Nancy Moser is the award-winning author of eighteen inspirational novels. Her genres include contemporary stories including The Good Nearby and Time Lottery, and historical novels of real women-of-history including Just Jane (Jane Austen) and Washington's Lady (Martha Washington). Nancy and her husband Mark live in the Midwest. She’s earned a degree in architecture, traveled extensively in Europe, and has performed in numerous theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She gives Said So Sister Seminars around the country, helping women identify their gifts as they celebrate their sisterhood. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included. Find out more at www.nancymoser.com and www.sistercircles.com.
Writing Multiple Genres
How about a cozy mystery with a Mom-Lit bent set in the year 1330 on the planet Jupiter?
Do you prefer contemporary novels? Historical? Suspense? Romance? Sci-fi?
Each category is called a genre, and most authors have a specialty. But some write in more than one story genre. Why? What are the advantages? The challenges? What makes an author do such a thing?
That’s the short answer. Here’s a longer version…
By the end of this year, my nineteenth novel will be published. Sixteen are contemporary and three historical. I could subdivide the contemporary books further: two are sci-fi, four are women’s fiction . . . one is about a plane crash, one contains a murder trial . . .
I’ll stop there. The subdivision of genres is often hinky and can get so specific it threatens to drive an author crazier than any character. How about a cozy mystery with a Mom-Lit bent set in the year 1330 on the planet Jupiter? For the sake of discussion, let’s just say that I write in two genres: contemporary and historical.
I started with contemporary stories. The reason will sound as dumb as it is: I hated research (catch the past tense here? I’ll explain later.) Because I hated research, I wrote about present times and gave my characters careers I was familiar with—or that occupied friends or relatives who might answer the occasional question for me. As for my style? I was at least ten books in before I heard an editor say that I wrote “big-cast novels.” Huh? What’s that?
I had no clue that's what I was doing or that it was not the norm. I’d never had a writing class (my degree is in architecture), so I learned how to write novels the same way I tackle most new ventures: the hard way, by jumping in, getting it wrong, redoing it, getting it a little better, and doing it again. And again. That somehow, amid all that trial and error, I got some books published, still amazes me.
I suspect many authors started out this way—by merely doing what came naturally. What flowed. They picked a genre by default.
So how did I jump from third-person, big-cast novels to writing first-person historicals?
I was in the right place at the right time.
The career door opened while I was standing in the Mozart family home in Salzburg, Austria, in the summer of 2004. I was only half listening to the tour guide, being very close to tourist-information overload. Yet one statement sneaked into my weary brain: Most people don’t know this, but Mozart’s sister was just as talented as he was, but because she was a woman, she had little chance to fully utilize her talent. That one fact stayed with me all the way home to the States.
At the time, I was putting together a proposal for a contemporary novel. Because of the tour guide’s comment, I got the idea to have one of my characters be an author and write a book called Mozart’s Sister. My agent sent the proposal to publishers.
Within days we got a call from Dave Horton, an editor at Bethany House Publishers. “I don’t want the contemporary book, I want the book the character is writing: Mozart’s Sister, an historical book about the sister’s life.”
“But I don’t write historicals.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister. Her story, in her words.”
“But I don’t write first person, nor do I write in one person’s point of view throughout an entire book. I write big-cast novels in third person.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“I hate research.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
Well, then. He seemed so sure, so excited. I could not ignore him—actually, I could, but I didn’t. And so, as often happens when God offers us an opportunity and we say “yes,” it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my writing life. And, irony of ironies, as I wrote that book (and two others since: on Jane Austen and Martha Washington) I found I really, really enjoyed the research. Imagine that.
I think one reason writing in both genres works for me is that my books share a common theme: we each have a unique purpose, the trick is to find out what it is. Again, I was many books in before I realized I even had a common theme. But I’m thrilled it’s worked for both the contemporary and historical plot lines. At the present time (may it continue!), I write one historical and one contemporary a year—with two different publishers. But what are the pros and cons of doing such a thing?
It’s exciting to let my mind
live in two different worlds. I never get bored.
The “challenge of testing myself” can take me to a mental and
emotional limit, for often I am writing the first draft of one book and
editing another. Flipping back and forth between the two genres and
their intrinsic style requirements is taxing.
Do I advise writing in multiple genres? No. It obviously can be done, but it’s tough. And I issue a warning for newer writers: Get well established in one genre before you venture into another one.
And yet . . . always keep your eyes and ears open for the “right place–right time” moment when everything can change.
Never say never.