Monday, March 02, 2009

Switch-Hitter

Great treat today, everyone! The lovely and talented Eileen Carr has stopped by for a glass of wine and a guest blog about switch hitting! (Ooo... sounds kinda dirty... Unless it's about sports.) **Maureen pulls her mind out of the gutter.**

Actually, it's about switching between genres, something of particular interest to me right now, so I was thrilled when Eileen suggested the topic.

Eileen Carr is the alter ego of the equally fabulous Eileen Rendahl, whose DO ME, DO MY ROOTS, is one of my favorite books of recent memory. I cannot wait to see what she's done in her "Carr" incarnation (cool pun). (At least I held back from typing inCARRnation...) This book sounds fabulous and it's at the very top of my TBR pile. **Maureen hangs head in shame for not having read it before Eileen stopped by for a drink...**

Take it away, Eileen!

Switch-Hitter
by Eileen Carr

I am not known for my long attention span. Nor am I known for my ability to stay focused on one thing for any length of time. I tend to get caught up in something, become completely absorbed and then get distracted by something shiny outside the window. I don’t have a favorite color because I like ALL of them. Preferably all together all at once. I can’t quite grasp the concept of clashing.

Reading has been one of the few things I have been dedicated to since I can remember. That said, I rarely stick to reading just one genre. I love romance, mystery, spy stories, thrillers, literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, to name a few. I even enjoy the occasional non-fiction title. There’s an old John Denver (don’t judge me!) song where he says he’d no sooner love just one kind of woman than drink just one kind of wine. I feel just like that about books.

Now, lucky me, I get to indulge in writing more than one kind of book, too. After writing four chick lit novels as Eileen Rendahl, my debut romantic suspense, HOLD BACK THE DARK, was released by Pocket Books on February 24 under the pen name Eileen Carr and my debut urban fantasy, DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER will be released by The Berkley Publishing Group in April of 2010.

Writing in different genres has definitely made me stretch some new writing muscles. For instance, that plotting muscle got quite the work out writing HOLD BACK THE DARK. It was sore for days. It hadn’t been completely unused, but it certainly didn’t have to work quite so hard when I was writing chick lit books. I’m working on DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER right now and my world building muscle hurts so much I can barely walk sometimes. Setting is always important to me and I used it extensively in my chick lit novels to strengthen the message I was trying to convey, but nothing like the burn I got writing about Chinese vampires living under the streets of Old Sacramento.

It’s always exciting for me to try new things and to get to new places in my writing. The part of this that really rocks, however, is the cross-pollination. I can see how what I learned about pacing and plotting while writing HOLD BACK THE DARK is making DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER a better book and the world-building I’ve done working on DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER is definitely having an impact on the richness of the setting in the romantic suspense proposal I’m working on now as well.

I may never be the kind of person who can focus on one thing long enough to be an expert, but I think there might well be an advantage to my dilletante-ish ways, too. Have you tried genre jumping? Do you think it helped your writing?

20 comments:

Molly O'Keefe said...

EILEEN!!! I can't wait to read these books - Chinese Vampires under a bridge? Of course! Do Me Do My Roots is one of my top ten books too and Eileen is pretty high on my list of great writer friends I have known!

It's been a long time since I've tried writing anything other than series romance and I do look forward to flexing new muscles or neglected muscles beause atrophy is the kiss of death for any writer.

Amy Ruttan said...

I do, do genre jumping. I have to so I can keep the muse fresh.

I think genre jumping can be done.

Eileen said...

The love is mutual, Miss Molly. I wish you could sit me down and give me a good long tutorial on creating romantic conflict. You are so good at it.

Amy, I agree. It does keep ideas firing. I think it also helps me to look at idea from a different perspective and get more out of them.

Maureen McGowan said...

Flexing all those different muscles is great, as long as you remember to stretch after. ;-)

For me, after writing in 1st person for a few books, writing in 3rd again, and having the flexibility of telling a story from multiple points of view was so freeing.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I have had to do a lot of genre jumping ... but that's just because my lines keep closing...

Not my fault. Not my fault. (Must say mantra ten times to believe it.)

Now I'm making another leap to historicals and Eileen I agree the world building (even though it is a real setting) is something else altogether. You can't get lazy. With anything or else readers will know.

I trust the DWTs opinion of authors in all cases so I will be adding the new release to the TBR.

Can't wait!

Steph

Scotti Cohn said...

