Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cross Genre in Romance Writing: Does It Appeal to Readers?

Hi, I’m Jacqueline Seewald, and I also write for Five Star Expressions.
I’m going to discuss cross-genre romance writing and hope you’ll find
what I have to say useful.

At one time, publication of romance fiction was fairly cut and dry. You had
certain publishers who would only accept “formula” romance. They gave
writers a set of guidelines and the writers had to follow them exactly or their work wouldn’t be published.

We still have “category” romances today. However, things have become more flexible, especially, I’m happy to say, for those of us who are published in hardcover. The result is that writers are allowed to be more creative and unique in their novel writing. One end product is cross-genre romance writing.

What is cross-genre writing in romance fiction? This is where elements of
more than one kind of fiction are combined to create a unique romance novel.

There’s a lot of cross-over between mystery, romance and romantic suspense.
I believe classification has much to do with the intent of the writer. In a mystery novel, the mystery is the main plot factor, even if there is a romance. In a romance novel, there can certainly be a mystery, but the romance takes precedence, and the mystery is secondary. In romantic suspense, you have romance, mystery and elements of a thriller, all combined. However, the love interest still dominates. Cross-genre romance novels today tend to be more complex.

Even publishers are often confused about how to classify their novels.
My first novel for Five Star/Gale, THE INFERNO COLLECTION, published in both hardcover and large print, was classified as romantic suspense. However, the novel is actually a paranormal romantic mystery thriller.

Set mainly on a university campus, the novel can also be argued to have elements of literary fiction. There are also elements of horror fiction as well. Cross-genre? You bet! Does it work for a majority of readers? I sure hope so!

The second novel in this series, doesn’t depend on the first book but stands on it’s own. Although THE DROWNING POOL has the same main characters as THE INFERNO COLLECTION, it is unique. THE DROWNING POOL is also classified as romantic suspense but actually is a paranormal romantic mystery.

Today, you can find fantasy romance, romantic horror, romantic thrillers, romantic westerns, romantic historical fiction, romantic science fiction as well as romantic mysteries. Characters have more depth and are not mere stereotypes. Romance writers and readers are becoming more sophisticated these days. I see that as a good thing. My next Five Star novel will be a paranormal historical romantic suspense novel set in the Regency era. Hopefully, it too will find a readership.

If you want to read some of our Five Star Expressions romance novels, check the Five Star website which has our catalog, Barnes and Noble online, Amazon, and Borders for details--or just request our novels at your local library. Five Star novels can be found in libraries all over the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

As readers and writers, how do you see the trend toward cross-genre romance?
Does it please you that romance fiction has become more varied? Love to
read your comments!


Terry Odell said...

I've never colored inside the lines, and enjoy both reading and writing books that tell good stories. Labels are a pain, more for authors than readers, because the business of publishing is ... to make money. There are a lot of great books that never get sold because the publishers don't know how to place them.

Joyce Moore said...

Jacqueline: Like you, I'm really glad to see that there are a lot of cross-over books now that fall under the romance line. For myself, I think category romance restricts a writer in a lot of ways. other genres are also spreading their wings a bit, I think--all to the good, far as I'm concerned. Really enjoyed your thoughtful post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Terry and Joyce,

Thanks for your comments. I'm delighted that as writers we do work with a publisher who allows authors freedom and originality to create unique novels rather than those who demand stale, stereotypical romances.

Anonymous said...

As a READER, and and a writer, I enjoy the blending of genres. But then I like my ice creams mixed up too, so that tells you a lot about me! Seriously though, I think this has opened up different authors, and different KINDS of books to readers . . . things we didn't know we'd like, we give a try. Great post, Jacqueline.

Anonymous said...

Your post makes a great case for writing what you love to write so readers can read what they love to read! Thanks, Jacqueline.

June said...

What an interesting blog. So glad to see all of you sharing ideas.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I like a variety of flavors myself. I think it's important for writers to experiment with types of writing. As for reading, I read a novel every few days. And I do like variety there as well. Typically, I'm into romance and mystery. But I read literary novels as well as bestsellers. Keeps the mind sharp!


I know your writing is varied too. And it makes for truly interesting novels.


