So, I’ve been thinking for several months that I needed to move away from romance.
In all honesty, I’ve never really written romance exactly. The most romancey of my books are the Assassins books, Release, Vigil, Crimson, and Frenzy. Those feature HEAs or HFNs and the object of the story is for the main characters to be together.
Well, so in Release, there’s a serial killer rapist who stalks the two main characters and practically kills them and nearly rapes Ariana, and then Keirth like kills him so hard and it’s, well… you know, not very romancey. And there’s a serial killer in Vigil…
I write about serial killers a lot.
Anyway, this all just got me to thinking. I’m always feeling frustrated because I feel like I can’t find an audience for my books, but I think that’s because I’m appealing to the wrong demographic of people.
When I first started writing, I wanted to write horror. Even Breathless borrows a lot from the horror genre. The thing about horror is that it doesn’t sell, not unless your name is Stephen King. Why this is, I don’t know. It used to sell very well. But now, there’s no market for it.
So, basically, what I’ve been, since the beginning of my career, is an author whose preferred genre is something that won’t make any money. I kind of wanted to make money. So, I didn’t really have any problem trying to shove my ideas into other genres. I kind of like writing within genre parameters anyway. I think it’s fun to be creative within bounds.
I originally started writing YA books because I liked YA books, and I was reading a bunch of really cool ones. But then the YA genre turned into one of two things: Dystopian with a love triangle! or Normal girl falls in love with vampire/selkie/merman/angel/Norse god! And if you wanted to do anything besides that, you couldn’t sell anything.
So, I was like, “Hell, I’m getting sick of writing about people losing their virginity anyway. I’ll write NA! Sex scenes, hells yeah!!” And my first foray into that, Slow Burn, exceeded my expectations by so much that it like reset my brain in terms of what I thought I was capable of.
I’m a big fan of doing more of what works, so I tried to write NA all year. I was like, “A sequel to Slow Burn? Here you go!” (But that book didn’t take off until Amazon emailed people about it, proving that I wasn’t building a core group of fans that liked that series and would subscribe to my email list and stuff.) I was like, “Okay? NA. Let’s try NA paranormal.” (Crimson. Ehh…) “Fine! Let’s do NA retellings of Wuthering Heights!” (Even with an Xpresso book blitz, that wouldn’t take off.”) “Um… Fifty Shades of Batman?” (That was the stupidest idea you ever had, Valerie.) “Okay, fine. People like things contemporary. But I can’t stand stories in which there’s no action and violence. So… NA contemporary murder mystery!!” (Frenzy. Which has done the WORST of all the books I published this year.)
I’m giving up on NA.
Oh, don’t worry, I’ll finish the Assassins series. (OMG, do I have the best freaking shit in store for Sloane, y’all! I was planning it out last night while I was swooning over Enzo, the new vampire on The Vampire Diaries, and it’s going to be craaazy! Should be out in late January/early February.)
I started thinking that, you know, if I wanted to write horror, then there were genres that were closer to horror than romance. Like, um, thrillers and suspense?
So, that’s what I’m trying. So, take my typical story. Subtract any aspects of the paranormal or weird technology. Subtract stuff like “bliss” and “exultation” from the sex scenes and add more dirty words. Leave the romantic tension, but lose the idea that these two people are meant to be together or that it’s even a good idea for them to be together. Amp up the tension, the suspense, and the violence. That’s what I’ll be writing.
Working on the first book now, tentatively titled Doll Parts. It’s about a true-crime writer who tries to figure out whether or not a twelve-year-old girl killed her parents. The girl is all grown up now, and she’s like Courtney Love meets Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.
Here’s what I did this week:
Sunday: Finished outlining. Wrote 4K
This book is a lot of fun to write, but it’s also really terrifying to write. It’s very hard for me to go in a direction in which I think most of my current fans are not going to follow me.
But I think that fans that have been following me for a long time won’t really feel like this is that big of a jump. Going from romance to thrillers sounds big, but my romance has always been just thrillers disguised as romance, anyway.
The thing is, I’m hoping there’s a big audience of people out there who like suspense and tension, and those people wouldn’t be caught dead picking up a romance novel. I think I have a better shot at reaching more people and possibly making a more comfortable living (so that I don’t have nervous breakdowns like last week) if I try to a different genre.
The best thing about this whole experience is that I’ve been reading again. I wanted to keep up with what was popular in the NA genre, and I used to try to read other NA books, but… I really didn’t like them. And I don’t think it makes any sense to write in a genre that you don’t actually like, you know?
Anyway, I’ve been reading like crazy. And all the books I’ve been reading have been awesome. I haven’t been rolling my eyes and saying, “Oh right. Because men act like that.”
Also, I discovered Gillian Flynn, and I think she is my soul twin. If you like Gillian Flynn, that is exactly the kind of thing I’m going for.