things chick lit - www.fictiondreams.com which has allowed me to reach a wider audience. But I still blog on my YA blog too at www.suzyturner.blogspot.com


Claude: Wow! How do you find the time to run two blogs and also write your books? You must have a magic trick! Please tell us how you do it, what does your normal workday looks like?


Suzy: To be honest I don't write every day. I only write when I've given myself a deadline to produce a book. Plus, I don't have any other day jobs so I have plenty of time to work on two blogs. When I do have a deadline though, I usually work from 10am to 1pm and then sometimes for another hour or two in the afternoon but the rest of the time is dedicated to social networking, blogging, promotion, etc.


Claude: You may not have a day job but it sounds like you are working twice as hard! Plus, you told me you've just spent two weeks working on film making, what is that all about?


Suzy: I actually worked on a movie a couple of years ago, as Script Coordinator but whilst there I met and became friends with a few people. One (Pedro) is a musician/music producer and amateur film maker and the other is a makeup artist. We talked back then about making a proper trailer for my books but over the year or so, that seemed to develop into actually making a short movie, so I wrote the script and we've been shooting it over the past few weeks!


Claude: Congrats, I can't wait to see it! But to go back to your book, "Forever Fredless". How have your readers accepted the change? I noticed you already have 7 reviews in just 8 weeks since it came out, that's pretty good!


Suzy: Thank you. Yes, they have accepted my new book with open arms. So far, I've had only positive reviews. Let's hope it stays that way!


Claude: I'm sure it will and I'm looking forward to seeing your movie and reading your next book! Thanks again for taking to the time to answer my questions.


The moral of the story? 
1. Changing genres does not require changing pen name, unless your new genre is one that will definitely not appeal to your "normal" audience (erotica is a case in point!)
2. You can't sit back and expect the change in cover style to do the work for you; an extra marketing push is needed, and Suzy Turner shows one way to do it. There may be many others, for example, joining fora where the genre is discussed, attending writers'conferences focused on that genre.

Please share your experience and advice in the comments, we're looking forward to your views!



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