Thursday, June 14, 2018

CWD Member Interview – K A Hart




Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview: K A Hart

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I’m happy to report, I’m only half crazy. One side of my family is 5 stars-wacky and the other, well, they didn’t get the memo. The most problematic issue I have currently is I’m living with the former. 

It doesn’t help when you reside in one of the most dangerous places on earth. Even the everyday gardening stories my family has accumulated over the years have ended with blown up trailers. Not to worry - every single green ant did not survive.

I’ve recently moved from Toowoomba, QLD back to Darwin, NT. I’m still adjusting to the flames. My personal sadistic enforcer of pain still trains me every week via FaceTime, but it’s not the same. He can now only glare at me when I stop at twenty burpees.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing.  What do you write and why?

I write specks of ideas that have inevitably exploded beyond their tiny existence. Fanciful lands and space-skirmishes. Daring rescues and gasping torture. Heart-pounding hide and seek. Hold-your-breath moments of love and affection. It all sparks into life and irritates with consistency until it’s written down. Only then, can I rest.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

No one famous. Oh wait, the Quirky Quills have. And a few I-could-start-my-own-library, book-hoarder family members - they’re not famous though.

I envision the perfect readers of my work to lie upside-down on their bed with their feet against the wall and their head hanging over the other side while they read. And Ted Dekker.

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Well, the first thing you should have is an idea and then ... Well, first you need something to write with. They ... they know that. Well, obviously you need a writing instrument and you need an idea. I'm just not sure which should come first.
Bones, Season 1, Ep 11

There are those annoying, yet somewhat satisfying distractions like Pinterest, Facebook, life … life … more life. And then there are those procrastinations like … procrastination.

You’d think having a deadline would help with my writing process. If I didn’t have multiple alarm clocks on my phone every morning to get up for work, I’d be scrambling for the car-keys. It’s the same with writing. A deadline is great. Not having people hound you a couple times each month before the deadline isn’t helpful (no need for everyone to volunteer, I already have my Cheer Squad).

Visual cues like collages depicting my story (this is why I love Pinterest) and inspiring quotes are amazing slaps-in-the-face to keep me on schedule. I do wish they had an app to create your own storyboard collage though. It’d save on bluetac.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

There are Writing Craft Books? Maybe someone could suggest a few in the comments. Books might help …

I have recently bought the Trait Thesaurus’ by Angela Ackerman & Becca Publisi, but have yet to really explore them.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Oooh, wow. Just one? How about a CWD, separate, individual group. The Quirky Quills. Mazzy Adams, Adele Jones, Nola Passmore, Janelle Moore and Sandra Troedson. These ladies are some of the most inspiring women I know. They all have unique strengths. All encouraging in their own ways. And all absolutely and beautifully crazy.

We may need to have a honourary Quirky Quills, though. Charis Joy Jackson. Such an amazing and gorgeous soul. Her first novel, The Rose of Admirias debuted in the On the Horizon ebook box set. She is a talented storyteller and I can’t WAIT to have that book in my hands, literally.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I plan to write … something. Woohoo! I just did. NAILED IT!

I would leave it there, except I now have the lovely Nola Passmore and Adele Jones whispering in my ear with sharp, hissing words. ‘Finish editing your novel. You need to send it to a publisher.’

So, there’s that. They’ll probably send strategically, worded texts to help prompt some of the editing.

I’ll Skype the Wright Write session that occurs every third Thursday of each month. We may do some writing. We may not. Depends …

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

My talent, the stories, they all come from Him. I cannot boast it to be mine alone.

He slips in silently and threads his way through the story. Unnoticed. Unassuming. He doesn’t hinder the true nature of the human or the depiction of a sinful world. He works through it and transforms words into sentences, into paragraphs, into chapters to entire stories. And I marvel at his creation.





K A Hart has had two short stories published. Stone Bearer, appears in Glimpses of Light and Tedious Tresses, in the As Time Goes By Mixed Blessings anthology. She is currently working on a fantasy novel.





