"Writing in Multiple Genres" with Patricia Lucas White

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Moderator is Kristi Holl, web editor of this site and author of 24 books for children and teens, plus l50+ articles for adults and children. Kristi also taught writing courses for fifteen years.

Pat is Patricia Lucas White, who has published in six separate genres. Some of her books include To Last A Lifetime (historical romance), A Wizard Scorned (sci-fi/fantasy romance), The Legend of Lejube Rogue (western), P.S. I've Taken a Lover ( mainstream contemporary), and Fanged Justice (mystery).

Names in blue are viewers who had questions.

Interviews in the Professional Connection room begin at 9 Atlantic/Canada, 8 Eastern, 7 Central, 6 Mountain, and 5 Pacific.

Moderator: Good evening, everyone! I'm Kristi Holl, your moderator, and tonight I'm here with Patricia White, a writer who has published in six different genres, all without using a pen name, and is going to be talking with us about "Writing in Multiple Genres." Welcome, Pat!

Pat: Hi!

Moderator: Pat, how did you get started writing?

Pat: Once, in a time before time, my dad taught me how to read. After I read Dick and Jane, I was pretty sure I could do better.

Moderator: How many genres have you written and been published in?

Pat: I've been published in westerns, mystery, historical romance, fantasy romance, mainstream, and fantasy.

Moderator: Did you also write short stories for magazines in many genres?

Pat: Yes, I wrote flash fiction, mainstream, literary, and fantasy. And some combinations or cross-genre. I have also written how-to articles and lots of newspaper articles. I was a press secretary for a couple of politicians, a country western singer, and an artist.

JaciRae: Could you give us some names of your genre magazines?

Pat: I could, but very honestly, I think most of the magazines I wrote for have, shall we say, gone to their reward? I wrote for The Northwest Political Review. I also write for Crescent Blues, doing interviews and reviews. I wrote for a literary magazine called espain and for Millennium Magazine of SF/F.

Moderator: Can you define for our viewers "flash fiction," "mainstream", and "literary" magazine writing?

Pat: The flash fiction I wrote was very short, under a hundred words. I won second place in the Sapphire Awards with one that was 97 words. Literary pretty much means you use lots of big words and write so anyone who reads it can't understand it, but won't admit it. Like James Joyce's works. Mainstream is where everything goes that doesn't have a specific place to be.

Moderator: What made you decide to try so many genres, rather than finding a niche and sticking to it?

Pat: A very good friend of my tells me I'm unfaithful, but I think it's because I want to see if I can do that. I started writing poetry and found it was far too hard. I needed a bigger canvas for my word pictures. So then I went to fantasy, got an agent on my first try, and she convinced me that I should jump on the romance train. I was sure I could do that. She sold it to the first publisher she queried--on the basis of three chapters and a synopsis.

red2: Do you work on several projects at the same time or do you finish one before beginning another? Switching gears from one genre to another seems confusing and difficult.

Pat: I do write in more genres than one, and I do it at the same time. Right now, I'm writing Chapter 11 of a mystery--a fellow writer and I are writing together. At the same time, I'm polishing Book Two of my fantasy trilogy, Tales of the Penitent, and also working on a short story for an anthology. And I'm putting together a rough draft of a cross-genre book about a gunfighter and an elf.

Moderator: I'm just flabbergasted that you even write in more than one genre AT A TIME! My mind would never cooperate in doing that!

Pat: But it's easy. You just read and read in the genre until it's pouring out your ears.

Moderator: After publishing eight mysteries, I know that mysteries are much easier to write now than they used to be. Does it take a lot of extra time (learning time and writing time both) when you decide to switch genres?

Pat: Yes, it certainly takes a lot of time to learn the genres. I wouldn't consider writing a book in, say, Men's Action Adventure because I have never read more than a book or two there. Same with Science Fiction. I probably won't write a contemporary romance, but I might write a romantic suspense. I have to know what's supposed to be there before I write in that genre.

Moderator: Do you study books on writing romances, writing sci-fi/fantasy, and writing mysteries? And can you recommend some titles (if you know of any?)

