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Writer’s Corner Guest Post: Straddling and Jumping Genres – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Author: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Also by this author: Haunting Investigation

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Straddling and Jumping Genres

by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, author of Living Spectres

Genres, or categories, are found throughout the world of fiction publishing, and they include, along with fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, adventure, young adult, historical, romance, westerns, paranormal, tie-ins and derivatives, historical, and surreal, the more formidable (profitable) categories of block-buster, best-seller, and literary fiction.  I listed fantasy first because all fiction, by definition, is fantasy, meaning the writer made it up.

In my forty-eight years of professional writing, I’ve dabbled in many of these genres, and have often incorporated two — and on occasion three — genres into one work.  I don’t necessarily do it on purpose, but often my work comes out that way.  There is no reason not to mix genres except that some of the promotional departments at publishing houses don’t like it because it makes their jobs more difficult in terms of marketing, although I don’t get quite why, since marketing in two genres might be expected to improve sales.  The claim is that there is a bigger risk to double-market a novel, but that has never made any sense to me, and it continues to  baffle me.  If you can sell a book in two markets, why shy away from a potentially expanded readership?  I have never heard a reasonable explanation for this argument.

One of the reasons that much of my work is in the horror genre is that horror is a much more fluid genre than most others.  You can do horror mysteries, horror romances, horror science fiction, horror fantasies, horror westerns, horror young adults, and — my own personal favorite — historical horror.  I also like taking well-established fictional tropes and turn them inside-out, back-to-front, upside-down, and reverse-roles, which is why, in the Saint-Germain series, the vampire is the good guy and the living people are much more frightening than he is.  It is also why in my new Chesterton Holte, gentleman haunt, series, the ghost is helpful and well-intentioned.   His living partner, being a young woman of the upper class who has decided against the usual course for women, at 24/25, is a newspaper reporter recently assigned to the crime desk, where she has always wanted to be; and, modern woman of the time that she is, she doesn’t believe in ghosts.  I enjoy working on both series because I can move around in them fairly easily, using many diverse elements in the Saint-Germain books, and solid (I hope) mystery structures in Chesterton Holtes.  And, of course, both series are historicals.  The Saint-Germains jump around through time, while the first two Chesterton Holte tales — Haunting Investigation and Living Spectres —  are set in Philadelphia in 1924.  Both series require a lot of research, which is fine with me; I like research.

Going from genre keeps me fresh in my work, and it gives me a chance to reach more than one audience, which — given the state of genre markets — gives me a fall-back position when one genre goes into decline.  It’s a pretty exciting way to be able to work, and for those writers inclined to it, I recommend genre jumping and genre straddling.


We hope you have enjoyed this article “Straddling and Jumping Genres” from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro!

We appreciate her taking the time to share her thoughts on writing fiction.

Please take a moment to check out her most recent book, Living Spectres, which released on November 1, 2016. A review of this book will be coming soon on our site.

Living Spectres cover

About Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

A professional writer for more than forty years, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has sold over eighty books, more than seventy works of short fiction, and more than three dozen essays, introductions, and reviews. She also composes serious music. Her first professional writing – in 1961-1962 – was as a playwright for a now long-defunct children’s theater company. By the mid-60s she had switched to writing stories and hasn’t stopped yet.

After leaving college in 1963 and until she became a full-time writer in 1970, she worked as a demographic cartographer, and still often drafts maps for her books, and occasionally for the books of other writers.

She has a large reference library with books on a wide range of subjects, everything from food and fashion to weapons and trade routes to religion and law. She is constantly adding to it as part of her on-going fascination with history and culture; she reads incessantly, searching for interesting people and places that might provide fodder for stories.

Photo Credit: Charles Lucke


Jen Schaper
I am a mom of three kids, a wife, and a wannabe author. For Books That Hook, I review books, create features and discussions, design the website, and do all the administrative stuff.

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