Monday, June 11, 2018

Practice Makes (Closer Approximations To) Perfect by Nola Passmore


I got my first guitar when I was seven, and I couldn’t wait to play like Keith and Bruce. Not Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen. I’m talking about those spunk muffins of the sixties—Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley. Together with Judith Durham and Athol Guy, they formed the fab folkie foursome The Seekers. I was sure it would only take a few lessons and I’d be singing and playing along like my favourite group. It didn’t quite work out that way.


In the first lesson, my music teacher gave me a crash course in theory, taught me the notes on two strings, and sent me home with some exercises to practise. The next couple of weeks were still spent plucking those two strings, but I was at least given some songs to play—the toe-tapping ‘Skip to My Lou’ and the chorus of ‘Cielito Lindo’. Viva Mexico! Months passed before I learned the notes on all six strings, but things were looking up. Now that I’d mastered everything there was to know about the guitar, I would surely get some Seekers’ songs to play. Then I found out there were sharps, flats, dotted rhythms, chords, strumming, finger-picking—the list went on. It was about three and a half years before I could confidently sing and play guitar at the same time, though I did manage to get my picture in the newspaper with Judith Durham along the way J


So what does all of this have to do with writing? In other disciplines like music and sport, we understand that practice is an important part of skill-building. Sometimes I wonder if we really understand this as writers. We learn the basics of writing at school—grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, spelling. By the time we’re adults, we’ve written essays, reports, letters, and sizzling diary entries declaring our love for David Cassidy and the Osmonds. (Oops – that may have been my diary.) But have we really spent time practising our craft? Here are some reasons why we should value the good ol’ art of practice.

1. Practice helps us improve.

If you practise your writing skills regularly, you’ll start to see an improvement. A pianist plays thousands of scales in order to master different key signatures. A footballer kicks thousands of balls in order to make that Grand Final goal when their team needs it most. Why should writing be any different? In between your larger projects, try some exercises. Set a timer and write for ten minutes without stopping. You’ll be amazed where random thoughts might take you. Next time you’re at a coffee shop, spend a few minutes writing unique descriptions of passers-by or catch a snatch of overheard dialogue and use it to prompt a story idea. Go to an art gallery and write a poem or devotion inspired by one of the paintings. If you’re stuck for ideas, there are lots of web sites that give suggestions. For example, try some of the writing prompts from the ThinkWritten site or exercises by Mary Jaksch.

There is a caveat though. At some point, you need feedback so that you know you’re on the right track. Just as a music teacher will correct your hand positions, a more experienced writer can give you tips to help you polish your prose. If you don’t know anyone who can help, think about joining an online critique group. For example, FaithWriters has regular writing challenges where you can submit work and receive feedback from others.

  
2. If we don’t practise in our weaker areas, our writing will stagnate.

While any kind of practice will keep the creative juices flowing, we need to especially practise in our weaker areas. When my music teacher introduced me to all of those rascally sharps and flats, it was tempting to neglect the piece I was supposed to be practising and go back and play the easier songs. The longer we avoid those difficult areas, though, the longer it will take us to reach the next level. My weak areas in writing include body language, setting and description. There are only so many times my heroine can push a strand of hair behind her ear, or my hero can stroke his chin, before readers get bored. I’ve bought a couple of books on setting and description to help me, so I’d better get cracking. What are your weak areas? What can you do to improve on those things? Also try writing in different genres to expand your creative tool kit. If you usually write nonfiction, try your hand at poetry or skits. If you usually write fantasy, try a contemporary romance or mystery. The techniques you learn can cross-pollinate your other writing endeavours.





