Guest Post: Susan Royal Discusses Genre Fiction

Today I’m doing my first blog swap. Susan came to discuss genre fiction here, and you can find me talking about the origin of my novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud here.

In many ways, writing is even more interesting than reading. When you find a book on a shelf, you usually have a good idea what type (or genre) of book you’re holding. The cover image, blurb, publisher, and author gives the clues we need to decide if we’re looking at a mystery or a western, a fantasy or a thriller. When writing, often times you may have a character in mind who needs to tell his story, but you only have a faint idea of what will happen in the story. At least that’s how it works for me. And what happens when you’ve created a heroine, you know she’s going on an epic adventure, but after you start writing you realize she’s going to meet a love interest along the way?

Sometimes genre can get blurry. This becomes a challenge when you’ve advanced beyond the writing stage and started marketing your book to potential publishers, or later still when you’re trying to find your target audience. Today’s guest blogger, Susan Royal, has written books that blur the genre lines, and she’s going to discuss the challenges she’s faced as an author. Now I’ll turn the keyboard over to Susan.

The Encarta dictionary on my computer defines the word genre as this: one of the categories, based on form, style, or subject matter, into which artistic works of all kinds can be divided. For example, the detective novel is a genre of fiction. While that definition works pretty good most of the time (fantasy, scifi, time travel, adventure, romance, action, thriller, horror) what happens when a novel blurs the lines?

Traditionally, romance involves chivalry and adventure. In modern writing, it tends to be a story about character development and interpersonal relationships rather than adventures. It has produced a wide array of subgenres, the majority of which feature the mutual attraction and love of a man and a woman as the main plot, and have a happy ending.

You have mystery and horror, which can also have supernatural and/or fantasy elements. Then there’s history and alternate history. Fantasy can include SF elements or fit into an Urban fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic/high fantasy sub-genre.

Crime stories often falls into the Action or Adventure genres. In an Adventure the protagonist journeys to epic or distant places to accomplish something. In an action story the protagonist usually takes a risky turn, which leads to desperate situations (including explosions, daring escapes, etc.). Action and Adventure are usually categorized together (sometimes even as “action-adventure“)

Science fiction is similar to fantasy, except stories in this genre use scientific understanding to explain the universe where it takes place. It generally includes or is centered on the presumed effects of computers or machines; travel through space, time or alternate universes; alien life-forms; genetic engineering; or other such things. The science or technology used may or may not be very thoroughly elaborated on; stories whose scientific elements are reasonably detailed, well-researched and considered to be relatively plausible given current knowledge and technology are often referred to as hard science fiction.

A Thriller is a story that is usually a mix of fear and excitement. It has traits from the suspense genre and often from the action, adventure or mystery genres, but the level of terror makes it borderline horror fiction at times as well. It generally has a dark or serious theme, which also makes it similar to drama.

My first book was a time travel with action, adventure, history and romance in fairly equal doses. If I promo it as a time travel, some readers might assume it’s heavy on the scifi and avoid it like the plague, while others are going to read it and say, ‘it’s not what I’d call scifi at all.’ If I call it a romance, I’m going to lose male readers who wouldn’t be caught touching that kind of book with a ten foot pole, and others won’t like it because it’s not the kind of romance they’re used to reading.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of action, and I did a lot of research in order to make sure medieval references were as accurate as I could get them, but it’s not a historical novel. I try to incorporate as much action as possible to keep my readers engaged, but only enough to move the story forward.

My books have been called Young Adult, but truthfully they are more on the adult side of the genre. My main characters are in their twenties and testing the waters of adulthood for the first time. Are you beginning to see my dilemma?

Think of your favorite author. Chances are, seeing their name on the cover is all it takes for you to know just what kind of book its going to be. But an author like me is just getting started, and hasn’t established that kind of presence yet. It’s important to promote yourself in the best possible way to draw readers to your books. That’s why I find it so difficult to pick one particular genre and stick with it. For one thing, it’s not the way I write.