I'm definitely into genre-jumping as a reader and a writer. Having six adult nonfiction books and one children's picture book (essentially nonfic but written in rhyme with a lyrical tone), I am now working on a fiction chapter book (for elementary school kids) and a YA novel. I read mystery, fantasy, Stephen King, and nonfiction (right now I'm reading Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach).

As a writer, however, I do think that one's initial foray into "another genre" can be difficult. You may have a list of publications a mile long in one genre, but that's not necessarily going to impress editors receiving your query letter for work in another genre.

Kathy Holmes said...

Eileen - you're my kinda a gal. :)

I've been trying my hand at writing in several genres and currently have romance, YA, and suspense wips - 2 under submission. I keep thinking I should choose 1 genre but am waiting to see which one I "break into." But maybe it's okay to be exploring several.

Great post. Thanks for stopping by DWT.

Barrie said...

Enjoyed your interview on Eileen Cook's blog. And enjoyed this interview too! Looking forward to reading one of your genre-jump books!

Maureen McGowan said...

Scotti, thanks for stopping by!

And you're right, I think, that it can be tricky.

Eileen... wondering if you can tell us: was the name change your idea or the publishers?

Are a lot of your chick lit fans following you into suspense? I know I will... but wondering if you've had any reactions out there or a feel for how it will go, yet.

Eileen said...

Stephanie,

I know it's not your fault. I don't remember the title of the Bombshell you wrote, but I remember reading it. The heroine had been an Olympic diver. I still remember the line, "How's the hand?" It was great.

Historicals? That takes bravery, in my opinion. It's hard enough to world build when you get to make up the details!

Eileen said...

Maureen,

The 1st person/3rd person tango! Ain't it fun? Bouncing between them was really challenging. I expected my first person experience would make my third person point of view deeper and richer, but it didn't always work that way. It took some practice and, frankly, a strong guiding hand from my editor.

We'll see how many people follow me from chick lit to romantic suspense. There are some people who read both, but I've had several friends tell me that they aren't planning on reading the romantic suspense because it's too dark and a few who are so excited that I'm writing darker books that they can't wait. I guess it's why we have vanilla and chocolate, eh?

The name change was a mutual choice. I'm not sure who brought it up first, but we all agreed it was the right choice.

Eileen said...

Scotti,

You're absolutely right. In fact, people (i.e., my agent and my editor) were very surprised when I told them what I was working on and seemed very tentative until they actually read it. THen everyone jumped on board. It was big switch so I can see why they were cautious at first. That said, we didn't send it to my editor until I had over 100 pages written for her to look at.

Eileen said...

Kathy,

That's kind of what happened to me. I wanted to try a new direction and was torn between the romantic suspense and the urban fantasy. We put them both out there and they both ended up selling. I'd wanted to be with two publishing houses for a while. There's not a lot of job security in the writing biz and I'm a single mom. This makes me feel a little more secure.

Stephanie Doyle said...

It really sort of lends itself to the idea - that writers really can do anything. If you're a born story teller - it's just in you to do it all. To tell any story.

Then it comes down to what you like, what you're best at and then hopefully "syncing up" (is that a word? should I know that?) with what's currently hot and selling.

Simple. Yah right.

Eileen said...

I think there's something to that. There are some fundamentals to storytelling that cross every genre. That said, I don't think my voice works in every genre.

Sinead M said...

Eileen, can't wait to read both books. The hook of Chinese vampires is amazing...
I see the link between paranormal and suspense, very similar story structures, but the leap from chick lit to suspense must have been strange.
Although having seen Maureen take the leap to paranormal, she made it look pretty easy, and I'm guessing you make it look easy too.

Eileen said...

Sinead,

It might look easy once the book is finished, but there were some ugly moments around here during the process! You're right about the link between the suspense and the paranormal books. I'm just finishing the paranormal one now and I really feel like it's a braid with the mystery element, the suspense element and the romance element all intertwining.

Eileen

Molly O'Keefe said...

I've been thinking about that voice and storytelling idea. I totally agree that good storytelling is good storytelling - but what I am wondering Eileen, was were you always interested in writing such varied kinds of stories? Because, truth is I really like writing, but I know I don't want to write some things - voice or no voice.

Marcy said...

Eileen,
I have to tell you that I received Do Me, Do My Roots at the RWA conference in Reno a few years ago and I LOVED it! One of the few books to ever make me cry. Nothing better than a good cry.


Marcy

Eileen said...

Molly,

I seem to have relatively little control over what stories pop in my head. Then there's the process of winnowing what idea can actually be made into a novel length story and which one of those I think could find a home. It's probably all backwards, but it's how it works for me.

Marcy,

You made my day. I loved that book, too. Thank you!

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