3. Even if we’ve mastered higher-level skills, we have to maintain the basics.

It may be true that you never forget how to ride a bicycle, but the same isn’t always true of other skills. Guitar is my main instrument, but I can also play basic keyboard. I hadn’t played my keyboard for years, except for the odd Christmas carol. I dug it out recently to work on some songs, and I discovered that even some of my basic skills had eroded. I kept hitting the wrong keys and had to consult a chord chart to refresh my memory. It’s going to take a lot of practice to get back to my previous level and then improve from there. The same is true of writing. Every now and then, we need to revisit the basics. Have we remembered to show rather than tell? Is our dialogue realistic? Could our sentences flow better?

If I’d spent more time practising the guitar when I was young, I would have been singing and playing those Seekers’ songs sooner. Maybe the group would have ‘discovered’ me and I could have joined their ranks, stopped Judith Durham from leaving, and spared the world from a 24-year drought until the group’s first reunion tour. (And of course I was in the audience for that one.)

How about you? What writing exercises have you found useful? What areas would you like to improve in? Are there any writing craft books you can recommend? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Nola Passmore has had more than 150 short pieces published, including fiction, poetry, devotions, true stories, magazine articles, and academic papers. Her debut novel 'Scattered' will be published by Breath of Fresh Air Press in 2019. She and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her occasional writing tips blog on their website. She still has The Seekers' Songbook she got for her 8th birthday. 


Twitter:        https://twitter.com/NolaPassmore




Thursday, June 7, 2018

Meet Our Members - David Malcolm Bennett




Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview: David Malcolm Bennett

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.


I’m English/Australian and I’m old. I am also a leading authority on three areas of Christian research: 1/ William and Catherine Booth and the early Salvation Army; 2/ changes in evangelistic methods over the last 180 years; 3/ the origins of the ideas presented in the Left Behind books.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?


I write Christian non-fiction, primarily in the areas of church history, biography and theology. Some of my books are academic, which are a bit heavy, but still readable, while others are written in what I call “a dramatic” or popular style. In that latter style, the characters and incidents are meant to jump off the page and hit the reader in the eye, as in the best fiction. I have written biographies of William Booth (Salvation Army) and Edward Irving (look him up) in the heavier, longer style. Even those books still have their fair share of drama. My “dramatic” biographies are about William Booth (again), Moody and Sankey (American evangelists), C.T. Studd (founder of WEC International), John Wesley (founder of Methodism), Charles Spurgeon (great Baptist preacher) and Hudson Taylor (founder of CIM/OMF).



I wrote “The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage” (my M.Th dissertation, awarded with merit – now published by the University Press of America) because I believe that there is something seriously wrong with modern evangelistic method and I wanted to see how and why most evangelists do what they do. See https://sinnersprayerbook.com

I wrote my “The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology” (my PhD dissertation – now published by Xulon Press) because I thought Left Behind ideas were a misunderstanding of Scripture and I wanted to see how they emerged. See https://originsofleftbehind.wordpress.com

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?


My book on the altar call has probably been my most quoted book. It has been quoted or referred to in at least 23 other books and dissertations, plus journal articles and websites. My smaller book on William Booth has inspired a radio drama in Canada and a documentary here in Australia. There has also been talk about making a film of a major incident in my Booth books, and one group was intending to use my Hudson Taylor book for a film about Taylor, but I understand this has now been changed to a documentary. It will be nice if those two things happen, but I am not losing any sleep over them.

Altogether my books have sold over 60,000 copies. My bestsellers are “William Booth and His Salvation Army” (including its two earlier editions) and “Moody and Sankey: Evangelists.”   

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?


Research is the first key issue. Whatever style I am writing in, I like to carry out some initial research on the topic, and I am a good researcher. Mark Noll, a leading church historian, called my altar call dissertation “Good writing based on very good research”. Once the initial research is done, I research and write each section, usually in the order they will appear in the book, though sometimes I jump ahead if, for example, some information is not immediately available. I always try to bear in mind that books are written to be read, so I am aware that whatever I write should be interesting, even exciting, to read, and I like to think that I achieve that.

