Do You Cross The Line? By Alex Beecroft
Here’s a topic that’s on my mind at the moment – crossovers and crossing genres. As an author I hold my hands up and confess to being a serial monogamistas far as inspiration goes. That means, if I’m fired by enthusiasm for the 18th Century, I’ll spend five or more years writing stories set in the 18th Century. And that’s great, isn’t it, because people will get used to the idea that if you pick up an Alex Beecroft book, it’ll be set somewhere around the 1750s and will probably involve sailing ships. I’ve got this branding thing sorted.
The trouble is that eventually my happy little butterfly of a writer’s mind decides its got all the juice out of the celandine of historical fiction, and flits off to the bluebell of fantasy instead, where it hopes to suck up enough sugar to last another half decade. But butterflies are flighty things, and who knows how long that will last before it’s off to the daisy of contemporaries or the purple flowering loosestrife of gothic murder mystery? And as if that wasn’t bad enough, who knows when it will cycle round to historical again and set in for a five book series set in the stone age?
From my point of view as an author, I love the fact that I can write about what takes my fancy at any time, and I’m rather pleased to know that if one obsession peters out, I can find another one. It’s much preferable, from my POV, for me to be writing from love and enthusiasm than it would be if I felt compelled to write more of the same over and over because that was what was expected of me. I think that writing something simply because I felt I ought to would make my life not worth living, and it would also lead to the slow but inevitable descent of my stories into lifeless rubbish.
At the risk of being a little controversial, I can’t help feeling sometimes that that’s what happened to the later volumes of Harry Potter, or the Anita Blake novels – the authors got fed up of churning the same thing out and lost interest, and it showed.
But I can’t help wondering what readers think of that. I, for example, know that I will read anything at all written by Ursula LeGuin, no matter what the genre, but I will only read CJ Cherryh’s Science Fiction and not her fantasy. What about you? Will you follow an author whose work you enjoy across genres? Or do you think “oh, I wish she would stop messing about with werewolf cop romps in Barbados, and get back to her 12th Century gardening detective novels.” Does the butterfly author risk losing everything every time they try something new?
And since I’m talking about crossing lines, lets talk about crossovers too. Here I’m on even more personal territory. I’ve realised that while I love historical romance and I love fantasy and mystery, what I’d like most would be to write historical fantasy romance. Maybe even historical fantasy mystery romance. The book I had most of a blast writing was The Wages of Sin – a historical ghost story murder mystery m/m romance.
Even my new Fantasy novels, Under the Hill: Bomber’s Moon and Under the Hill: Dogfighters have a strong streak of World War II in amongst the elves and the contemporary romance. I’m trying to have my cake and eat it – trying to amalgamate all the genres I like into every story.
But again – lots of doubts. Does, say, a historical fantasy appeal to both historical and fantasy fans, or does the presence of fantasy put off the historical fans, and the presence of history put off the fantasy ones, so it ends up appealing to neither?
These are the questions that are keeping me up recently, and I don’t have any answers. What do you think? Is it a good thing if authors jump genres? Should they change pseudonym if they do to avoid confusion? Is it a good thing to amalgamate genres, or should the genres be like noble gasses and resolutely refuse to be made into compounds? And if you like the idea of crossovers, what would you like to see crossed over with what, and why?
Alex Beecroft was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She studied English and Philosophy before accepting employment with the Crown Court where she worked for a number of years. Now a stay-at-home mum and full time author, Alex lives with her husband and two daughters in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.
Alex is only intermittently present in the real world.She has lead a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800 year old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.