That mental picture is a good analogy for the leap I made from western historicals to single title contemporaries. There are differences to be sure, but there are also similarities. We’ll get to those, but first here’s a fun video about a different kind of time travel. It’s called “Ten Things You Won’t Find in Contemporary Romance” and it features some of this month’s Bethany House contemporary authors.
So no stagecoaches in a contemporary . . . No shotgun weddings. Switching subgenres really is a leap through time. Why do it? What are the pitfalls? And what are the thing hidden blessings of the change?
Why Do It?
There’s something not many people know about my writing career. The first book I tried to write was a contemporary romance. That story burned in me, but I didn’t have chops to tell it. It was just too big and complicated, so I decided to start on something shorter that focused solely on the romance. That decision led to fourteen westerns for Harlequin Historicals and Love Inspired Historicals.
I love cowboys. I really do. I love outlaws even more. But the story that became Until I Found never stopped begging to be written.
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The answer to the “why” question is simple. Do it because you want to. Do it because you love the story enough to take the risks that come with shooting through space and time, whether you’re traveling from the past to present, the present to the past, or to an alternate universe that thrills your imagination and gives you goose bumps.
The Pitfalls and Precautions
Your readers might not follow you into the great unknown. At the same time, there are elements in each author’s style, her brand if you will, that are constant. Not every reader will move from westerns to contemporaries, but my old books and new ones have the same values, voice and character types.
If you’re moving from the present to the past, watch your language for modernisms. You can’t say, “The actress had visions of her name in lights” if you’re writing about an Old West town without electricity. Our modern language is laced with technology references. Those don’t work in a historical.
There’s a saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” That’s so true. I spent more time researching Until I Found You than I did any of my westerns. There’s so much knowledge today, and things change rapidly. Familiarity with our modern world and subjects doesn’t mean you can skimp on research. In fact, for me it was the opposite. Readers will spot mistakes more easily.
The Hidden Blessings
You know how burn-out sometimes sets in? Those days when everything feels just too . . . familiar? Life becomes like the movie Groundhog’s Day, where Bill Murray is reliving the same day over and over. Everyone needs a change now and then. Genre-jumping refreshed my creativity and broke me out of a rut in a big way.
You get to feel like a brand new writer. I will never forget the thrill of finishing my first-ever ms. It was awful and didn’t sell until I rewrote it, but that feeling of accomplishment was joyous. I’d done something new and brave, something I’d always wanted to do. That same feeling hit when I finished the first genre-jump.
If you risk making a change, you’ll grow as a writer. My critique partner and I talked two or three times a week for over a year. Being out of my comfort zone made me look closely at my word choices, structure, theme, everything. It’s not an exaggeration to say that moving to contemporaries changed my author DNA.
If you have any interest at all in genre-jumping, go for it! At the very least, you’ll bravely go some place new, maybe to the edges of your own writer universe. If the crew of the Starship Enterprise can do it, so can we.
Today Victoria is giving away three books: Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade, Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg, and her own book, Until I Found You. Leave a comment to enter the drawing.
UNTIL I FOUND YOU
Finding each other was only the beginning . . .
When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life.
It's Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She's not planning to get involved with one of the locals.
Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn't expect to be swept off his feet by the car's occupant. He's made a vow--no dating for a year--but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he's met Kate Darby. . . .
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