In my more controversial books (the altar call and Left Behind books) I am aware that others disagree, often strongly, with my views. Therefore, I must have strong, well-researched arguments for my case, otherwise I am spitting in the wind. I also firmly believe that I must treat those who disagree with me with respect.   



Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?


“Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss. While this book is primarily about punctuation, it must be stressed that punctuation matters. Incorrect punctuation can cause the reader to misunderstand you. It can even can cause a serious moment in your book to be the cause of much laughter. And none of us want that. Lynne Truss also writes with lively humour.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?


My daughter, Lynne Stringer, is also a writer. She writes mainly science fiction. Are you telling me that you have not yet read her Verindon series?  Buy them and read them. Those who have done so have been well pleased with them.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?


I am not writing a book at present. I am transcribing and editing the letters that Catherine Booth (of The Salvation Army) wrote to her parents. They have been sitting around for 150 years and I thought it was time someone did them, so I’m the “Joey Muggins”. This task, however, is fraught with difficulties. One problem is she used erratic and confusing punctuation. She was highly intelligent and a brilliant arguer, but only had two years formal education. In her writing, full stops are rare, and she could write a four or six-page letter in one paragraph and even sometimes in one sentence. These letters take a lot of sorting out in that and other ways, but I love doing it.



Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?


I have been a Christian for 57 years (I had to stop and think then to work it out), and my faith is behind and within all my books. I studied at the Bible College of Queensland in 1988-90. I had already begun my writing career, with one book published and another on its way, but I when I left college I had to decide what specific direction my writing should take. Should I write Christian books for non-Christians, evangelistic books I suppose, or Christian books mainly for Christians? By then it was apparent that I was a teacher not an evangelist, so I decided to write primarily for Christians. However, some of my “dramatic” books (see above) have been read by non-Christians and I inserted the gospel message in those books with that hope in mind. 




David Malcolm Bennett is an evangelical church historian, who has the gift of doing thorough and painstaking research and presenting the results in a readable form. He was born into a Methodist family in England during WWII, failed at school and drifted into the book trade. His first job was working on a W.H. Smith bookstall on, believe it or not, platform 10 of London’s King’s Cross railway station. (And he can tell you that J.K. Rowling got the layout of the station’s platforms wrong.)

He then went to work for the Epworth Press (the Methodist Publishing House) in London where he met a dark-haired Australian, named Claire Wilkie, who was to become his wife. In 1973, he Claire and their two children migrated to Australia. Or as some would have it: London to Brisbane, or even Lord’s to the Gabba. He worked for QBD for 12 years and in the Bible Society Bookshop for a similar period. In between he spent three years at the Bible College of Queensland and gained a B.Th degree. Further studies earned him a M.Th (with merit) and a PhD.

David has written about 20 books (he can’t be bothered to count). He is now retired and facing his last chapter. But old writers never die, they only run out of ink. Or should that be toner?

See also:

Monday, June 4, 2018

Exploring Genre - Unraveling the Mystery of Writing Mysteries

by Virginia Smith | @VirginiaPSmith


Please welcome Virginia Smith to our blog today to talk about mystery. Now over to Virginia.

The contract for my first mystery came as a surprise. At a writers’ conference I sat beside an editor at dinner. During the meal she said she was interested in seeing proposals for mysteries. Though I enjoyed reading mysteries, I’d never written one. Still, ideas began pinging around in my brain. We were eating chicken with mushroom sauce. The week before I’d had lunch with a friend who was a wild mushroom specialist and was occasionally called to the hospital to consult on cases of mushroom poisoning.

Voila!

As we left the table I said to the editor, “I have an idea for a mystery. A kitchen klutz decides to impress everyone by making a casserole for the church potluck, but someone slips poisonous mushrooms into her casserole to poison a gossipy old lady.” The editor smiled and said, “I like it. Send me the manuscript.”