Pat: Yes, I do study and I read in the genre. Writer's Digest puts out some good how-to books. But I think the best thing to do is go to the library and check out books until you find one that fills your need. Then get as many books (new ones) in that genre and read, then read some more; use colored markers to follow the plot, the subplot, the story arc, and then read some more. Then, if you think you can do it, write one in that genre.

JaneR: Can librarians help you find popular new books in various genres to study? Or how do you find the good ones to study?

Pat: Study the books on writing first. Then go to a bookstore for the next step; you don't want to deface library books. They will fine you. :-)

Moderator: Are there set "rules" for each genre that you must follow, like a romance must have a happy "boy gets girl" ending?

Pat: Yes, romances are formulaic. It's sort of like building a cake from scratch. You throw in a cute meet, a hunky hero, a lot of sexual tension, some odd words for male and female body parts, do a couple of almost couplings, and then do the deed.

Moderator: How about rules for fantasy writing?

Pat: Fantasy is less strict, but if you are going that route, you really need some good books on world building. The fantasy world must be consistent. The magic has to work according to the rules of the particular subgenre you are writing.

MBVoelker: You mean internal self-consistency? Keeping what happens in a fantasy believable according to the rules that particular world works by?

Pat: Yes, exactly. Fantasy comes in lots of subgenres. I write mostly high or quest.

Moderator: Do you belong to the various professional groups, like Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America? That would be a lot of dues to belong to them all!

Pat: I used to belong to RWA, Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, Rogue Writers, and a few more, but I can't see how they help after a certain point. Now, I belong to Electronically Published Internet Connection, Electronically Published Professionals, and a couple of others. I think when you are beginning, professional organizations are important.

Moderator: What's your favorite genre to write in, and why?

Pat: My answer to this is always the same. Whatever I'm writing in at the moment.

SaraJ: Do you outline? Do you know the ending before you start writing?

Pat: I make a scratch outline. I interview my characters. And yes, usually I know how it's going to end. In A Wizard Scorned, I dreamed the ending before I even knew I was going to write the book. I got up and wrote it down, then looked at it the next morning in wonder.

Moderator: What's the best thing about writing in multiple genres?

Pat: I never get bored. I always am excited about writing. I haven't, as yet, burned out or suffered writer's block.

Moderator: There is likely a downside, so what is it?

Pat: Oh, you don't build up much reputation, but I write for five or six publishers so I just send the appropriate genre to that publisher. I think I have a western coming out in the UK in large print and a historical romance coming out in trade and e-book this summer, and the second book of the fantasy trilogy.

Moderator: You mentioned earlier about getting an agent. Do you still have an agent?

Pat: Agents are so easy to get. Yes, I have one, but only for the mystery we are writing. Most of my other works, I've sold myself. That way I get to decide who gets what rights.

Kevin: We keep hearing that good agents are just as hard--or harder--to get than a publisher. Why do you say they're easy?

Pat: Mostly because I've never had any trouble getting one--keeping them is different. My first agent quit agenting to have a baby. My second one died. My third one was a drunk.

Moderator: Oh dear! That's a tough track record! Would most agents be open to their authors writing in so many genres, or would they care?

Pat: I didn't ask. I assume an agent is working for me--and since my work doesn't really fit into a niche, it works better if I do the querying. That's one reason I like e-publishing--the niches have much more room.

Moderator: What about editors? After publishing in one genre, are they supportive of you switching genres?

Pat: It doesn't matter because I don't use the same editors for different genres. Different publishers for different genres.

Moderator: What advice would you give to a writer who wants to try writing in multiple genres?

Pat: Read. Read the good books, the bad books. Read the reviews. Read the how-to's and know what the genres are.

Moderator: What about your fans? Don't they object (like when they look for more work by you, expecting maybe another fantasy, but end up with say, a western)?

Pat: No, my fans think I'm different, so they follow me and say, "I don't like fantasy, but..."

Moderator: Which genre sells best, in your experience?

Pat: Fantasy romance. Or a fantasy that has a romance. A Wizard Scorned has been on all kinds of bestseller lists, including Barnes & Nobel, Powells, Fictionwise, and others.

