Guest Post from Kevin R Doyle: Writing in Different Genres


Welcome my buddy Kevin R Doyle to West of Mars! If you’ve been hanging at The Rock of Pages at all, you probably recognize his name. He wrote a fantastic Rock Fiction novella, and then brought us two guest posts last Rocktober. And now, he wants to share thoughts about writing in different genres, since his most comfortable place as a writer is within horror. Horror! From someone so brilliant at Rock Fiction?

Takes all kinds, I guess.

So here’s Kevin.

Most people read by genre, and that’s entirely understandable. When you find a type of material you like, you want to read more of it. When I was a kid, I was heavy into science fiction, with a decent helping of adventure in the Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doc Savage vein. As I grew older, I turned more towards horror and men’s adventure, and these days my casual reading is almost entirely in the mystery genre. (The procedural and private eye type, not the English cozy. Though around third and fourth grade, sandwiched in between Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, I went through a pretty decent Sherlock Holmes phase.)

By extension, most writers write by genre. Most, both known or unknown, are described or describe themselves as a “romance writer,” a “mystery writer” or a “fantasy writer.” It’s the flip side of the reading thing. When you find something you enjoy writing, you tend to keep doing it.

Not to say that authors don’t cross genres; obviously they do. But it’s fairly standard to think of someone as a certain “type” of writer.

For most of the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve been a “horror writer.” Almost all of my production has been in the short style field, and most of that was either horror or dark fantasy. (“Dark fantasy” being the term I started using when people gave me odd looks at the mention that I wrote horror.) Over the last three years or so, I’ve gone beyond the short story/ magazine market into, as of this February, three books on the market. (E-books only for the first two, e-book and print for the third.)

The odd thing, though, is that while I spent a couple of decades (my first story appeared in 1988) writing mainly horror, when I first broke into the book arena it was not in that genre.

One Helluva Gig, a general fiction piece about rock and roll music, tabloid journalism and the celebrity lifestyle, could in no way be connected to my earlier work. One friend told me that, while reading the book “I kept waiting for it to get creepy, but it never did.”

Gig, a piece of bittersweet nostalgia about dreams, hopes and aspirations that come up short and the way we cope when they do, was followed by The Group, a mystery novel about serial murder, wrongful accusations, and the way one lapse in judgement can ruin several lives. A story of straight up mystery and suspense, Group doesn’t come anywhere near Gig, which causes a problem. How do you build some kind of comprehensive marketing strategy, getting readers in the habit of buying your work, if the disparate pieces of that work are polar opposites?

My brilliant (?) solution was to produce my next book in an entirely different genre than either of the first two. The Litter (due out Feb. 13 from Night to Dawn Magazine and Books) does have its mysterious elements, primarily who are these cannibalistic kids who behave like wild animals and where did they come from, but it falls full square within the horror field. Including one particular little incident, about two thirds of the way through, that gave the editor a sleepless night when she came upon it. (No joke. I have the e-mail from her the next day to prove it.)

And now I’ve just added to the conundrum. How do I possibly build up a following among potential readers when my work is going in so many different directions? It’s not as if I wrote my first several books in one genre, developed a following, then decided to branch out. From the get go I’ve been shooting off in all sorts of directions.

And as I puzzled my way through this it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I’m not giving readers today enough credit. Is it possible that the contemporary reader would be interested not so much in good writing in one particular arena, but good writing in general? (I know, there’s an inherent egotism there, but just roll with me for a minute.) And could the contemporary reader, who themself has to make an effort to seek out and read good material, with so many other distractions of modern life, be drawn not to good romance fiction, mystery fiction or science fiction, but to good fiction? Is the quality of escapism what’s important, not the particular path itself?

To date, I’m not sure of the answer, even with allowances made for the egotistic premise that I could provide such material. As in so much in life, it’s going to be a matter of wait and see. No doubt, I’ll know the answer soon enough.

But just to hedge my bets, and to show that I haven’t completely run away with the image of myself as an artiste, my next project (already three thousand words in) is going to be a sequel to one of the first three.

Which one?

Aww, for that you’ll have to wait and see.

I just hope that it’s not good mainstream material, mystery material, or horror material, but good reading material.

See, it’s not egotism, just hope.


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