Naturally I was thrilled – for about 30 seconds. Then I panicked. I didn’t have a manuscript. I didn’t even have a paragraph. And I didn’t know how to write a mystery. I rushed to the library and checked out a book called Writing the Modern Mystery. And I learned. Several months later the editor bought that story, which became my first mystery, Murder by Mushroom.

When a writer approaches a mystery, the first consideration is the sub-genre. The differences may be subtle, but they are important in order to meet reader expectations. There are many mystery sub-genres, but the major ones include:

Cozy – A cozy mystery includes a bloodless crime, meaning the reader is not subjected to icky details of the murder or the murder scene. The story often takes place in a small town and may have an element of humor. The plot reveals a series of clues which the sleuth (usually an amateur) follows to solve the crime. Agatha Christie perfected the cozy sub-genre.

Police Procedural – These stories focus on the investigation by one or more law enforcement officers. The reader is treated to an inside look at the investigative process and analysis of the crime from a police perspective.

Private Eye – The sleuth is a professional crime investigator but not a police officer. Like the cozy, the plot movement is established by the sleuth’s discovery of a series of clues.

Legal or Medical – The plot progression and the resolution of the mystery center on the details of either a legal or medical process.

Suspense – Danger is a necessary element in these stories. The sleuth, or someone close to him, is in jeopardy for a large portion of the plot. Solving the crime may be of secondary importance. A successful suspense novel includes a ‘ticking time bomb,’ an element of urgency to find the criminal before disaster occurs.

Romantic Suspense – Like a suspense story, these books establish tension through the threat of personal danger but also combine a strong romantic element. In this sub-genre the romance is equally as important as the mystery. To create a tightly-plotted romantic suspense novel, the suspense element must be related to the romance in some way. The hero and heroine’s developing relationship is enhanced as they work together to solve the mystery and escape the threat of danger.


Once the genre is established, the writer can design the plot. What clues will be given to the reader, and at what point in the story? Who are the suspects, and what are their motives for committing the crime? How will the writer hide the identity of the perpetrator from the reader? When will the identity be revealed? (Many mysteries reveal the antagonist toward the end of the story, but suspense novels may differ.)

The placement of the clues is critical to maintaining tension from the first chapter to the last. A good mystery writer creates a series of questions in readers’ minds. When one question is answered, another is revealed. This technique keeps readers turning pages.

I’ll share two tips I keep in mind when writing a mystery. First, everyone has a secret. Every character is hiding something. It may not be relevant to the crime, but the sleuth doesn’t know that. She only knows Mr. Brown wasn’t where he claimed to be at the time of the murder. Did he commit the crime? She must find out why he lied.

The second technique I employ is to throw in a shocker. I build suspicion of one character throughout the first half of the book. Then, when the reader is convinced that Mrs. Blue killed her husband, I kill off Mrs. Blue! The reader is thrown into confusion – and they love it.

Since that writers’ conference I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to write in several genres. The techniques I’ve learned while writing mysteries apply to nearly every story. I’ve decided that any book is better with a mystery woven into the plot. And to think – it all started with mushrooms.

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This post is being shared on the Australasian Christian Writers blog and the Christian Writers Downunder blog.

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VIRGINIA SMITH is the bestselling author of over 30 novels, more than half of which are mysteries. Two of Ginny’s romantic suspense novels were finalists for the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and two received Holt Medallion Awards of Merit. Learn more about Ginny and her books at www.VirginiaSmith.org, www.facebook.com/ginny.p.smith, and @VirginiaPSmith.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

CWD Highlights March--May 2018

Christian Writers Downunder is a diverse group of writers, editors, bloggers, illustrators. As a group we support each other through our facebook page and blog.

Anne Hamilton at Omega Writers Book Fair


Today's blog will highlight some of the achievements of our members from March to May 2018

Awards


Congratulations to Simon Kennedy, Phil Enchelmaier and everyone else involved in the making of Safe Harbour for the nomination for a logie award for most outstanding miniseries or telemovieSafe Harbour is a Four-Part Drama developed from based on an original concept by Simon Kennedy and Phil Enchelmaier and screened on SBS. https://www.sbs.com.au/programs/safe-harbour

Simon shared about the process from concept to final production at the recent Omega Writers May Retreat (Toowoomba). 


