My debut novel, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, is a classic whodunnit mystery novel. There’s a brilliant detective and her erstwhile assistant. There’s a gruesome murder. There’s a suspicious grieving widow, a conniving mistress, and a slimy creditor. It has all the elements of a by the numbers detective yarn.
It also has some more elements. A lot more elements.
The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is a genre smash to say the least! I’m telling a coherant and full murder mystery at the same time as a fantasy novel filled with wonderous creatures and strange magic. And as if that wasn’t enough, I also thought it would be a good idea to write relationship driven, very personal character arcs for the two leads that have a beginning, middle, and end… and while we’re here, let’s throw in an overarching narrative with conspiracies and ecomonic depression and feuding political ideologies and… geez!
I love genre-mashing, but it’s tough! You need to provide what your reader is looking for in every element you’re covering. I knew that to do it well, I had to identify just what those things were.
I tried to pinpoint the most important elements of each of the different genres I was pulling together and incorporated them. But even that was a challenge! If I included every major expected beat from all of my genres separately, the book would be way too cluttered. So then there was combining my touchstones into macro-events, trying to handle multiple genre expectations in the same scene, finding places that the genres overlapped so one beat could pull double duty…
It’s hard to tell what you really have until someone else sees it. I remember finishing my first draft, both elated and terrified. I had finished a novel, and I thought it was good… maybe. Or maybe it was a completely unreadable mess that was trying to be too many things at once. What if my genre stew disappointed mystery fans and fantasy fans at the same time?
But no! What a relief it’s been to have so many people tell me that they loved the way I combined all the different elements together. And I think the key was that I always kept in mind that to tell so many stories at once, I had to juggle them all with equal respect.