Friday, May 18, 2012

Writing: Stretching The Limits

There's a good bit of traffic on author loops and blogs about writing for a specific genre or market. My mentor, friend, and prolific author James Scott Bell has written everything from a historical legal thriller/romance to a novel about boxing to an e-book about a vampire lawyer. Now he's decided to try yet another genre. I'll let Jim tell you about it:

About a year ago my son laughingly offered me an idea. He loves to make up titles and concepts, just for fun. "Hey Pop,” he said, “how about a thriller about a nun who is secretly a vigilante? She knows martial arts, and can kick butt when necessary?"

I looked at him quizzically, and then he gave me the (you'll pardon the expression) kicker: "You can call it
Force of Habit."

I cracked up. So did he. But he stopped when I said, "I think I'll do it."

"I was only kidding," he said.

"It’s a great concept," I said. "Original, great title, and I think I can do something with it."

My martial arts nun I named Sister Justicia Marie (or Sister J, as she's known by those close to her). I thought up her backstory. She is a former child star who grew up into a drug-using actress who then hit bottom. That's when she turned her life over to God and entered into the sacred life.

But during her time before the cameras, she studied martial arts (particularly for a Steven Seagal film she was in) and those skills have not left her.

And as I like to dig into themes in my books, I thought this raised a most intriguing question: could a devout nun actually justify violence if it was in the course of doing good, like stopping violent criminals?

When a cop asks her the same question, I heard her say this about the criminal element: “They are the knuckles. I am the ruler.”

Now, here's my take on Force of Habit: Sister Justicia isn't your average nun...unless your average nun is a martial arts-trained former celebrity who's gone through rehab and come out on the other side with a distinct call to take up the habit. Unfortunately, she also has some habits--habits that get her in hot water with her superiors but that help her solve a crime wave with nuns the victims. In this e-book, James Scott Bell has crafted a protagonist who ranks right up there with Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum.

A word of caution. I don't recommend that writers without an established track record and following jump from genre to genre. But I've noticed that John Grisham has branched out from legal thrillers with books about football and baseball. And the late Robert B Parker authored several excellent westerns, in addition to his Spencer, Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall novels. So it can be done.

My question to you, dear reader, is this. If you like the work of a particular writer in one genre, how likely are you to try his/her books in a different one? I'd like to know.


ssas said...

A great idea is a great idea. I love writing on challenge or for a particular market.

Southern-fried Fiction said...

I can relate to Sister J. My critique group calls me Sister Ane for all the times I've whacked their authorial knuckles over infractions of the "rules." LOL

James Scott Bell said...

Perfect, Ane. I'll remember that next time I'm anywhere around you!

Mary L. Hamilton said...

If I like an author's writing style, I'll try his/her work in any genre except romance and sci fi. Just a personal preference but not even my favorite author could make me read those.

Richard Mabry said...

My thanks to Jim Bell for his contribution, and to each of you for your comments.
I was away for the weekend--away from the Internet, away from phones, away from pretty much everything but golf and unhealthy food as four guys celebrated an East Texas golfing weekend for the tenth year. But it's good to be back.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Welcome back, Richard. It sounds like you had a great holiday weekend.

As for the question, I try books in different genres if I like what else the author has written. I may not expect to enjoy the story if it's something I wouldn't normally choose to read, but I'll give it a chance because I want to support the author.

Admittedly, I haven't read Jim's vampire lawyer story yet, but the story behind Force of Habit has me hooked already. :)

Deb said...

I guess Jim never heard an agent say you can't do this -- you have to write One Thing and Stick With It.

Are the rules different for guys?

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, thanks for your comment. Glad to be back.

Deb, the rules are the same for everyone, but there are times you have to bend and stretch them--I think JIm's at that point.