Have you noticed how some of the all-time bestselling authors have occasionally ventured away from their best-known genres to write a book in a completely different one? Here are some prime examples of the switch.
James Patterson is known world-wide for his great thrillers, some that he has penned himself, others where he has a co-author. His latest mega-seller is Shattered, written with author James O’Born, and released just this week. It is number 14 in their Detective Michael Bennett series, about the NYPD master homicide investigator who travels far outside his jurisdiction to search for missing FBI agent, Emily Parker — a woman with powerful connections as well as equally powerful enemies. The authors’ many fans continue to follow these characters and eagerly await the next installment.
Meanwhile, Patterson decided to pen a non-fiction book which was released a few weeks ago. It’s a memoir, James Patterson: The Stories of My Life. This one is described as fizzing, funny and often deeply moving with descriptions ranging from the day he was born — when he nearly died — to working in a mental hospital where he met singer James Taylor and poet Robert Lowell, as well as the time Dolly Parton once sang “Happy Birthday” to him over the phone. This too has become a major bestseller, though one wonders if it’s the same thriller readers who are buying it or if Patterson has attracted a whole new group of fans of non-fiction.
Speaking of mega-bestselling authors, David Baldacci’s books have sold over 150 million copies worldwide. He began his career back in 1996 writing the legal thriller, Absolute Power, which was made into a major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood. His latest thriller, The 6:20 Man, was also released last week. It’s the tale of how a cryptic murder pulls a former soldier turned financial analyst deep into the corruption and menace that prowl beneath the opulent world of finance.
Another one of Baldacci’s novels was completely different. It was a romantic tale that was also made into a movie, for the Hallmark Channel no less, and was a complete departure from his usual fare. This one, The Christmas Train, is the delightful story of a journalist, forced to travel by train, who must get from Washington, DC to Los Angeles in time for Christmas. During the magical trip, he discovers people’s essential goodness along with someone very special he believed he had lost. Yes, there’s romance in this one. It was such a charming film I still remember it.
I have to admit that I too have toyed with the idea of writing in a genre completely removed from my list of political thrillers. But when my new publisher said they wanted to bring out my latest thriller, Trust but Verify, in hardback, they also wanted to re-release my previous novels with new covers since there are continuing characters. I loved the idea but asked for a bit of time so I could go back and edit those novels to bring the technology up to date. I couldn’t have my hero rushing into the Situation Room midst the clatter of fax machines, now, could I?
Then during Covid, in a conversation with my agent, I said I had outlined the next thriller. However, she advised that publishers were currently looking for “feel good” stories to cheer up readers wanting an escape from warnings and lockdowns. So, I went ahead and wrote a number of them. If and when these new tales are published, we’ll see if my current readers decide to take a chance on a book in a different genre.
What about you? As a writer have you written in more than one genre? If not, would you like to try it? And as a reader, do you follow the author, no matter the genre, or stick to your favorite series? Leave a comment, we would enjoy reading your answers. And thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.
That’s great advice I wish I could take! But I just can’t think in any terms except crime. Though I did start writing a (not picked up) medical drama TV series…except that was also, technically, crime in the context of the story. So I guess I’ll stick with crime!
Since you’re such a terrific crime writer, Lisa, of course you should stick to it – I’m sure your many fans are always waiting for the next novel!!! Karna Small Bodman
That’s so interesting about Jim and David, Karna. I hadn’t realized either had done that. I also remember that when Clive Cussler’s career was in the dumpers (hard to believe that happened, but it did!), he wrote a nonfiction book about undersea exploration that was very well received. After that, people started to take his work more seriously, and reviews improved, and he wrote another 20 years with his books on top of the bestseller lists.
I’m in awe of your creativity and productivity, Karna! Can’t wait to read your new ones when they’re published!!!!
J.K. Rowling is also a writer who’s written in different genres. Her Harry Potter series is incredibly successful, but her mystery series (published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) is also excellent. As a reader I’ll usually give a writer that I enjoy a chance when they try another genre, but it depends, both on the genre and on the description. There are some writers who can change genres and series within genres and others that I like for one genre or one series but not for another. Bernard Cornwell is a great example. I love his Sharpe series, though I usually don’t like war stories, and I usually like his occasional standalones; but I’ve never given his Civil War series a chance because that period doesn’t interest me and I’ve tried his Saxon series and just found it so so. With recurring mystery/crime it’s all about the characters. I love Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Siri books set in Laos, but I don’t like his series set in Thailand at all. Even when it’s the same genre my reaction to different series can be completely different. Every time a writer switches series or genres they have to win me over again. With writers I already admire, they have a head start and I’m willing to cut them more slack than an unknown, but it isn’t a guarantee. Sadly, there have even been writers who’ve lost me even though they continued to write the same series. Sometimes the formula gets stale, and the new books seem like retreads of the old ones. I think writers always have to find a way of keeping their writing fresh and unique whether that takes switching series or genres. Hopefully their readers will follow.
Thanks, Gayle and Sydney for your comments! I was just thinking about another extremely talented and successful author who has two different series going – it’s Nora Roberts. Love her stories – romance and thrillers!….Karna Small Bodman
I switched from cozy mysteries to thrillers in 2015. I found it quite a challenge, albeit an exhilarating one. I learned a lot about myself as a writer. I recommend anyone with a story idea outside their normal niche stretch and try their hand. I think you’ll find you grow as a writer.