Old secrets come to light, relationships are shattered and lives are put in danger. One question hangs over it all – who cut the rope? 
Friends on a sailing holiday discover a struggling fishing boat overloaded with asylum seekers. Deciding to tow the refugees, they wake the next morning and find the fishing boat gone. Who cut the rope between the two boats? 
Did they know it would end with tragic consequences?

Simon Kennedy is an award winning writer who loves discovering stories that will move people's hearts and challenge their minds

New Releases



Charis Joy Jackon's debut novel Rose of Admirias has been published as part of the On the Horizon Book Bundle.  Connor Sassmannshausen's first novel From the Ashes was also included in the Bundle. Find out more here .

Anusha Atukorala launched her non-fictional inspirational book Dancing in the Rain. Find out more here.


Other News



Valerie Volk: has had several poems published in Polestar Writers’ Journal (April, 2018) and The Mozzie (April, 2018) but had the special recent pleasure of having words from three of the poems from her first book, In Due Season, used as the text for a new requiem by composer Rachel Bruerville. This lovely piece of music, which was commissioned by the Adelaide Chamber Singers, was premiered over the weekend of May 5 and 6, first at a concert at the Ukaria Cultural Centre in the Adelaide Hills and next day at a concert in St Peter’s Cathedral, in central Adelaide. 



The book, which since first publication in 2009 has sold over 1800 copies, is available from the order page of Valerie's web site www.valerievolk.com.au It is given often as a condolence book to people who are facing grieving or loss, or just as a gift of love.


Elizabeth Klein has had two short stories accepted into two separate anthologies. 

The Landing was accepted by Storm Cloud Publishing for inclusion in their Short Tales 4 anthology on 13th April. 

The Landing:

When Quill's world is devastated by tree wars followed by alien invasion, the Elders of her planet seek to save a handful of young people by sending them into space. Quill is just one of them who lands on Earth. She is discovered by a missionary and one of the invaders of her planet. Now her very existence depends on how well she can hide in the jungle. 

And The Slaying of the Green-Eyed Monster was accepted into The Australian Pen collection #3, The Evil Inside Us anthology by 1231 Publishing on May 8th.

Slaying of the Green-Eyed Monster:

The woman at the rear of the block of units likes to watch people as they collect their mail and drive past. None of them suspects who she really is. The odd thing is, neither does she until the media screams of the deaths occurring in unsuspecting suburbia.

When Elizabeth Klein isn't writing, she is usually travelling about in her caravan with her husband, Malcolm.





Hazel Barker had the opportunity to talk at the Moreton Bay View Club and at the Writers’ Fair  about her latest book, The Sides of Heaven.  Read more here.

Hazel with Diana, Moreton Bay View Club 


Omega Writers Book Fair on 6 March brought together over 25 authors, editors, publishers with a diverse display of books. Gary Clark gave an inspiring workshop on finding humour. And a number of happy readers went home with their arms full of books.



Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones and Jeanette O'Hagan had a blast at Gold Coast Supernova in April, connected with hundreds of spec fic fans, sold some books and enjoyed the fabulous cosplay.




Congratulations to all our members for your milestones and achievements.  

Monday, May 28, 2018

Confessions of a Genre Butterfly

By Susan J. Bruce (aka Sue Jeffrey)


Photo copyright Susan J. Bruce. All rights reserved.



The author platform. Do these words fill you with confidence? Do you say ‘I know who I am as an author and I know who I want to reach? I know what my brand is?'

Or do you think, ‘Eerk!’

Earlier this year I realised that as I belonged to the second category, I really should do something about it. So I enrolled in Iola Goulton’s appropriately titled course, Kick-start your Author Platform Marketing Challenge. The first few days were fun and I was filled with a sense of purpose. They led me to rethink my author name (that’s another story for another time) and gave me confidence that I was going to succeed. I would make a good website. I would build a social media platform around my brand as an author.

