My brain makes a mosquito look like a zen master of focus. Ideas bounce around inside, most destined to blink out of existence, but occasionally one manages to grab hold and survive the tide. These are the ones that make it onto paper, mostly in the form of flash fiction and short stories. Only the really stubborn ideas get to fully develop into something longer. These are the special ones.
This is a bit of a problem for me. I am the exact opposite of a ‘genre’ writer, I write whatever stories pop into my head. Any attempts to steer the ship in a particular direction have been promptly ignored. Even trying to coax my brain into writing a sequel is a herculean effort and only achieved because I am a naturally curious person who can’t help but wonder what might happen next.
Initially I considered this to be a problem that needed to be solved before I could publish books. A lot of my favorite authors stayed within a single genre and wrote very similar stories, which meant I knew exactly what I would be getting when I bought their latest book. Somehow I got it into my head that this was how it was done by serious authors.
I tried, boy how I tried, to limit my ideas to a single genre. The first challenge was choosing which genre to write in. Humour was the obvious choice, my favourite authors are Terry Pratchett and Grant Naylor, so I naturally found myself drawn to this genre. The annoying part was that I had lots of ideas that didn’t fit into the humour category. I had concepts for sci-fi, thrillers, urban fantasy and everything in between. Some were light-hearted, others were dark and gritty. How was I going to find a genre that could accommodate all my random ideas?
The truth was, I couldn’t. I tried scrapping my other ideas, or reworking them to make them funny, but that just didn’t work. It wasn’t true to the stories I was trying to tell and the results were like bad mashups. Eventually it occurred to me that perhaps I was approaching this whole thing wrong. What if my initial assumption was invalid? What if readers were happy to pick up a satirical urban fantasy and a sci-fi thriller from the same author? I took a gamble that this would be the case when I released my sci-fi story The Colony. Some of my humour readers weren’t interested in reading a dystopian sci-fi, which is to be expected, but plenty of other people took a chance and read it anyway, and the feedback was pretty positive. It also worked in reverse, some sci-fi readers picked up The Colony and as a result checked out Getting Lucky. Win, win! If you’re a writer facing a similar dilemma I heartily encourage you to take the plunge and write whatever it is you feel passionate about, now matter how different it is from your other works.
Which is all really just an overly long explanation as to why my next book is a techno-thriller. TROJAN has been bouncing around in my idea pile for a couple of years and after trying my hand at something a little darker like The Colony I finally felt ready to do it justice. You see, I’m a huge geek and I love reading about new technology and the ways in which it’s going to change our world. I’ve always been fascinated by the cat and mouse dynamic between corporations and hackers, the former creating ever more complex puzzles to try to protect themselves and the latter finding increasingly elaborate ways to solve them. I started fleshing out ideas as to how I could incorporate this back and forth interplay into a more traditional thriller structure. My goal was to write something that techies and non-techies could equally enjoy.
TROJAN is a story that has changed a lot since that initial concept. Characters have come and gone, transformed and gone back to the drawing board. I just finished the first draft and it’s over 50k words, which is a lot! I’m genuinely excited with how the first draft has turned out. There’s still a lot of polishing to do before it’s ready to see the world, but now that I know how it ends I can’t wait to share it with a wider audience. Expect a call out for Beta readers sometime in the next month. There will be lots more blog posts about TROJAN, but for now I would love to hear from any other authors that have dabbled in multiple genres. Has it worked out as well as you’d hoped?