Can a novelist work in more than one genre?

pua1People have been asking me recently about the differences between my current book The Pick-Up Artist and my previous one Song of the Sea God. Specifically, they want to know if it is easy to switch between literary fiction which I did in Sea God, and a more light-hearted, more or less rom-com style which I adopt in Pick-Up Artist.


Song of the Sea GodWell, readers will be the judge of whether I managed to make that transition, though the early Amazon reviews have been positive thankfully, but I would say, I didn’t find switching styles, or genres, to be too much of a stretch.


The great Toni Morrison said:

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.“

Photo by: Angela Radulescu

And that’s where I come from I think, is there a book I would like to read? Could I write it? That’s the place my writing starts rather than thinking about genres, which I have always considered to be artificial constructs designed by the publishing industry rather than anything authors should bother themselves with.

And that explains why I shall probably never trouble the best seller charts. Because I suspect that wiser and more successful authors than me do think a lot about genre and fitting their writing into the appropriate boxes. That’s how they find agents and big publishers – by giving them what they want.

So I write my curious stories, and my misfit books, without giving any real thought to what they might be called or what shelf in the book shop they might sit on.

That’s not to say my style doesn’t change. There is a marked difference in style between Sea God and PUA I think. It will be interesting to see whether readers agree with me on this.

Put simply I would say that The Pick-Up Artist is more conversational, the language is simpler and more direct. There was plenty of colloquial language in Sea God of course, but there were linguistic flights of fancy too. In PUA I made an effort to pitch the tone of the writing at a particular level and keep it there. I was aided in this by the friends who read early drafts for me and would take out long words with a tut, telling me they weren’t the sort of language which had a natural home in a book of this sort. They felt out of place, not part of the world of the book

That was a huge help to me and helped crystallise the style I was aiming for. Because the key thing with style for me is that the whole book works as a unit. That the characters speak how they should, that the world feels right and that I have all the right notes in the right order.

puacoverWhy not take a look at my rom com The Pick-Up Artist on Amazon and read the early reviews? Who knows, you could become one of the very first people in the world to own a copy …

To give it a go click here in the UK and click here in the USA.

11 thoughts on “Can a novelist work in more than one genre?”

  1. I think you make a very good point about the more successful authors and how they home in on a genre. Having said that there are many who do write multi-genre, Helen Dunmore immediately springs to mind and, of course, a number of authors take on different pseudonyms so as not to confuse their readership.

    I think some authors find it easier than others. For me, I always wonder how an author can write twenty odd novels about the same character. I would find that immeasurably difficult! Not least because I get bored easily and like to do different things!

    1. Yes I find the idea of writing a ‘series’ alien too, unfortunately, since it’s another thing you are advised yo do if you want to be a commercial success as a writer.

  2. I agree, Chris, and it depends on why you write. I think I am quite like you in my motivation – I am always trying to do something different in genre and style, but it’s for myself really because I like the challenge of trying out something new. If people happen to like it, then that’s also good, but I’ll never be a formula or genre writer. And I cannot imagine you would be either.

    1. I, too, have had trouble with the genre thing. Years ago, when we tried the traditional publishing route, they all said the same thing, ‘You fall between two stools… we don’t know what to do with your work…’
      But you wouldn’t insist that an artist paint only one kind of picture, you have to do what your heart dictates, however odd or different…
      Vive la difference!

    2. I think it maybe comes down to the reason we write in the first place Val. I don’t know about you but I didn’t really approach it as a business, more as an art and something I feel compelled to do.

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and words about writing. It is reassuring and useful insight. I do agree, writing, like any art, is a creative process. Part of working creatively is also allowing things to grow and develop as they are drawn from the inner to the outer eye; an experiential process that adds to the synergy, where new, previously not conceived thoughts, characters, dynamics emerge from the scenery along the journey. I have yet to read your latest book, PUA. I decided to begin with your first book, Sea God, wanting to get a sense of your style, but, yes, I realise, you are right, each book is its own creation, in part something the author is getting out of their creative system, which once manifest does not need visiting again, clears the way for the next, and the next, inner mixture of imaginary and experiential expression, each a style, a personality unto itself. I also find, that as such, I also learn a lot about myself and my understanding of the world around me as I write, so I imagine this is the same for you too. I think you have highlighted as new style (well, not new, probably reiterating, reaffirming, permission to simply ‘be’ a writer) … organic writing? Keep painting your ‘pictures’……. your colours, your shades, appreciation is in the eye of the beholder anyway, even if publishing companies try to hijack this as predictable……

    1. Thanks Heather, I hope Sea God goes well for you. What you say here definitely chimes with my own experience – the idea that each book is a fresh project with its own demands and its own special feel. I’ve been lucky so far to find publishers who love and support the books I produce as they are rather than wanting the books, or their writer, to be something other than they are.

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