The series of books I’m working on are solidly in cross-genre territory, which (I hear) is a wild and forbidding place in terms of attracting readers, and in terms of marketing. On the one hand, the books are action/adventure: guns, fights, yachts, and international travel. I do a lot of research to make this stuff as accurate and believable as possible. On the other hand, most of my characters are not human, and the plot is driven by extra-terrestrial concerns. There is magic. In the later part of the series, I plan to have much or even all of the action taking place on non-Earth worlds.
Now, I’m writing these books because this story has captured my imagination for years. I’ve incorporated the things I love, and I love both action and fantasy. Case in point: the two major influences on my imaginary life as a child were Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. To me, this blend of genres is like ice cream and chocolate cake – both delicious on their own, but even better together.
What I’m concerned about is how to write the story so that the genre-crossing is delicious for other people, too. I want to make the blend seem natural, inevitable even, and not jarring and annoying. Not like, say, ice cream and tacos.
I’m especially worried about transitioning from a realistic Earth setting in the first few books to a fantasy world setting in the last half of the series, with the non-human-driven plot coming to a head and moving closer to home. I am trying to figure out how to keep the action and tone consistent enough to not alienate readers.
One piece of writing advice I’m using is to signal to the reader early on what kind of a book it is. I’ve tried to introduce the supernatural element within the first few scenes of the first book, so people won’t be blindsided by it half way in, and feel betrayed. “I thought I was reading a spy adventure, what’s this about immortal beings from another planet?”
Perhaps I can apply the same idea on the series scale: try to work in more fantasy, more other-world scenes in each successive book, even in the first few where everything is happening on Earth. Flashbacks, back-story, meanwhile-back-on-the-mother-ship type scenes.
Do you have any thoughts about writing a cross-genre story? What about a series which changes genre focus over its course? Have you read anything like that, and what did you think? Or have you written something similar, and what tactics did you use to mesh the different genres?