My first three published books are an epic fantasy trilogy. I’m not even sure how that happened, throughout my life I’ve really been much more of a sci-fi fan than a fantasy fan. I like a lot of fantasy, to be sure, and agree with the general opinion that “Lord of the Rings” is one of the greatest works of literature of all time, so I clearly appreciate the fantasy genre, but back when I imagined myself as an author, I always envisioned myself following in the footsteps of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. Maybe Ray Bradbury. Instead I ended up with something more like Robert E. Howard.
So now I’m moving on to a new book, and this time it’s going to be sci-fi. But after spending most of the last two years deeply immersed in a fantasy universe, I’m going to have to re-orient myself in a world governed by hard and fast physical laws.
But after some conversation with some writer friends, I’ve realized that moving into a new genre means more than just what sort of world the story is set. Also, my experience with my first epic series was that it may have veered a bit too far off the epic fantasy genre expectations for many readers. Instead of being set in a medieval world, with castles, knights, swords and sorcery, it started off in a stone-age culture, and the magic in it was unusual as well.
So, that has led me to a decision to do a bit more research about the current tastes and expectations of sci-fi. That means everything from what the book cover should look like, to what sort of blurb will draw attention to it, to the flavor of the story itself.
When I was writing “The War Chronicles” and some of my early alpha and beta readers warned me that it was bending genre expectations a bit much, my pride and ego got in the way and I, sometimes literally, scoffed at such concerns. I told myself that a good story will transcend genre expectations, and that I wanted to focus my creative talent on my story, not on conforming to people’s expectations.
After devoting years to that, and not finding a book publisher (although I did find an audio publisher) for my first series, I have decided that was probably not a great career decision. So, this time I’m going to do what I deliberately avoided last time. I’m going to research the genre, especially the top selling books in the genre, and while I’m going to have a unique story, where the story doesn’t require bending the genre expectations, I’m going to generally follow them. Just to see what happens with my next book.
Maybe that’s “selling out,” I dunno. I don’t think so. I think it’s just accounting for taste and trying to give readers what they want.
Stay tuned, we’ll see how it turns out this time.