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Guest Blogger: Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson, et al
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Writing in Many Genres, or the Delights of Diversity

LACEYI stand in awe of those who can write book after book in a single genre. How can they bear to do one story, then another, then another, then another ad infinitum that each follow the same structure? That is not an “all genre writers are formulaic” slam; however, the fact that each genre has certain expectations of structure/tone/ending is what makes it a genre.

That said, I still don’t see how a writer can keep writing the same set of expectations – however different each individual book might be. A cozy mystery is a cozy mystery. A romance is a romance. A horror is a horror. Etc. I love them all, but cannot even read just one genre. Or write.

I write romance and horror (as Janis Susan May), cozy mysteries (as Janis Patterson), children’s (as Janis Susan Patterson), and non-fiction and scholarly (as J.S.M. Patterson.)  Usually all at the same time.

Yes, I bore easily. It’s a character flaw. During my time in the 8-5 workforce I did everything from acting/singing to being a multi-magazine publishing group Editor in Chief (two groups, actually!) to being Supervisor of Accessioning in a bio-genetic DNA testing lab to checking documents in a travel agency. I’ve been a talent agent and a jewelry designer and more, but I won’t bore you with a complete list. Our home libraries (yes, plural – two currently extant and another in the works) bulge with research books on WWI/WWII and Egyptology and travel and photography and cooking and history. How this pertains to writing is that not only does this diverse knowledge pool give me a wealth of personal experience  to draw upon, it is a constant reminder of my need for variety.

People have asked me how I can switch from one genre to another and my only answer is how do you switch from any one thing to another in your life? From a manual shift car (my personal fave!) to an automatic? From cooking in a plain old skillet to using a microwave? From a simple desk-top single line telephone to a Smart Phone? We very seldom do the same thing all the time, from cars to cooking; why should writing in different genres be regarded as such an impossible task?

I’m not going into the branding thing here, but will suggest that readers are a lot more forgiving of genre-jumpers than some publishers – and some writers. I know I would read anything some of my favorite authors might care to do, including a re-write of the telephone book!

Beaded to Death coverIn my personal experience genre-jumping keeps my writing fresh, as does having several projects going on at once. When one goes stale, I switch to another which, even though it might have gone stale in the past, now appears a different book with a fresh look. This is not always easy when I am juggling two deadlines, but it has never failed to work, and I have never missed a deadline yet. Currently I have on my computer – in various stages of completion – a romance, a time-travel romance, two cozy mysteries, two romantic adventures and a section of a scholarly tome destined to be a college text. Needless to say, the two that are under contract are getting the most attention at the moment, but I know the others are there, patiently waiting to help me over any rough spots that might manifest or to stimulate my flagging imagination.

Did I mention that I bore easily? I would never restrict myself to reading and/or writing just one genre any more than I would consider having just one job for my entire working life. I cannot help but think of my patron saint Auntie Mame’s unforgettable words, “Life is a banquet and most poor fools are starving to death!”

Enjoy and explore what you can when you can.

8 comments to “Guest Blogger: Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson, et al”

  1. ronnie cornett
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      · June 5th, 2013 at 11:20 am · Link

    Well said!



  2. Teresa Hughes
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      · June 5th, 2013 at 11:35 am · Link

    Loved your post! I read anywhere from Inspirationals to Erotica. In fact, often I will read an Inspirational and switch right to an Erotica because I need something hot after something lukewarm. I think it takes talent to be able to write books from so many genres. If the author is a good writer I will follow them from genre to genre with no problem.

    Thanks for sharing! Have a great day!



  3. Amber H
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      · June 5th, 2013 at 4:20 pm · Link

    I’ve always thought more of the authors who could write in more than one genre. To me the ones who stay in the same over and over just feels like they start writing the same story with new characters.



  4. Janis Susan May Patterson
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      · June 5th, 2013 at 4:42 pm · Link

    Ronnie, Theresa, Amber – thanks for coming by and commenting! I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my quest for variety!



  5. Angela Hicks
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      · June 5th, 2013 at 10:26 pm · Link

    I also write in different genres. It all depends on the current mood. I get tired of one genre if I’m reading or writing it and have to try something else.

    Great post!



  6. Jacqueline Seewald
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      · June 6th, 2013 at 5:00 am · Link

    Hi, Janis,

    I also write in many different genres: mystery, romance, horror, YA and children’s books as well as short stories, plays, poetry and nonfiction. I love being published in many genres. I don’t think we need to be “branded” or typecast. We’re creative artists.



  7. Paris Brandon
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      · June 6th, 2013 at 10:37 am · Link

    I write in different genres, also and have always suspected that “branding” benefits the publisher much more than the author. I’ve read romance for more years than I care to brag about, lol and I’ve never refused to read a book by a favorite author just because it was a different genre than she/he usually wrote.



  8. Sarah C.
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      · June 7th, 2013 at 9:07 am · Link

    I like having a variety of genres to read. It is nice to take a break from reading a series by reading a book from a different genre.