Thursday, September 22, 2005

ACFW Conference--My Place in this World

One of the things I’ll take away educationally from the conference has to do with what genre I write. As many of you know, my first novel was a historical romance. Then, when a publisher requested the completed, the editor asked for some changes, particularly to pick up the suspense level. Which I did and found I loved writing that way. When they finally declined on the book, I had already mapped out a contemporary romantic suspense series and began writing it. Even my crit partners agreed that I seemed to have found my niche and my writing reflected it.

But what to do about my historical and it’s half-finished sequel? I love those characters and stories and hate to see them languish on my hard drive, never to see the light of day. So all through the spring and summer I’ve been thinking about it on and off. What do I really want to write? Do I really want to commit to writing historicals?

One of the concepts that’s gaining momentum in this writing business is the idea of branding. Yes, your writing style can be “branded” in the same way a soda can be a “Coke” or “Pepsi.” Your brand helps readers know what they’re getting when they pick up your book. Are they getting a woman’s fiction from Deb Raney or a stay-up-with-a-nightlight Brandilyn Collins’s suspense?

Another idea that meshes with this one is the question of where CBA fiction is going. There will always be the “core” CBA, the traditional, conservative sweet stories that make up the bread and butter of the CBA. Historicals tend to fall into that category. But suspense stories tend to be more new territory for CBA. The CBA isn’t what it used to be and most publishers at the conference seemed to be open to expanding the idea of what makes up CBA fiction without crossing boundaries of language and explict sex.

So essentially I was straddling both parts of the CBA. My historicals, though with some suspense, were core CBA. But my new romantic suspense are more “new” CBA. And trying to write both would make it difficult for me to develop a brand.

One option would be to write both, but under different names and different brands. But that created two problems for me. One, I still have little kids at home and thus my writing time is limited. I couldn’t produce enough books for both brands to keep the publishers and readers happy. Two, beyond my two historicals, I only have a couple of vague ideas for historical stories, while I have a ton of suspense ideas. Three, nobody’s going to want to publish only two books for me.

So, finally everything clicked together and I felt myself sliding into a slot I had been moving toward for sometime. I’m a romantic suspense writer. Period.

Don’t know what will happen to my historicals. I’d still love for them to see the light of day and I have a few ideas along those lines. But even if they never do, they served a purpose in helping me find myself as a writer and develop my skills.

A noble purpose indeed.


Sabrina said...

Jen, great blog. While I'm sad about the historical being ditched,I do admit your contemporary is very well written and it does seem you have found your voice. We were just talking about 'brand' on the way home from the conference. A little part of me bristles at the thought of being put into a box and feeling confined to stay within those parameters. However, I do understand readers will want to know what they're going to get when they pick up your book. That being said, do you think once you're well established that an author can break out a little and explore? Or is it a death do us part type of thing? =)

Jennifer Tiszai said...

I think Christian fiction is changing right now so it's a little hard to say. In the past plenty of authors have written all over the map. But for example, John Grisham has taken some heat over his more literary works like Painted House, even though it was very clear the book wasn't a legal thriller. I'm not sure anyone knows the answer, but I do think getting established is certainly a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment :)

Malia Spencer said...


While I hate to see the historicals being put down I agree that with the contemporary suspense you've found your "voice." The historicals were well done but the contemporaries are just at another level entirely. I do hope in the future you'll be able to find the time and opportunities to do both. Guess we'll just have to see.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

I hope I didn't say anything that could be construed as putting historicals down, because I personally love them. If I didn't, I wouldn't have started writing them. The only point I was making is the point that was made to me: they usually have different audiences than suspense and that makes it hard to carry your readers between genres.

Or maybe you just meant putting the historicals aside. Which, now that I re-read your comment, makes more sense. Yes, there's a twinge there, but I don't think they're gone and forgotten yet. I've got a few ideas for them depending on where my publishing journey takes me. :)

Malia Spencer said...

Oops, I meant being set aside, not put down. Sorry, didn't mean to give that impression. :)
I don't know about not having readers cross genres because I personally read historicals, suspense, women's fiction, etc. Pretty much everything that has inspirational tagged on it, I read because I like a wide range of things.
I'll happily read Christian sci-fi when it comes out as well. So far there are few authors I read because most do not fit my requirements. I'll do the little happy dance when I find one. :)

Jennifer Tiszai said...

I think a lot of us tend to read across genres. However, I think it's harder for the marketing departments to figure out which buyers do that. Or what genre they cross to. Bottom line, it comes down to personal taste, which is a hard thing to quantify.