It is very easy to stay within the confines of what is comfortable and normal in your set boundaries. Many writers structure their stories in what their public has come to expect, and they’ve created quite an empire. For example, Lisa Kleypas writes romance stories set in Georgian and Victorian England and her fans know the wonderful adventure they are in for when they pick up one of her books.
Ms. Kleypas has also stretched out her fingers and stepped away from historical romance to venture into contemporary. Some authors manage to do this transaction successfully, while others never found the right tone with readers. The problem this can face is alienating the core fan base which expects certain standards. Writing within your comfort zone can be rewarding and safe, but it can also trap you. Jayne Anne Krentz found a unique way of not pigeon-holding her creative juices by creating three pseudonyms: Amanda Quick for historical, Jayne Anne Krentz for contemporary, and Jayne Castle for futuristic stories.
I personally like to change my genre’s up, which can be limiting as well. My first book, Black Leather Pants, was a contemporary erotica romance written when I lived in Paris, France, and much of it reflected my own experiences of French life. For my second book, An Innocent Heart, I told a Victorian era romance-mystery. I switched things up again with my third novel, Spirals, venturing into a futuristic-alternative world, continuing on with its sequel, Kismet. I stepped way out of my comfort zone with those two because not only are they ménage erotica romances, they’re written in first person present tense!
The downside to switching genres is that it can be difficult to get loyal readers. While one person may like contemporary, that same person may not like historicals. But stepping out of the comfort zone isn’t just for writers…it’s also for readers.
One thing I love about the explosion of ebook publishing is the emergence of fantasies in print. Readers are now able to explore different passions and a side of sexuality that hadn’t been there before. So many different love stories are visited now, from male on male love to multiple partners. Once thought taboos, ebooks are breaking down all types of zones to fulfill the readers demands.
Stepping outside whatever box makes you feel safe is a way of exploring a part of yourself you may have been afraid to face, whether it’s as a reader or writer. I constantly push my own boundaries because I never want to stagnate my stories; to fall into the trap where I substitute character names but have the same plot and the same expectations.
-Beth D. Carter