One of my favorite authors is Ilona Andrews, a husband-wife writing team, who meshes action and romance in their urban fantasy series. He, I’m assuming, writes the action in great detail, down to the weaponry, while she handles the relationships. It works out great. I love reading Susanna Kearsley’s books. She writes paranormal mysteries with romance. Diana Gabaldon is another favorite of mine. When she began writing her famous Outlander series, she encountered the same problem I did. Her books didn’t fit into any specific genre. They were filled with history, adventure, romance and the underlying theme is always time travel. No one knew where to market them. But they caught on and now it doesn’t really matter. If you’re a Diana Gabaldon fan, you’ll know what I mean. Robert McCammon is another talented author. His books are more likely to fit into one certain genre, but each book varies and are all done with his unique twist.

I guess it all boils down to this. Write the kind of book you love to read. If it blurs the lines, try not to stress over it. These days, most books do. Work hard at getting exposure through promotion and have patience. Your readers will come back for more.

In My Own Shadow:


Talk about the worst day ever! Lara lets her friend Carrie talk her into a blind date, only it turns out the handsome stranger waiting for Lara after work isn’t Carrie’s cousin after all. And, when they’re chased through a portal to another world, Lara realizes Rhys really is out of this world.

Lyra, her alternate in another dimension, has left clues to the whereabouts of the Book of Secrets that explains the mystery of time travel in Lara’s subconscious.  Or so Rhys thinks. Power-hungry telepaths pursuing them will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means breaking Lara’s mind. To complicate matters, Lara gets tangled up in her feelings for Rhys while exploring her connection with Lyra.

With Rhys as her guardian, a bear of a man named Azle to guide her, and the spirit of Lyra haunting her dreams, Lara must find the Book of Secrets before it falls into the hands of those who want its power.  Only then can she return to her world safely.


About the Author:


Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan makes her home in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town that comes complete with a female ghost who has been known to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar.

Susan is married, with three children and four grandchildren. Her family is rich with characters, both past and present. She spent her childhood listening to her grandmother’s stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory with three sisters and three brothers and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century.  Her father shared stories of growing up in San Antonio in the depression, and through her mother’s eyes she experienced how it felt to be a teenager during WWII.

Her newest, In My Own Shadow, is a Fantasy adventure/romance. Her first book, Not Long Ago, is a time travel adventure/romance. Both ebooks are available through MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N.  She is currently working on a sequel to Not Long Ago, because her daughter insisted there was still more of Erin and Griffin’s story to tell, and she was right.


In My Own Shadow (fantasy, adventure, romance)

Not Long Ago (time travel, adventure, romance)

Not Long Ago book trailer

Both books available at MuseItUp, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads

13 responses to “Guest Post: Susan Royal Discusses Genre Fiction

  1. Thanks for joining me, Susan. You know, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. One of the problems he has marketing his books (as if the best selling author ever has trouble marketing a book) is people see his name and think horror. Even though he has a large collection of titles that are not horror. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption jumps to mind…although The Sisters are certainty an element of horror.


  2. I agree that genres can be so expansive!! Good point about Stephen King, Eric.

    Wow, Susan, your book sounds right up my alley, AND I love the cover!! 😉


  3. You are so right, Eric. How about The Green Mile? Isn’t that his?
    Thanks, Erin. I just finished a sequel to Not Long Ago. My daughter was right. There’s a lot more story to tell.


    • Erin–I can’t mention enough how great all the MIU covers look.

      Susan–Yes, The Green Mile, Joyland, Wind Through the Keyhole (really the whole Dark Tower series), 11/22/63, Blockade Billy, Duma Key all lack any real horror. And that’s just the more recent books.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Mary. That’s true, if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, what’s the point. That’s why I stopped writing non-fiction. I lost interest in it (if it ever did interest me). If you don’t enjoy writing it, your readers will know, and they won’t enjoy reading it.


  4. Thanks so much, Susan. My thanks also to everyone who stopped by and to Eric for having me. It’s always great fun for me to talk about something I love…writing. It’s such a part of my life I’d be lost without it.


  5. Pingback: Guest Post: Katie Carroll author of Elixir bound | Eric Price

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