I’ve never met Karen King, but she’s one of those people you meet online and come to see as a friend. She is always amazingly supportive and I would be happy to give her space on my blog to promote her next book, pretty much whatever she was writing about. But she’s chosen a subject close to my heart at the moment: writing across genres.
I came from a background in writing for business – not something that most people think of as “writing” but actually one of the easiest ways to make money in this business. Once I started writing fiction, though, I was encouraged to stick to one genre – in my case, historical novels. Just lately I’ve branched out into contemporary fantasy, with books like Something Wicked. It’s interesting moving into a new field and having to adapt the way you write. Karen has a lifetime’s experience of this and her thoughts are well worth reading if you are an author looking for new challenges.
I’ve been a published writer for over thirty five years and whilst nowadays I mainly write romantic novels and psychological thrillers, I started my writing career working on teenage and children’s magazines. I was first published by the iconic Jackie teen magazine way back in the early eighties. I wrote several photo strip love stories and short articles and, as I had no experience on writing photo strips, I went about it by studying several issues and learning the format, how many frames per page, how many words per frame, etc. However, it was when I started writing for younger children’s magazines that I got my big break and was able to earn a living as a writer. I’ve written comic strips, short stories, activities and quizzes for a variety of magazines – Thomas the Tank Engine, My Little Pony, Winnie the Pooh, Barbie and Sindy – all things I had never done before, but each time I was asked to write something different I said yes and studied sample scripts to learn how it was done. And it paid off. Writing for children’s magazines earned me a regular income for several years.
Writing for a living sounds a dream come true to writers who are struggling to get published, but it comes with its own problems. Once writing becomes your job, your way of earning an income, then you stop writing for the fun of it and start writing what pays the bills. Which means that you accept – or try to accept – whatever work you are offered and focus on writing for the commercial market. One of my mantras is ‘never be scared to try something new’. I was always willing to have an attempt at anything, writing-wise. I’ve written picture books, story books, activity books, joke books, educational readers, young adult novels and even a folder of 27 plays – that was a tough one, especially the accompanying teacher’s notes, but I did it.
Whenever I write for a new market or genre my mantra is ‘know your market know your reader.’ I study the market, read other books in the genre I am writing to get a feel of the characters and story plots that are popular, and think about my reader. I ask myself questions such as: what are my readers expecting from the story? What age group are they? What are they interested in? This was especially important when I was writing for children, as the younger the age group the simpler the storyline and vocabulary, but it can also be applied when writing in different genres for adults because readers of crime thrillers, for example, will expect different things from the story than readers of fantasy. Nowadays I write romance novels, and more recently, psychological thrillers, but I still abide by the ‘know your market, know your reader’ mantra.
When I had my debut psychological thriller, The Stranger in my Bed, published last November, a lot of people were surprised at me going over to the ‘darkside’ after writing ‘sparkly’ romances for the last decade, but to me it isn’t that much different. The way I see it is that I write about relationships. My romance novels are stories of relationships that (eventually) go right and my psychological thrillers are about relationships that go drastically wrong, whether it be husband and wife, mother and child, siblings, etc. With a romance novel it’s all about the emotional journey of the heroine – and hero. The reader knows – and expects – a HEA (happy ever after) – even if only for now) and they read the story to find out how the heroine and hero get there. The twists and turns are the obstacles that get thrown in the couple’s path which they have to overcome to be together. Whereas at the core of the psychological thriller there is usually a mystery to solve – who is the abuser, who has kidnapped the child, can you trust this woman/man? etc – and the story is full of twists and turns. The reader should be kept guessing right until the unexpected and, if possible, jaw dropping ending. The thing I found most difficult about writing The Stranger in my Bed was timing the twists and reveals to keep them going throughout the whole story, which often meant I had to change the order of chapters about so that events happened earlier, or later, than I had originally planned.
My latest novel is once again a romance novel, One Summer in Cornwall, set in the gorgeous Cornish town of Port Medden where one of my earlier romance novels, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, is set. The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an Amazon bestseller both in the UK and USA so I was delighted to write a sequel featuring some old favourites, and bringing in some new characters too.
Many people dismiss romance novels as being unrealistic escapism but I disagree. Romance novels are about the complexities of human relationships, the highs and lows of being in love, which most people can identify with. Most of us have been in love at least once in our lives so can relate to the experience. I wrote an article about this for Women Writers, Women’s Books called The Realism in Romance. You can read it here if you’re interested: https://booksbywomen.org/the-realism-in-romance-by-karen-king/
When I sold my article to Jackie magazine all those years ago I’d never have guessed that I’d have 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, several short stories, nine romance novels (with another two in the pipeline) and a psychological thriller published. So if you fancy writing in a different genre, go for it. You never know what you can do until you try!
One Summer in Cornwall
Escape to Cornwall this summer…
A gorgeous feel-good read, perfect for fans of CATHY BRAMLEY and PHILLIPA ASHLEY.
When Hattie is made redundant and evicted from her flat in one horrible week, she needs time to rethink. Her Uncle Albert left her and her father each half of Fisherman’s Rest, his home in the Cornish town of Port Medden, so this seems the perfect place to escape to until she can figure things out.
As Hattie stays in the cottage, clearing it out, tidying it up and getting it ready to sell, she starts to find her feet in Port Medden and making a new home here begins to feel right. If only her dad didn’t need a quick sale and things weren’t complicated by her unwelcoming neighbour Marcus . . .
Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had nine romantic novels published, one psychological thriller with another one out later this year, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.