Friday, 3 May 2013

Genre Juggling

Edge author Katie Dale asks 

"Can you and should you juggle genres?"

I was extremely lucky to get a two-book publishing deal for my first YA novels, but now I’ve fulfilled that contract I felt unsure what to start next. With no set deadline before me, I felt in a sense free to write whatever I liked, a prospect which was at once delicious, yet a little daunting. What should the next project be? Should I knuckle down straight away on another YA novel to try to keep up the momentum of a YA book a year? Or should I use this opportunity to stretch my writing muscles in another genre – Middle grade? Picture books, even?

Of course, I don’t want to alienate my YA readers, some of whom have already contacted me, impatient for the next book, which is incredibly lovely, and part of me feels it would be silly to start writing in another genre when I’ve been lucky enough to have two YA books published. Most authors stick mainly to one genre, right? That way you build your author “brand”, try to develop a following of readers who expect a certain kind of book when they see your name on the cover. It makes sense.

But…while I absolutely adore writing contemporary YA fiction, I find there are other stories and styles that sometimes I’m just itching to write! In the same way that I like to read a variety of genres, I also like to write in different genres too, to express different elements of my personality. My first publication deal was not for YA after all, but a series of rhyming books for 5-8 year-olds. While I was preparing and editing my first novel for submissions, I was also intermittently looking up rhymes for “Witch” (LOADS!) or “Wolf” (there are absolutely none!) and I found it incredibly refreshing to switch from one to the other – they were so completely different, it was like taking a break.
Likewise, I was approached to submit a short story for an anthology entitled How To Be A Boy – “How could I write a story about how to be a boy when I’m a girl?,” I thought. “I have no experience of being a boy!” But by giving it a go, by branching out, experimenting and leaving my comfort zone I found a whole new “voice” and actually really enjoyed it. It exercised my creativity, and I found it refreshed my writing.

There are authors, of course, who manage to juggle genres  beautifully. Sara Grant recently simultaneously launched her next YA novel “Half Lives” and her “Magic Trix” series for 7-9 year-olds; Eoin Colfer writes for 5 year-olds up to 16 year-olds; JK Rowling decided to switch to writing adult books after Harry Potter, whilst John Grisham conversely started writing teen, and Ian Fleming wrote both James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Likewise, I'd like to continue writing YA, but I'd like to branch out a bit as well - but is this like wanting to have my cake and eat it too?

What do you think? Are authors better off sticking to one genre? 
Would you find it confusing or alienating as a reader if your favourite author suddenly started writing in a different genre or for a different age group? 
Or do you think it’s good for authors to diversify?
If so, do you think they should use different names for different genres? 

Katie Dale is the author of YA novels SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE and LITTLE WHITE LIES (Simon & Schuster) and the FAIRY TALE TWISTS series (Orchard Books)


  1. I wish I'd stuck to one - trouble is, I don't know which, which is why I didn't! Also, it's not just age-ranges (which is what you're mostly talking about) but genuine genre. My YA novels include historical, future, present, thriller, psychological, magical realism.... Readers never know what to expect, and I find that a difficult thing to deal with.

  2. I've stuck to one in the past few years, but I've dabbled with other genres, epic fantasy mainly but also writing for 8-12 year olds. It is incredibly liberating to be able to write whatever you feel like, but, as Nicola says, you should bear your readership in mind. I guess the more establshed you become as a writer the easier it becomes switching genres and age-ranges - for you and the reader.

  3. I have written across the age range of 5-12, and am presently discussing a picture book text AND some 16+ romance. It's a heck of a span! I think there is too much logic in building your brand name not to take that issue quite seriously; but I think it's fun lurking behind made-up names too. Julia Golding and her Eve Edwards pseudonym is a good example of where it can work in an author's favour. The author is happy to be in a different realm of writing; the reader feels secure because they know what they are getting. Result?