Thanks for commenting. By the way, the third mystery novel in my Kim Reynolds series will be out in May 2011 and finally placed where it belongs in the mystery category at Five Star.
However, there will still be romance! So we have this in common. Good luck with your new work!

Professor Stacy said...

As a reader, I love cross-genre, especially mysteries with a bit of romance, especially with a paranormal twist.

Having said that, though, as a consumer, it is hard to find books that I like in a bookstore if I don't know what genre to look under. For instance, would I find your "paranormal romantic mystery thriller" under "Romance" or "Mystery" at the bookstore / library?? Or, maybe the question should be why can't Borders have a "paranormal romantic mystery thriller" section??

I am adding the Inferno Collection to my TBR list asap, though, because "paranormal romantic mystery thriller" sounds right up my alley.

That is the best thing about reading author blogs is finding new books that I might not find otherwise because of not knowing where to look.

Of course, it's pretty cool to win prizes, too. (Thank you all for my jewelry. That is an absolutely awesome prize)

--Stacy Taylor

Kara Lynn Russell said...

Jacqueline, one of the things I love about 5 Star is the variety in the types of stories they publish. Another publisher I work with has recently opened a line for Christian Gothic Romance. I'm looking forward to seeing what will be coming out there.

Your upcoming romance sounds good. I love the Regency period.

Anonymous said...

Even though I "label" my books as all Paranormal Genre, they still do the "crossing" trick in each one. I love that we can spice up a book with more than one genre at a time. I did have a mis-labeling problem with 2 of my books, with Barnes and Noble. "Seducing the Hero" is a Contemporary-with-a-touch-of-Magic". B&N wanted to place it in the Fantasy section even though it was 100% romance. Another book, "Hunted Mate" was pure Paranormal Romance but B&N still insisted on placing it in Fantasy.
Ive learned that its actually a good thing to have your book labeled as cross definitely gets more exposure!

Great Blog!
hugs, Kari Thomas

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Kara Lynn,

Christian Gothic Romance sounds very interesting. Keep us informed, if you will.


Thanks for commenting and for your positive thoughts regarding cross genre romance.

Joyce Moore said...

Kara: Three people said they had trouble leaving comments. If mine doesn't go through, I'll go to blogspot and complain!--So I guess this is a test.

Sharon Ervin said...

Just a thought:

In my formative years, parents thought they needed to call attention to a child’s shortcomings, that children knew what they did well and there was no need to mention the obvious.
My husband’s parents subscribed to the same school. Early on, I bolstered his self-image by praising the marvelous man he is, after all it was true that he was smart and handsome and charming and funny and fun. Still is.
Although more of a challenge, I tried to do the same with our children. The bolstering with them probably was laced with more criticism than necessary, but old lessons die hard.
I’m doing better with grandchildren.
Recently, however, I had a Eureka moment. It came when I fixed a glitch an editor had pointed out. Satisfied with the repair, I leaned back from the keyboard and said out loud, “Good job.” And do you know, those two words out of my own mouth lifted my spirit.
That’s when it dawned on me. A person who makes an effort to complete a task owes it to oneself to praise that effort out loud. That’s particularly true for writers, who often strive without much encouragement and may need boosts from within.
Later that morning, I accomplished a common task that pleased me. Alone in the house, I said, “All right. You did good.” And I felt great.
Ridiculous that such positive reinforcement works, but don’t doubt it until you try it.
Everyday now, I try to remember to compliment myself for effort, whether it’s writing or making the bed. A funny upshot is, I find I’m praising others more, too.
A little verbal positive reinforcement is a good thing, even when it comes from within. Try it. You’ll like it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Years ago I read a book on the subject of being your own best friend. Since I tend to be hard on myself, I took it to heart. The theme of the book was that when you do something right, you should give yourself a verbal pat on the back. Compliment yourself for a job well done, just as you would do for your best friend.

We writers receive plenty of criticism and rejection. So when we do a good job, we should stop and say a kind word to ourselves.
I'm with you 100%, Sharon! Thanks for sharing the positive thought!

Pamela Nowak said...

I love the cross-genre trend. I write historical romance set in the American west but both my novels could just as easily be classifed as straight historicals with romantic elements. I rely heavily on real places, people, and events to shape my plots.

Yes, these books are often harder to sell. Publishers tend to have problems with books that fit across genres but I say the readers love them!