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Genre Blending
By Faith Van Horn
© 2011
Over the past several years, more bookstore shelf space, both physical and virtual, has been taken over by novels that cross traditional genre lines. Whether it's paranormal mystery, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, time travel romance (okay, a lot of them involve romance), publishers are increasingly reaching out to readers with a variety of mixed genre offerings.
Readers are responding. Jim Butcher's latest Dresden Files novel, Ghost Story, topped the New York Times bestseller list. Charlaine Harris' vampire mysteries regularly hover near the top the of the list as well; at this writing, the Sookie Stackhouse Companion is at #2 in hardcover fiction. When you scan the covers in the sci-fi/fantasy section, you're probably more likely to see conflicted vampires and werewolves than castles and space ships.
Some bookstores are responding to these changes as well. Last time I visited my favorite used bookstore, they had a new section, “paranormal romance”, next to the sci fi/fantasy section. This blend has become so popular, the store felt the need to give these titles their own shelf space.
So what makes this trend so popular for publishers, writers, and readers?
First off, it makes good marketing sense. While romance already boasts the largest market share of fiction according to the RWA, romance publishers have been keen on drawing in a more diverse readership. Namely, those who would never touch a novel with a bodiced bosom or hairless male chest on the cover. But a kick-ass lady in leathers off on a magical quest while dealing with her werewolf boyfriend...there's your fantasy/adventure audience.
And the reverse is true. Harlequin fans might be more willing to read about a conflicted urban werewolf if he's also struggling with his relationship. It's an  effective way for writers to stretch their muscles and reach new readers as well. When Charlaine Harris moved from traditional mysteries (the Aurora Teagarden series) to vampire mysteries, she gained a whole world of new fans.
Of course, not all cross genre books are about getting romance readers. The Dresden Files, a supernatural P.I. series, is not heavily focused on romance. The urban fantasy genre itself varies on the degree of romance involved in the plot.
From a writer's perspective, working across genres was a lot of fun for me. My latest work, All Hope Lost, is a supernatural horror/P.I. story. I've dabbled with light horror before, but this was my first attempt at writing a hard-bitten P.I. tale. I loved combining the specter of madness-inducing terror with the struggles of Dana Cay, conflicted Private Investigator who may have lost her brother to a bloodthirsty cult. If the cult is not, in fact, the product of her own fevered imagination.
Jim Butcher's stories inspired me to reach beyond my speculative fiction roots and explore a new genre.  All Hope Lost gave me the chance to try something new, write in ways I've never explored before. And I think the story's stronger for it.

Do you have a favorite genre blend? Or are you more of a purist?
Along with writing speculative fiction, Faith Van Horne works as a librarian in the U.S. Midwest. All Hope Lost, her first novelette, is available from Escape Collective Publishing on October 10th, 2011. You can find her online at faithvanhorne.blogspot.com.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks for having me today!
Oct. 7th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Do you have a favorite genre blend? Or are you more of a purist?

I like fantasy/mystery. It's fun to see the rules of a mystery novel applied to an otherworldly setting, which in turn helps flesh out the fantasy world described.

Interesting article. It made me think. I look forward to reading your novel.
Oct. 7th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
What's your favorite fantasy/mystery? I read one of Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy books, which I thought was an interesting take.

The book comes out Monday. I will be letting people know as soon as it's available for sale. :)
Oct. 7th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
An article on genre-blending in fiction
Oct. 11th, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC)
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This was precisely the answers I’d been searching for. Amazing blog. Incredibly inspirational! Your posts are so helpful and detailed. The links you feature are also very useful too. Thanks a lot :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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