What do my readers want from me? In today’s publishing climate, we’re often afraid to give something new a try, afraid of losing our readers, our followers, our mojo even. Sometimes our publishers are afraid as well, using the word “brand” to help us shape our new books. Staying within genre makes sense, but it’s not always possible. Especially when we have a story we want to tell that falls outside certain industry parameters. (I have a few floating around myself.)
Today we have with us, Laura Drake, multi-published, award-winning, romance author whose first women’s fiction title is releasing today! She wonders if fans of her romance novels will read her women’s fiction. Will the new readers she acquires with this book pop over and give her romance novels a try? Below, Laura shares with us her excitement and her fears for her new journey. She’s also sharing an short excerpt.
Please welcome Laura Drake to WFW! And tell us what you think, in the comments.
Do Readers Cross the Romance/WF Line?
By Laura Drake
This is a question I’ve had since I began writing. See, I write in the ditch between Romance and Women’s Fiction. I didn’t set out to do that, my stories just come out that way. Half the editors who read my first book (and RITA winner *pause for a squee*) thought it was WF, half believed it was romance. I wrote it thinking it was WF. It sold as Romance, and with a few changes, it started me on the road to two contracts with two publishers, for a total of seven romances.
I just completed both of those contracts (whew!) and I didn’t have to think about what was next. See, I’ve had an idea for a book for years. You know, the one that keeps tapping your consciousness, saying, ‘I’m here. I’m waiting.’ I finally couldn’t resist any longer – see, this was my sister’s book. The baby sister I lost to cancer, twenty-six years ago. I wrote it in a blizzard of emotion, the story pouring out of me in ways that surprised me. The plot is not autobiographical in the least, but the underlying theme is (don’t you love when that happens?). When it was done, I felt it was a fitting tribute to the most important person in my life. I love this book.
But. I’d written it from the inside out; I hadn’t thought for a moment about the market. There is no romance in this book. Oh, the reader could foresee a future with the protagonist and her partner in the arena, but I give no hints of that on the pages. This is a sister story. I’ve steered out of the trench between Romance and WF for this one – it’s pure WF.
Will my readers follow me?
New York says no. They believe that the two genres, although they may have a small pour-over readership, are distinct and separate. And never the twain shall meet.
I’m not sure I agree. I think readers follow voice. Anyone who’s read any of my romances will recognize my voice in Days Made of Glass. It has deep seated issues and big conflict. (You don’t take Laura’s word for it, there’s an excerpt below! ASN)
I’m a reader too, and I’ve followed authors as they’ve crossed genres. Many I’ve stuck with, a few I haven’t. It depends – romance to pure suspense? I didn’t. But then, I don’t care much for the suspense genre (personal preference). Romance to WF or vice versa? I’m all over it. But then, I love both genres, so that’s no testimonial.
So I polled a few friends. Some would jump genres, some would not.
I took a completely informal poll on Facebook. The results surprised me – there were a few readers of romance and WF, who wouldn’t read the other. But they were outliers on the curve. The vast majority of the respondents said they’d read both. A caveat here (hey, I’m was a bean-counter in my career and I loved stats, okay?) these are MY followers only, and since historically I’ve written romance that leans toward WF, my FB followers may be more likely to be that type of reader.
I think it’s more about what you’re looking for in a read. Wanting to escape? Having lots of drama in your life? You may not want more – in that case, you may veer to romance. Looking to find someone worse off than you? (hey, don’t laugh, I’ve done it!), you may want WF.
So, readers, what do you think? Do readers cross the Romance/WF line? Do you?
Excerpt from Days Made of Glass:
A half mile down the road, she reached the yard, littered with fire trucks and police cars, strobes flashing. Leaping the ditch, she scrabbled through the weeds on the other side, her eyes locked on the flame-licked smoke pouring from the broken windows of the porch. Angel!
A yellow-coated fireman backed out the front door holding the handles of a stretcher. A limp, blanket-shrouded body came next, another firefighter hefting the trailing end. Harlie’s vision narrowed to a tunnel. She dropped the backpack as her legs buckled. She fell to her knees, fingers clenching the dusty soil. Her panicked brain took a second to process what she was seeing.
When her starved lungs hitched a breath, dizziness receded and the world righted.
Where is Angel? She leapt up and ran to where a fireman stood, shouting into a two-way radio. She snatched at his arm and he started.
“My sister.” She screamed up at him. “My sister’s in there!”
Arms grabbed her from behind and she twisted, fighting.
“She’s not!” His fingers dug into the flesh of her arms. “She’s okay. Calm down.”
Harlie stopped struggling and he let go. She whirled, chest heaving. “Where?”
The uniformed cop pointed to the side yard.
She dashed around the corner of the house. Angel, blanket-wrapped and clutching a dirty child, stepped out of the barn, led by a fireman. Sound, previously dulled by fear, surged to full volume. Water blasted the side of the house with a liquid roar. Men shouted. A lone siren wailed a warning in the distance, getting closer.
Angel’s gaze fastened on Harlie. Prying the sobbing child’s arms from her neck, Angel handed her to the fireman, then ran to launch herself into her sister’s arms.
Harlie was shorter than most of her classmates but at thirteen, Angel’s head still fit easily under her chin. The scent of smoke drifted off her sister’s hair — musty ash with the bite of alkaline, leaving a taste like spent adrenaline in Harlie’s mouth. She ran her hands over her sister’s bony back, still reeling from the gaping hole of a future without Angel.
Laura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance. In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours. www.LauraDrakeBooks.com @PBRWriter