Thursday, August 16, 2007

Slave to Two Masters

"The miracle of the seed and the soil is not available by affirmation; it is only available by labor." Jim Rohn

In middle June, I was offered a contract for Would-be Witch, a humorous urban fantasy. (That is to say that I consider it humorous. In a year, you may decide for yourself.) I have no supernatural abilities myself (and Hogwarts, so far as I know, is by invitation only) and yet after the news of impending publication, I am fairly certain I levitated through life for two months.

The main character in the book Tammy Jo Trask is sort of Stephanie Plum meets Daisy Duke, plucky and Southern and up for adventures that would raise the hackles on a werewolf. I personally try to avoid adventures that are of the nature described in the book, but that doesn't mean they weren't extremely fun to write.

Before there was a would-be witch named Tamara Josephine, there were other characters. Many other characters in fact, including one (named Ryan) of an extremely complex nature and background, who found me one afternoon when I needed her to make a romantic mystery I was working on come to life.

Perhaps because I read widely, I have always written in different styles and in different genres. The drama or comedy in a scene is chosen to match the tone of the short arc. The multi-scene passages I wrote in my youth lacked structure and weren't meant to be novels. They were meant to be entertainment for myself and a friend. There was complete freedom in those days.

Inevitably, I wanted a wider audience than one lone soul. Concerned that the publishing world was not in the market for rambling soap operatic epics of millions of words (excepting the case of the sublime Ms. Gabaldon), I decided it was best to rein in my style and conform to the traditional length and form of a novel.

My agent loved Ryan and wanted to introduce her around New York. As Ryan's scribe, I was invited along. While that book traveled, I wrote a new and totally different book, proving that the characters choose me rather than the other way around. I was fortunate that my agent also saw the commercial potential of the new story.

Now, Would-be Witch and its sequel have sold first, and herein lies the dilemma. As I work on some revisions on the mystery, I wonder if being a slave to two masters is the best career choice. I've heard lots about branding--too much in fact. And yet I have to admit if I bought a Katie MacAlister book and found she'd written it in the style of a Michael Connelly book or vice versa, I would be bewildered and disappointed. Like other readers, I want each author to deliver a book in the style that made me love his/her work in the first place.

So here I am wondering whether it's wise to split my attentions. The things in my favor are the fact that I'm prolific and the fact that I seem to feel equally comfortable writing in either style. Not in my favor is the fact that time ticks by and every day, week, and month spent on one project is stolen from another that could be building my readership.

This is one of the many reasons that writing for a hobby is easier than writing for publication. On the other hand, one day my novel will be on bookshelves in Borders and Barnes & Noble; I'll hold it in my hot little hands and be able to announce to unwitting passers by: I made this.

Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about the journey. The path of my career will likely choose me, as all of my best stories do.


Jolie Mathis said...

Some authors have the ability to write two genres, and do it very well! In fact, I think some NEED to do that. I'm not that sort, unfortunately. I wish I was! I can't wait to read your debut book! And anything that comes after!

fiaschetti said...

yep. agree with Jolie here. i've seen you have varied interests and abilities. no doubt two genres is a piece of cake for you!

Kimberly Frost said...

Thanks for the votes of confidence! But, San, a piece of cake? Would that be fruit cake? Hard as rock and nobody really wants one? 'Cause that's what it feels like some days. ;)

fiaschetti said...

On the positive side of the fruitcake analogy, let me point out that everyone is familiar with them (legendary, in fact)and they get passed around and around. would that your books travel as much-- but hopefully out of "you'll love this" vs. "there is no way I want this so you take it." ;-)

katiebird said...

Hi Kimberly,
I'm not an author or writer but, I am a reader. And I wouldn't want to miss anything by a wonderful author.

So, I'm glad that Jayne Ann Krentz found a way to write in a variety of genres -- she uses a different name for each one.

Could you do that?

Kimberly Frost said...


Yes, I think I will use different pen names, but on my website I'll provide a link to my alter ego site.

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