Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Genre Mash

By Lisa Karon Richardson

On Sunday I heard “The Monster Mash” which brought back a shard of memory from an awkward middle school dance, but that’s a story for another day. The other thought prompted by the song was of the way book genres have been mashed together in recent years to make new, wonderful, weird combinations.

When I was little it seemed that “historical” meant sweeping family saga. Mysteries came in two varieties: hardboiled and cozy. Fantasy meant a stylized medieval setting with wizards, trolls, elves. But these days Historical Romantic Suspense is a thing. The line between Fantasy and Science Fiction has blurred to bring us steampunk (with or without supernatural beings.)

It’s possible that the trend could be taken too far. 

NOT that this book has taken it too far, I actually really like Marcher Lord Press's products and I bet they found a way to make this actually work. You can check it out more here.

I don’t think every element of a story needs to be chased down and tagged. That could get as a annoying as a facebook message replete with hashtags, #annoying #overuse #unnecessary. It’s kind of like poetic description, a little is tremendous—too much takes us into purple prose territory. I think the key for the author to remember is that when you are doing a mashup it is important to honor the elements of each of the genres upon which they are drawing. Not that every element can be equal, like in ballroom dancing, one of them is going to have to lead, but don't just let the other peter out. Be adventurous, but don't violate your readers trust! 

Are there any genre mash ups that you love? Is there a book that is representative of that to you? Any genre mash ups that surprised you? 

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Vanishing Act, the second in the Charm and Deceit, series co-authored with Jennifer AlLee, released in September 2013. As did her novella entitled “Midnight Clear,” part of the Mistletoe Memories collection.


  1. What comes to mind is the NYT Bestselling series OUTLANDER. I am totally in to this series but it's not for everyone and I have repeatedly warned this is no sweet prairie romance. But I bring it up again because it is coming out as a tv series next year on Starz and the series is as hard to pin down as Ms Gabaldon's books are to shelve in the store. It's marketed mostly as sci-fi. WHAT? for the millions of fans worldwide, much of the draw is the relationship between the two leads, Claire and Jamie. Time Travel, yes, but sci-fi? ha ha.

    She tells a story of insisting they not be shelved as romance until she was told that the majority of store buyers were romance readers. But it didn't fit. The story was part historical fiction, part romance, part fantasy and would appeal to male audiences with all its warfare, blood and chivalry.

    I think your Charm and Deceit series is a bit broader than historical romance because you are so good at threading a mystery throughout.

    I've been pitching my stories as Historical Romantic Suspense since before the term suddenly appeared in the last two or three years. However, those stories advertised as such have not completely slipped into what I'd like to see - gothics.
    well, I'm working on that, too!

  2. Hysterical. We all saw this one coming years ago. Congrats to the author who snagged it first. LOL. Which begs the question of when Gina's Amish dragon story will be coming out???

  3. Outlander is a great example, Deb. And I know you've been campaigning for a Historical Romantic Suspense category for a long time. Do you think the drive to finitely categorize novels is a positive?

  4. I think Gina's dragon story must be slated right after her quilt book is done :)

  5. Good question Lisa!
    It could get hairy to start splitting genre hairs. I think the newer genre stretching is a good thing, though. We get bored easily with the same old thing--
    Blurb and Cover are so important to help the buyer visually separate one historical romance from another.

  6. I think you're right, Deb. It's really important for the blurb and cover to capture those threads and convey the tone of the story. If done well you don't have to say Historical romantic suspense. The reader will SEE it.

  7. Agreed. Blurb, title and cover work better for me than genre when it comes to picking up a book.
    Haha... with the way things are going, in books and on TV and movies, everything is turning into a mix-and-match smorgasbord! Our comic books are now TV dramas, our horror stories are now romances. It's probably a good thing, because it opens up the playing field. I mean, once the Amish space vampires are out there (yes, kudos to that brave writer!) maybe we'll all be able to take more creative risks!

  8. Niki, I think story lines have trended toward growing more complex over the years. I think that jives with cultural shifts. Fewer black and whites, lots more shade of gray. It makes sense that genres would become more gradiated as well.


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