Welcome, Casey Griffin!
Casey Griffin is the author of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess, which I reviewed yesterday. Look for it on March 7!
4 Tips on How to Genre Hop
Hi! I’m Casey Griffin, YA author of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess. Oh, but I’m also a romance writer. And don’t forget fantasy. Wait…let me start over. Hi! I’m Casey Griffin, genre hopper.
My first writing affair was with fantasy. If you would have told me back then that I’d eventually be published in other genres, I would have said you were crazy. At first, I was hesitant about branching out, but now that I’ve started, who knows what I’ll write next? And after reading this, hopefully you’ll want to give genre hopping a try, too.
So, how can you genre hop?
- Write about something you love
If you weren’t in love with a story, you wouldn’t write it. YA fantasy was my first love. I wrote a few fantasy novels before I finally listened to my savvy agent, Pooja Menon, and tried contemporary on for size. But fantasy was what I loved. So how could I write anything else? Easy. I found something I loved about reality.
Okay, I cheated. I geeked out and wrote about people who live in a fantasy world on the weekends (i.e. larping). But I love geeking out, so it was easy to make that leap into contemporary. However, by doing that, I discovered I like writing humorous stories. So naturally, I found wieners hilarious. Err, dogs…I mean wiener dogs. A quirky, tongue-in-cheek book filled with innuendos about wieners? I was totally in for Must Love Wieners. And by writing that, I found that I love to infuse my stories with mystery. And the learning process continues…
You can always find new things to love about different genres. You just need to be willing to try something new. How do you know you don’t like something unless you try it? (I know your parents said that about Brussels sprouts, but this is different.) Go on. Try it. You might love it.
- Do your research
When I dreamed up Secrets of a Reluctant Princess, all I knew as a reader and writer was fantasy. Heck, I practically live in a fantasy world in my head (shh, don’t tell anyone). So how do you write something you don’t know?
Firstly, this is why I always tell writers to read widely. Explore other genres from the perspective of a reader and fan first. You know, a little ground level research. Don’t get stuck in a genre rut or you’ll never grow as a writer.
Secondly, when it came to contemporary, I had an easier time learning about it, since I know people who live in the real world. I asked a lot of questions, spoke to plenty of muggles, Googled endlessly, and when it came to the technical stuff, I went to the professionals. No really. There’s nothing better than speaking to the source.
If you write about dogs, spend time with dogs. If you write about crime, quiz police officers (You thought I was going to say criminals, didn’t you?) If you write about geek culture, well, talk to me. My point is that it’s not scary writing about something new because we live in a world where you can learn about anything you could possibly want to. And since truth is stranger than fiction, your story is out there somewhere. Just start asking.
- Don’t overthink it
Okay, so you’ve bought out the bookstore, you’ve interviewed anyone who ever sat next to you on the bus, and you broke the internet Googling. Still don’t feel like you’re ready? Then you’ll never be ready. Just do it already!
My first love might have been YA fantasy, but when I got my big break, it wasn’t for a fantasy novel. It wasn’t even YA. An editor who’d read Secrets of a Reluctant Princess approached me and asked if I wrote adult romance. I was like “Heck, yes!” Did I really? (*shrug*) I dabbled. Had I completed a novel? Not exactly. Could I? Absolutely! And that was the most important thing that allowed me to genre hop. I believed I could.
You’re a writer. You determine what happens in your story. Why do you even have to think of it as a genre? A story is a story is a story. Something inspired you to write it. It spoke to you, so don’t ignore it. Don’t overthink it. Pick up that pen, tap that keyboard, hit record, do whatever you need to do in order to get that story out. Don’t let fear get in the way.
- It’s all about the characters
Don’t get caught up in labels. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where your novel takes place or who the main character is (adult, child, male, female). People are people, whether they lived a thousand years ago or will live a thousand years in the future. They share the same needs, wants, desires, fears. And you’re a person too (I hope), so you can sympathize with these same things. If their story inspires you, then it shouldn’t matter what bookshelf it will be sitting on.
When we tell a story, we are able to reach our readers because they connect with our characters, not the setting or the details surrounding the story. They are the story. Of course the settings and details make the story richer, but at the heart of it, what is the story really about? The people.
It might be a teen afraid of getting bullied, or a man fighting for the love of his life, or a woman who misses her family. Now imagine each of those scenarios taking place on Saturn, or on a pirate ship, or in a Vegas strip club (I’m not sure what that teen is doing there, but hey, it’s your story). You could probably come up with ideas for each one. All you have to do is ask yourself: what is at the heart of the story? Focus on that, and the rest will come.
So hop away!
A genre doesn’t have to be a wall to jump over (or hop, if you will), or a box to keep you locked inside, or a cliquey group that won’t let you sit with them at lunch because you’re the new kid. So don’t think of it as one. Just tell your story, because if you love it, I bet there’s someone else out there dying to read it.
At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…
Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.
Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.
Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.
The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.