Some authors just know what they want to write and their work falls neatly into a predefined category. When I started writing, my work (awful as it was) splattered across several categories. I flirted with science fiction. I wallowed in fantasy. I careened into romance. In short, I often wrote the kind of stuff I liked to read—or wished I could find to read.
I basically still do the same.
Genres have expanded greatly since the digital revolution in book publishing, especially with self-publishing. Where once librarians catalogued books as either historical, romance, or fantasy, many search engines find books that span all three genres. Or, rather, the genres now have sub-genres to accommodate authors whose work doesn’t fit neatly into the overarching genre or category.
That said, I’m exploring other genres or, rather, sub-genres than what I’ve written and published earlier. In February, I finished a collaborative project with bestselling author Russ Towne who writes in two different genres: children’s literature and westerns. He manages to keep them quite separate; a feat I can’t seem to accomplish.
We released a compilation of 12 short stories (a couple edging into novella territory) taking place in the “old west,” the era between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century when men were men, women were women, and the sheep were scared. Since I make my living as an editor and ghostwriter, we decided that I had the most flexibility. Therefore, I jumped over into his genre. Because I also have just enough graphic design training to be dangerous, we also agreed that I’d design the cover—with his input. We ended up with Six Shots Each Gun.
I had a lot of fun. If Russ ever asks me to collaborate again, I’ll jump at the chance. But I’m not sure that westerns are my preferred genre.
So, in my (voracious) reading, I came across yet one more alien abduction romance. Once again, the alien hero is a kinky alpha type who gets his jollies from controlling, dominating, and spanking his submissive heroine. (Why, for heaven’s sake, is the heroine always submissive?) Once again, the story followed the typical trajectory: the heroine gives up her entire life for eternal bliss as a doormat.
There followed the all too familiar spark of “I can do better than that.” (That spark is responsible for some of my other books, too.) Despite the improbability of science which states that humans are more biologically compatible with cabbages than with any alien life form, I hopped into the sub-genre of alien romance. I have to admit, it was slow going. However, in the last few of weeks of drafting the story, it caught fire. Finally.
I knew that book wasn’t going to be terribly long—and it’s not. At just a smidgen over 55,000 words, it barely edges in to novel length fiction. Because it’s supposed to sell, I stuck to some of the tropes of the sub-genre before going off the rails. If one hero’s good, then three must be better. So, we’ve got a reverse harem romance now. The heroes don’t abduct our heroine, her own government does. The heroes are, of course, tall, strong, alpha types: who wants wimpy heroes? But our heroine is no doormat, either, even when she has neither bargaining power nor authority.
The key twist in the trope hinges upon compromise. Everyone’s got to give up something for a relationship to work. Granted, the heroine gives up the most, but heroes who want to make their heroine happy must also do more than simply give her multiple orgasms.
The experiment in jumping into the alien romance sub-genre has been interesting, if only because I’ve got my SEO keywords ready: alien abduction reverse harem romance. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Because my stories dwell on the conflict between characters rather than outside events affecting the characters, the jump perhaps didn’t seem so jarring. After all, people are people, regardless of historical period or planet. See how well (or not) I managed that hop with Triple Burn, due for release in mid-April.
Will I return to alien romances? I doubt it. Strangely enough, my bestselling books are mafia romances that cross over into “New Adult” romance. I left the series open for a spin-off, but probably won’t return to that either. The exercise of writing in other genres (or sub-genres) stretches my mind and writing. I discover things about myself by pushing ever so slightly beyond my comfort zone. I fancy those discoveries hone what I already do well and improve what needs to be improved.
In exploring different genres and sub-genres, I have found my home in paranormal and fantasy romances. That’s where my imagination takes me and where my heart takes flight. That’s my niche, improved through exploration within other genres.
About Holly Bargo
Holly Bargo is a pseudonym, but really did exist as a temperamental Appaloosa mare fondly remembered for her outsized personality. Holly’s life still involves horses. She and her husband live on a hobby farm in southwest Ohio with the aforementioned horses, a clowder of cats, and one yellow-bellied coward of a Great Dane. And an elderly llama. We mustn’t forget the llama. Holly and her husband have two adult children, one graduating from university in May 2019, and the other enlisted in the military.
Her latest book is Six Shots Each Gun, co-authored with bestselling author Russ Towne. Click on the links for the e-book and paperback versions.
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