Moderator: What are you working on now (do you mind saying?)

Pat: The mystery that Diana Kirk and I are writing--it will be a series.

Moderator: Pat, is there a genre that you haven't written in that you'd like to try?

Pat: Right now I'm trying this cross genre thing about a drunken elf and a gunfighter. It's sort of a western fantasy.

writeup: Is it humor too? It sounds funny!

Pat: Not really. The Princess Trap isn't exactly funny. It's a first person narrative by the gunfighter and he is a man without a country. If you want humor, you should try The Godmother Sanction. It's about a woman who bought a magic wand at a yard sale, glued it back together, found her boyfriend in a compromising situation, and turned him into a toad. The fairy godmothers grabbed her, hauled her off to Faery, and accused her of carrying a wand without a license, and some other stuff.

Ole Woman: How easy or how difficult is it to write with a co-author?

Pat: I don't know. This is my first attempt. Di is an award winning mystery writer. I'm a former English teacher who likes things tidy. She probably has more trouble co-authoring than I do.

Moderator: Is there any genre that you will never write in?

Pat: I can't say that. I'm pretty sure I won't write erotica because I don't read it. Science fiction is probably beyond me, unless it was something silly. I don't know enough about law to write a lawyer book. There are many genres I won't try.

Moderator: Pat, in your opinion, can any writer write in multiple genres if he/she wants to?

Pat: Yes, if they are willing to do the scut work of learning what that genre is.

james55clinton: Do you recycle the same characters within a genre, or create completely new ones?

Pat: New ones. It would be really difficult to recycle. I write in the past, the present, and elsewhere.

Ole Woman: Does that mean we won't read anymore about Lolly Horn & Edgar?

Pat: Well, if I write another book about them, it will have to be a murder mystery. She'll kill him.

Moderator: Aren't some of your books actually a combination of two genres?

Pat: Oh, yes. Fantasy romance. The Princess Trap. And then there's P.S. I've Taken a Lover; that isn't exactly any genre. However, it is going to be made into a movie and every review it has on Amazon is a five star. It's a woman's book.

JaciRae: So for a combination genre, your book has to follow the "rules" of two genres simultaneously?

Pat: Yes, except there aren't any hard and fast rules as such. Call them conventions of the genre. But, remember, that within any genre, there are subgenres. For example, fantasy has dark, modern, urban, high, quest, and then it sort of drifts into horror.

BingoCliff: In your writing career, when did you decide to attempt writing in another genre? Or, was it always in your plans as a writer?

Pat: I didn't decide ahead of time. I just did it. I wanted to see if I could. I wrote my first western for audio and it sold.

Moderator: Could you name some of the genres and combination genres for us?

Pat: Fantasy/Romance, Fantasy (Quest), Fantasy/Western, Fantasy full cast audio script.

Moderator: What's the best advice you can give to a person who wants to be a writer?

Pat: Read! If it sound like I have a one track mind, I do. I don't see how anyone can write unless they read--and not just in the genre.

JaciRae: How many books in a new genre did you read before trying to write one?

Pat: I review books and read probably a book a day. I have a degree in English so I've read forever. I can't come close to answering your question, but when the first agent wanted me to write a romance, I went to used book stores and bought about thirty and tore them to pieces to see how they were constructed.

Moderator: I think that wraps it up for tonight. Pat, thank you so much for sharing with us tonight. I think people will be encouraged to break out of their molds now, if they want to write in a variety of genres. I know it's given ME a few ideas!

Pat: My fingers are getting tired, but I want to thank everyone who ventured into the chat room. I had fun, and I hope you did too. Thank you again, and good-bye for now.

Moderator: Do come back in two weeks when author Ernest Volkman will be discussing "Writing for Newspapers." Ernie is a former prize-winning National Correspondent for Newsday. Currently a freelance author and journalist, his work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, ranging from Omni to the New York Times. He is also the author of eleven nonfiction books. If you want to write for newspapers, from features to columns to human interest stories (whether local, state, or nationally) you won't want to miss this interview! And now, good night, everyone!

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