Can you believe it? She’s back with another new release and a complete change of genre. I’m talking, of course, about the wonderful Sally Quilford. Her new urban fantasy novella HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER is a real departure from her usual style of sweet romances. One thing I know about this talented author is that no matter what she writes – be it romance or be it crime – her work can be summed up in three words – great reading entertainment. In this guest post, she tells us what a change of genre can do for an author and what it did for her.
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Using up ideas for your writing is a bit like taking biscuits from a tin. If you just keep taking, and don’t replenish the tin, then eventually you find it empty. Then comes that awful hunger that I’m sure many writers like me feel when they desperately want to write, but can’t find anything to write about.
This can happen when one sticks to the same genre all the time. I write mainly romantic intrigue and/or sweet romance, and I’ve done well with it. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from that, to give ideas more room to grow. But if you’re like me, you hate being uncreative and are only happy when you feel that you’re producing something. So to carry on with the analogy of the biscuit tin, instead of having biscuits, maybe it’s time to try salt and vinegar crisps, or a nice juicy apple. Or to put it more plainly, shift genres and try something new.
That’s what I’ve been doing lately. Finding that, for now at least, I’ve run out of ideas for romance, I decided to try something completely different. That led to His Brother’s Keeper, which is my first ever urban fantasy novella. The idea came when I had a dream of a vigilante called The Sandman, who fought justice in a small seaside town. The following morning, on Facebook, where I often bore people silly with my dreams, I scoffed at the idea. But it would not go away so I started to write it.
As I thought more about it, the story took on a paranormal feel. Suddenly I had a whole new world to explore. Well, not completely new. Journalist Rachel Cohen, who has appeared in two of my long short stories, Valla’s Secret and Tomorrow’s Child, seemed like the perfect person to introduce my vigilante. And when I created him – his name is Gabriel Henchard – I realised he had a brother, but whereas Gabriel was an avenging angel, his brother, Nicholas, was the devil himself (with apologies to my own brother called Nicholas!). From what was to be a one off story about Gabriel, I found myself thinking in terms of a series. So, His Brother’s Keeper, is the first in a series about the battle between Gabriel and Nicholas – Good and Evil.
It felt so good to finish it, because I’d had trouble finishing anything this year. I’m now working on another departure from my usual sweet romance; a pure crime novel set in 1916. Again I’m using a character that I’d already created – Peg Bradbourne – who appears in several of my Midchester Memories novels. But whereas Peg is an old woman in the Midchester Memories, I have taken her back to her younger days as I thought it would be a great idea to chart how a spinster detective actually becomes a spinster detective. So maybe there will be a bit of romance in it, but it will necessarily be of the unrequited kind, though on whose side I’m not saying. That too will be a new departure for me, as I normally write happy endings, but a crime novel doesn’t necessarily have to end happily.
Each new genre brings with it different conventions (I refuse to use the word ‘rules’) and one makes different choices about what happens. Gabriel Henchard, for example, though the ‘good’ guy uncompromisingly punishes a rapist (and probably in the way we’d all like to…). I could never do this in one of my sweeter romances. It was like being unleashed.The same with the crime novel, which gave me a chance to explore a character I already loved from my other novels. Peg Bradbourne is not yet the kind and gentle old lady of the later Midchester days. She can be sharp and tactless with people, and is just a little bit selfish, as the younger generation often are. Because I realised she would have to grow and develop into the woman she becomes in her sixties, seventies and beyond (I’m determined that, unlike Agatha Christie with Poirot, I will never write Peg’s death scene!)
The change of genre really has been as good as a rest, and I’m enthusiastic about writing again. That’s not to say I’ve hung up my romance novelist’s hat. Because when I get tired of salt and vinegar crisps and apples, I may want a biscuit or two again.
HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER
When Rachel Cohen is sent to investigate the mysterious vigilante called The Sandman, she finds a man who insists that the small town of Angel Cove is due to be hit by an earthquake.
She does not know if he’s insane, but there is something strange about Angel Cove and the fact that the townspeople seem as if they’re waiting for something and have been for a very long time. His Brother’s Keeper is the first in a series of linked short novels featuring the brothers, Gabriel and Nicholas Henchard.
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