Guest Post: Debbie Johnson on Writing in Different Genres

Monday, 27 October 2014
The dead don't like to be ignored…

Jayne McCartney, Liverpool's only female private eye, is soon to get a crash course in this and other ghost-related facts.

Until now she’s kept her snooping firmly to the dodgy, sometimes dangerous – but definitely human – Liverpool underworld. But that all changes when an elderly couple approach her with a terrifying story…

Their daughter, a 19-year-old student, died falling from her halls’ window. But she didn't jump, they insist – she was pushed. By a ghost. And when Jayne discovers that the spooky Hart house has seen more than its fair share of tragic deaths, she can't help but get drawn in…

Who or what is walking the halls of Hart House? And will this case end up haunting Jayne forever…?

You know that phrase about wearing different hats in life? Well when it comes to writing, I need quite an extensive hat collection!

For my crime thriller, Fear No Evil, I’d perhaps stick with a classic detective look – a battered fedora! For my fantasy work, I could go full-on wizard. And for my romance, given the nature of that particular genre, perhaps a nice wedding veil?

In reality, of course, I don’t usually wear a hat when I’m writing at all – apart from one time last winter when the boiler broke down! But mentally, I do need to be able to switch between them with some speed. I’ve just come out of a period where I was completing the edits on my second urban fantasy (Dark Touch, out on Del Rey UK in March); putting the finishing touches to Fear No Evil (a supernatural thriller set in Liverpool, out now on Maze/Avon), and promoting my first chick-lit (Cold Feet At Christmas, Nov 6 on HarperImpulse).

It was about as confusing as it sounds – i.e., very!

Most people think I’m mad writing in different genres, and it is hard work – especially when it comes to the ‘business end’ of promoting them to different audiences. But while people focus on the differences between them, there are also similarities – for any book to be successful, no matter what the genre, you need the basic ingredients of plot, character, and what they call in the business, ‘voice’ – in other words, a style of writing that is uniquely yours.

While Jayne McCartney, the former police officer turned private eye who is the lead of Fear No Evil, seems to have little in common with my other heroines (a pop writer who discovers she’s a Goddess and a heartbroken bride-to-be), I’m sure they could have a great night out in the pub together!

They all have a great sense of humour, they’re all tough in their own way, and they’re all facing battles – though some are more bloody than others! And I suspect the pub they’d meet up in would be in Liverpool, which is where two out of the three are set.

Even though I write in different genres, there are certain unifying characteristics that I suspect people who read all three would spot: strong female leads, an eye for a gag in even the darkest of situations, and the ability to (hopefully) recreate a powerful and atmospheric location on the page.

That said, maybe I am mad. But ultimately, I read so many different types of books myself, and don’t like being pigeon-holed as just ‘a crime reader’, ‘a fantasy reader’, or a ‘chick lit reader’ – and the same applies to my writing.

Anyway. I’m off to the hat shop now...maybe I need to pick up nice stetson and work on a western!

Thanks to Debbie Johnson for the guest post.

Fear No Evil is out now and you can read my review for it on the blog this week.

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