Following Authors Across Genre

I was, for some reason, thinking about J.K. Rowling this morning, and wondering if she’s disappointed in the sales for her latest book, The Casual Vacancy. Sales for it have been decent, more than decent, really, but 120,000 copies in your first week when your last book sold 2.6 million copies its first week is quite the difference.

I haven’t read it; I probably never will. Its plotline and genre do not appeal to me, so even though I enjoyed the Harry Potter series rather a lot (as you can see by reading the re-read posts and various other Potter-related bits that have popped up here on the blog over the years) and think she’s an excellent author, exceptionally skilled, especially in foreshadowing and characterization, she’s lost me as a reader on this particular book.

This reminded me of a conversation we had on my writing forum a while ago, about whether or not you’d follow an author across genres. Like, say, your favorite fantasy author starts writing political intrigue set in rural England.

The answer seems to be…maybe, but it depends.

Most people pick what to read based off genre. They read mostly romance, or science fiction, or mystery. There’s elements of the genre that appeal to that person, and they stick to what they like. Reading is supposed to be fun, after all. Sure, occasionally people will pick something up that’s out of their comfort range for whatever reason, but that doesn’t tend to be the bulk of their reading.

If someone especially likes an author’s work, it seems like a reader will follow them to related genres, but if the author strays too far, the reader will normally stop following them after a while. In my own personal experience, the works of Jennifer Crusie have done this. I love Jenny; I think she’s witty and brilliant and I would like to grow up to be her. She writes primarily romance, with some romantic thrillers or paranormal romance thrown in. Lovely. But in early 2010, she and Bob Mayer (who had collaborated together before, and I really adore Agnes and the Hitman) put out a straight thriller, and as much as I love them, I wouldn’t follow them there. They’d gone too far.

Asimov wrote fantasy too, but no one really ever talks about it.

What do you think, Squiders? Would you follow your favorite author no matter where they went, or is there a point where you think you would stop? Have you stopped? What was the line that could not be crossed?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christopher on 2012/12/06 at 3:02 PM

    I’ve followed Stephen King for… thirty-plus years, now, and he does some genre-wandering. I haven’t read everything he ever wrote– the non-fiction thing about baseball? No. His Bachman book “Blaze,” no. Everything else, yes. (Even his short stories, and I don’t like short stories at all.) He rarely disappoints, and of the novels of his I’ve read are… I think five that I don’t re-read.

    I followed Heinlein wherever he went. No disappointments.

    Like you, though, I’ve no interest in “the Casual Vacancy,” despite regular re-reads of the Potter books. I agree, that was too much of a departure from the fantasy world of Harry Potter.

    Cross from genre to genre seems fine to me– King wanders a lot, Heinlein moved from fantasy to science fiction and back, Jim Butcher’s done “high fantasy” and “urban fantasy.” The thing is, those guys? They stayed in the same broad category, mostly Rowling did a radical departure, and she lost readers because of it. I just hope she understands that it’s not about her talent– it’s about our tastes.

    Reply

  2. I think it depends on the author. Harry Potter was such a worldwide phenomenon I think it’ll take some time for JK Rowling to establish herself fully in another genre. I do think its admirable she’s trying to do something different, she must know what challenges that’ll bring – she’s a smart lady.
    I can’t think of any genre wandering authors I follow right now…but then I suppose most stick to one they’re good at. Hmm.

    Reply

  3. I must have missed that straight thriller I put out with Jenny Crusie in 2010. Since our last book was in 2008 and was paranormal romance. Perhaps you’re thinking of someone else?

    Reply

    • Good morning, Mr. Mayer. I admit I’m a little giddy that you’re here, so thank you for stopping by. I was referring to Wild Ride, which according to Amazon and Ms. Crusie’s website, was published in 2010, and I understand that it’s not so much a romance as much as a book about fighting demons. “Thriller” may not have been the most appropriate genre label for it.

      Reply

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