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.