Genre: Can You Mix and Match?

Back when I started writing, we authors were told that we had to know where our book fit.  Pick a genre and stick with it.  It was the only way to know who your audience was as well as how and where to market the book.  You still get that advice but, of course, I couldn’t find any blog or post about it now that I’m looking.

But increasingly agents and editors are willing to publish cross genre fiction. Before we go deeper into this discussion, let’s emphasize something. Middle grade and young adult are not genre.  Those are age levels.  Neither is picture book a genre.  That’s a format.

A publishing genre is a broad subject category.  While mainstream fiction is generally not considered a genre, romance, mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy are.  And there are more including westerns, humor and adventure.

So when I started writing, publishers would tell you that you needed to know if your middle grade novel was fantasy or a mystery.  There might be hints of one in the other but where would libraries shelve your book if it wasn’t clear.

While some people still say you can’t blend genre, others are conceding that not only is possible, it is often desirable.  In a large part, this is due to several successful series.  The first may have been Stephen King’s Dark Tower series which combined science fiction, western and horror.  And it wasn’t just books.  My son’s favorite TV series, Firefly, is a space western.

Books for young readers do this too although I suspect it may be more common in young adult.  Examples include The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth which combines historic fiction and fantasy and also What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra which combines fantasy and science fiction.

These blends open up a world of possibilities and I don’t think they are going away any time soon. But I also don’t think that they are new.  We’ve always seen books that combine fantasy and romance or science fiction and mystery.   In a recent Writer’s Digest interview, Alex Slater of Trident Media actually said that he would like to see more middle grade manuscripts that successfully blend genre.

Me? I’ve got some crazy, blended reading to do.


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