Thursday, October 27, 2011

Welcome to the Family

So what is it? Multiple Personality Disorder, or Multiple Pen Name Syndrome? Whichever, it’s what happens when the urge hits to you to write in multiple genres. Lots of fun for the creativity. Not so hot for sales.

I’m one of those folks who writes as the ideas strike me. I used to write science fiction and fantasy. I still knock out a fantasy story occasionally. I’ve got an entire series abandoned in my closet. Maybe I’ll go back to it some day.

For now I’ve jumped genres into paranormal romance. Same general conventions and storylines, just more emphasis on sex. However, there are a ton of subgenres, and I’ve got ideas for several of them. Therein lies the problem.

When I started writing romance, I went with traditional M/F. Then I got an idea for an M/M story. Then another M/M story hit. That spawned an idea for an M/M/F sequel. I’ve currently got notes for an M/M/M and at least three other M/Ms in a holding pattern in my head, along with about half a dozen M/Fs I really should get to at some point. Then there’s the entire M/F novel sitting in the closet awaiting rewrite. Plus the fantasy novel awaiting a chapter overhaul, but that’s another genre.

What I didn’t realize, until a publisher pointed it out to me, is that each subgenre has its own set of fans with their own tastes and expectations, and they won’t necessarily follow an author into different waters. For example, my M/F followers must have been thrown for a loop when I published my first M/M. (“What the hell is this? Where’s the woman? What are these two guys doing to each other?”) Conversely, I’ll bet the readers I picked up with my two M/Ms were confused as all get out by my M/F backlist. (“What’s he doing with a woman? Why isn’t he with the other guy?”) Can’t wait to see what the M/M/F does to both parties.

In short, I’ve splintered my readership. I’m slowly building a following, but I’ve fractured it between two subgenres. Hopping around has been a blast creatively, but it doesn’t do squat for the checkbook.

Which is why I’ve decided to go the pen name route.

I know, I know. I should have done that to start with, when I broke my M/F pattern with that first M/M. Well, better late than never. The M/M/F will be under my established name, Pat Cunningham. So will its sequel, which fortunately turned out to be M/F. Pat started as an M/F writer, and that’s where she’s going to stay. The next and subsequent M/Ms that come out of my laptop will have a different name on them. That should clear up any confusion.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. Those SF/F stories were published under a “P. E. Cunningham” byline. When I switched to romance I went with Pat to differentiate the genres, so anyone looking for my SF stuff wouldn’t get put off by the sex. To really confuse things, I wrote a horror story. Imagine looking for fantasy or paranormal romance from me and finding serial killers instead. Talk about alienating the readership.

So, if it all pans out, my little writing family will be growing. The first me, P.E., still writes the occasional fantasy story. My twin sister Pat writes M/F paranormal romance. Our illegitimate half-sister Jenna Wolf, who showed up unexpectedly at the door one day, writes M/M paranormal romance. Our evil half-brother, Gerald S. Parker, writes horror, and never remembers our birthday. I’ve been thinking about tailoring one of those M/Fs for Harlequin’s Nocturne line. I don’t know if they’ll require a different name or not. Cousin Dana Stewart, who also writes M/F paranormal romance, is standing by just in case.

Unless I wake up tomorrow morning and decide to start writing mysteries. Better flip through the phone book again.


Pat C. said...

Update: just found out the anthology that bought "Gerry's" horror story last year has been cancelled, so his career's back to square one. Even changing your name doesn't guarantee success in this business.

Savanna Kougar said...

Good gosh almighty, Pat, P.E., I'm lost in those alternate-name woods, which is probably good because as a reader I'll only care about which genre/sex orientation your book is...

Well, at this point I'm not giving up my pen name to distinguish between m/f erotic romances and the menages I write... it's all about the heroine being the focus.

However, I do have some erotic romances written in the nineties that if I Indie-pub them, I will likely use another pen name. Simply because both the writing style and the approach/premise are highly experimental.

So, anyhoo... I guess I'm pen-name trapped.

Pat C. said...

I think you're okay with one name for M/F and female-oriented menages. However, I'm doing guy on guy stuff so that should probably be separate. As long as my real name's on the check, I don't care what the byline is.

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, yeah, I agree. A separate pen name for the manlove genre is best for the reasons you've stated.

It is kinda strange though. Actors get to play various roles, so why not authors... of course, sometimes fans don't like it when their fave actor stretches hisher wings.

Kari Thomas said...

Enjoyed the informative post, Pat. I write Paranormal Romance but Im thinking of also venturing into Romantic Suspense. I never considered a pen name until now. I like the idea of helping your readers keep the genres separate.

Hugs, Kari Thomas,

Tammy Dennings Maggy said...

Great blog, Pat! I decided to write my paranormal/fantasy menage series under another pen name after the discussion we had on our board not too long ago. I started out with M/F and will keep that going with my current name, maybe add in a M/F/M here and there but the other WIP will be under Lia Michaels.