Stanley Kubrick with camera, 1949. Photo from Wikimedia Commons
BEING A MULTI-GENRE AUTHOR:
IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
When I set out to self-publish in 2012, I thought deep and hard as to how I was going to present myself as an author: would I change my name for each series and write in multiple genres, have a few pen names while writing in a specific style for each of them or go with my own name and just write? In the end, I decided to go with the latter while realizing my novels were in many different genres of fiction.
The method to my madness in doing this — after I’d contemplated about it as a strategy — was I wanted to keep my integrity as an artist and go forward with my own style. I’d read many blog posts and articles on the internet, stating you had to have a pen name for each genre you wrote in if you wanted success as a writer or, at the very least, just to stick to one genre. I didn’t want to go down that path, however — it was too conservative for me, a little unadventurous and without the added fun of knowing there was a risk factor to it all. And so, from that day on, I have used my own name and at the same time writing about whatever comes into my mind.
‘Many writers are prolific across different genres but to keep fans from being confused, authors us separate names, so readers know what they are getting.’
— - Joanna Penn
As an author, I write neo-noir style crime fiction, social black comedies, horror stories, epic historical fiction — many of which take on a political bent — as well as short stories on any number of genres. For the average author, especially an indie author, this approach would be a bad one. Most of the successful writers I have either read or heard of keep to a specific genre and write what they know about and what their audience wants to read: James Patterson, is a case in point: he sticks to a tried and tested formula which works for him. Now a writer factory, of sorts, he sells thousands upon thousands of copies a month with the help of co-authors. Mark Dawson, an indie author of exciting crime fiction of the John Milton and Beatrix Rose series, has found success in one genre and capitalized on it. Joanna Penn, an indie publishing advocate who publishes books about the business using her own name while putting out thrillers and dark fantasies under the name J.F Penn, is another. Over the years, I have tried to emulate these writers’ business strategies with minimum success — I do believe that publishing under various genres using my own name has harmed my potential sales. From the very beginning, however, my rationale for this approach has been as follows:
AT THE MOVIES
There exists, I believe, film directors who never stick to a single genre: Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Brian DePalma and Danny Boyle being just four. This eclectic artistry has never affected their popularity nor the quality of their work, so why is it publishing professionals always say to be a successful author we must use one name for one genre when in the film industry it is clearly different? The answer is, of course, for branding. But why does this not apply to the movie industry? Sure, there are directors who stick almost exclusively to one type of film: J.J Abrams in the action/science fiction blockbuster, Tim Burton in dark, gothic fantasy and John Carpenter in the horror flick, but I’m sure if these directors attempted to make a movie in another genre none of the bigwigs sitting in the boardrooms at the Hollywood film studios who bankroll these auteurs’ films would bat an eyelid.
Money, I doubt not, would be put on the table.
STANLEY KUBRICK IN MY DREAMS
From the very beginning of my ‘career’, I have wanted to create a brand, but the brand has always been in myself. I suppose you can say in one respect I have strived to be a Stanley Kubrick of the written word, expressing my ideas and stories — be them set in 18th Century Ireland as in the gothic horror The Legend of Montpelier Hill or Birmingham, England in 1985 with the social satire novel Mister Blue Sky — as they happen. Times and places, characters, political events and the rest are just the backdrops to the art, the semiosis I envisaged when putting pen to paper. Whatever era the work is set in, it is just a convenient track for my locomotive of creativity to travel along.
‘If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.’
— - Stanley Kubrick
THE NAME I WAS BORN WITH
As long as I write fiction, I shall continue to be a multi-genre author with the name I was born with clearly visible on the dust jacket. Already I have one book published that is very different in subject and style to others in my publishing pipeline: the neo-noir hardboiled crime fiction novella The Desert Dago. The political history novel of Uruguay, The Red Masks of Montevideo, set in Uruguay in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as Black Ghost, another book set in South America — this time in Paraguay and Bolivia during the Gran Chaco War in the early 1930s, are vastly different in subject and style to The Desert Dago. Dog Station, a western set before and during the California Goldrush of 1848, is in its first draft stage, and again, its topic and style are very different from anything I have written in the past.
In the future, I have many ideas for stories, some of which have yet to be put to paper, one a political espionage murder mystery set in East Berlin in the mid-1980s which I already know the title of: Blue Trabant. Another, a crime caper which takes place in London and Venice in 1995 and includes the character of Roderick Broderick, an Irish journalist kidnapped by an Italian secret society. These, I hope, will be my own literary attempts at movies as great as Spartacus, Barry Lyndon or even Full Metal Jacket.