But then we came to the question of genre.

We were given an exercise where we had to identify our genre and find websites of authors who write the same kind of books. The idea was to see what website elements (images, fonts, etc.) are consistent with our genre. If we write romance we want the reader to get a romancey vibe when they visit our website or look for us on social media. If we are a science fiction aficionado we might depict spaceships soaring through nebulae, boldly going where no one has gone before. It makes sense. People should see our name and associate it with our brand so they can know if they will like the kind of books we write.

But what if we don’t write in just one genre?

I know. All the publishers and marketing gurus have crashed to the floor in a dead faint at my words. It makes absolute marketing sense to write in one genre, at least initially. But what if our writing doesn’t fit this pattern?

What if we are a ‘genre butterfly’? What if we flutter from genre to genre like a butterfly flits from flower to flower, collecting all kinds of nectar as it goes on its way.

Our group discussions showed that I was not the only one with this particular affliction, but that didn’t solve our problem. How do we develop an author brand if our writing doesn’t naturally fit one genre?

It must be possible.

Tim Winton comes to mind as a brilliant proponent of literary fiction: stories that are generally more serious and have deep artistic merit. Then there is general fiction. General fiction tends to be more accessible than literary fiction. Some general fiction authors are, I suspect, latent genre butterflies. They gather nectar from different genres and meld it into a new story. The success of a huge number of general fiction authors means that those of us who like variety need not despair. And then there are age-defined categories like YA and children’s literature, which can contain multiple genres.

But what if we like to write different types of genre fiction? What if we want to write a cozy mystery followed by a science fiction novel and a love story between two dragons? Can we do that and build our brand as an author? What do we do? There are several options:

1.                  Embrace our eclectic nature. Write what we like, when we like. The catch is that we will probably find it hard to build a brand and to sell books unless we are so prolific that we quickly build up a backlist of several books in each genre.

2.                 Become a genre blender. You like three different genres? Mix ‘em together! I recently read Kerry Nietz’s, Amish Vampires in Space. This science fiction author blended Amish fiction, science fiction and Christian fiction together with vampire fiction to create an excellent space opera with great characters. In his case, merging genres made for excellent marketing. It led me (and many others) to read the book and because I liked it, I bought the sequel (which was great too).

3.                 Establish a unique brand of our own. Genre is a handy way of categorising our writing but it isn’t the only way. We can look at the heart of what we write, find the common themes and build our brand around those themes. 

I wish I wrote contemporary romance or cozy mysteries set in a bookstore. Branding would be simpler. But just because branding isn’t simple it doesn’t mean it’s not doable. I’ve chosen to take the third route above. Just about all of my stories, short or long, have themes of overcoming. Many have strong romantic elements, or themes of belonging, and are set in an environment of adventure or danger. Nearly all my work contains animals. Some stories contain deep issues. After a lot of thought I developed my working tagline: Stories of the human spirit – and sometimes other species. If I can write stories that fulfil that promise to the reader, and promote my books accordingly, I’ll be doing well. And should my writing evolve and take on a more speculative bent, I can always change it to Stories of the human spirit – and sometimes alien species J.

My name is Susan J. Bruce and I’m a genre butterfly. How about you?

Go on. Confess in the comments. You know you want to! How do you approach branding as an author?


Susan J. Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s grown up she does the same kinds of things. Sue works part time as a veterinarian, writes stories filled with themes of overcoming, adventure and belonging, and loves to paint animals. Sue won the Short section of the inaugural Stories of Life writing competition and her stories and poems have appeared in various anthologies including Tales of the Upper Room, Something in the Blood: Vampire Stories With a Christian Bite and Glimpses of Light. Her e-book Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story is available on Amazon.com.  You can check out Sue’s animal art on Facebook.