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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The following blog is now appearing in slightly different form at The Vincent Zandri Voyager: http://vincentzandrinoirauthor.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-process-of-discovery-mixing-genres-in.html

I'm not known as an experimental writer.

In fact, I'm often accused of being a throwback to the very old days of Dash Hammett or even the more recent old days of the now, sadly late, Robert B. Parker and Jim Crumley. Not that I write as well as the aforementioned hard-boiled masters, but I am still trying to improve my skills on a daily basis, and that entails going out on a limb at times. In a word, it entails experimentation.

I think it was Jim Harrison who said, 'Life should be a process of discovery or else it's not life at all.' Or maybe it was Hemingway. In any case, in my newest release, Murder by Moonlight which is based on the true story of Bethlehem, New York axe murderer/attempted axe murderer, Chris Porco, I might have chosen to write a true crime novel. All the information on the case has already been published in the papers so it would have been a matter of putting it all together and telling the story, like it happened or supposedly happened.

But that's not me.

While conducting my research, I found a lot of discrepancies in the case, not the least of which is that, in my mind, it's impossible for one skinny young man to take a heavy fireman's axe to both his parents in the middle of the night, and not get at least some amount of blood spatter on his skin and clothing. I get spatter on my clothes just cooking a steak. It's because of inconsistencies in evidence like this that I decided to write a fictional truth about about the Porco murder in which I am able to dramatize what might have happened on that cold moonlight night back not too long ago.

I did something else too.

I normally write in a sparse, hard-boiled, noir style. But in this novel, because of the axe element, I added in a bit of horror as well. It's not a horror novel say in the vein of JA Konrath or Blake Crouch, nor would I attempt to even think about walking onto their territory with my limited skill set, but I can say this: "Murder" was a fun book to write simply because as an artist, I was presented the perfect canvass for mixing styles, and I think I pulled it off. That is, judging by the many great reviews received thus far, not to mention the very good sales.

How about you? Do you mix your genres? Have you ever attempted re-writing a true story in order to get at more possible truths?

 
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"Throwing in a little horror" is not mixing genres. Just like throwing in a little romance doesn't make a book a romance or throwing in a fight scene doesn't make it an action-adventure. I really wish people would stop pretending they are doing something special and learn the definitions of various genres before claiming they are mixing them.
 
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VincentZandri said:
It is most definitely mixing genres...Sorry but it's the truth.
Thanks for commenting
VZ
Then explain what it is about your book that qualifies it as horror. Because there is nothing in your original post that would give credence to the claim. Nor is there anything in your blurb that would qualify as horror. (Well, calling your detective Dick Moonlight is pretty horrific in a funny sort of way. But it fits with the whole over-the-top noir vibe). Your blurb reads like a very generic noir-style crime drama.
 

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I think people should be able to classify their books however they like.  How each individual reader (or potential reader) interprets it is his/her own business.
 

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I'm a big fan of mixing genres. It doesnt have to be overly pretentious and there's no need to reinvent the wheel. But it does take some ambition and imagination and the guts to take a risk or two rather than taking a safer route. Kudos to you Vincent for taking a shot at it.
 

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Your description of genre-blending actually made the blurb sound more interesting to me. The idea of going outside your normal and/or comfort zone to get at truths, to see and show things in a new light, appeals. I'll check out the book.

I blend genres to a degree with my forensic geology books. Part puzzle-solving mystery, part stop-the-bad-guy thriller, and part outdoorsy adventure. When my then-agent shopped Badwater around the Big Six, a couple of editors complained that it did not fit neatly into any genre. Yup. That's why I'm here as an Indie, and glad enough of it. I've had readers complain about various things, but never about the mixed genres.
 

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VincentZandri said:
It is most definitely mixing genres...Sorry but it's the truth.
Thanks for commenting
VZ
You mention Robert B. Parker. Does the fact that Spenser cooks and enjoys cooking make it a cookbook? A genre is focused in a specific, recognisable, well defined area. It is not changed by segueing briefly into areas common to other genres.
 

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I mix genres in my Phil D'Amato novels - he's NYPD forensic detective who gets drawn into science fictional themes. I love this kind of mixing, but you've got to be careful to respect the protocols or reader expectations for each genre in the mix. For example, you have a dead body in a room locked from the inside, and it's not suicide or death from natural causes. You can't solve the mystery by discovering that the murderer teleported in and out of the room, unless you've already established that teleportation is part of this universe. Isaac Asimov did a great job of combining police procedural and science fiction in The Naked Sun.

 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
All good comments as usual...I'm not sure there are any true rules by which we must apply ourselves when mixing genres.
For me, delving into some horror and even some paranormal for the short story, Full Moonlight, is most definitely mixing things up. I'm doing it again with a Kindle Series I'm writing called Chase. I'm most definitely mixing paranormal with action/adventure and hard-boiled mystery. Or perhaps, this "soup" I'm creating is just another name for "thriller." In any case, in the end, I always hope that these books stand up well as literature in terms of the writing craft...
:)
Vince
 

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Without reading your book I can't really comment about whether you're blending genres or not. My initial thought upon reading your post, though, was A style is not a genre. Anyway - thanks for posting your article :)
 

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This discussion of what entails mixing genres underscores the problem with most modern genres. Unless a piece of writing adheres to a pretty strict set of formulaic guidelines, it doesn't really qualify as a full-fledged member of a given genre. I've had this problem with selecting genres for my own work. I ended up in fantasy just because I didn't feel comfortable anywhere else. But what appears below my book description to suggest other works in the same genre? Fairies and vampires. That is about it. Thus, I don't really feel at home in fantasy either. If only there was a better way to promote readership without pigeonholing your work.
 

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I'm also a genre-mixer, because I'm really tired of reading the same formulaic books. I can guess the end of 98% of books (and movies/TV) after the first five chapters. I wish writers didn't follow the scripts so tightly.

The best suggestion I can give is state that it has horror elements in your blurb. Let people know exactly what they are getting.
 

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Genres, by the way, were invented by libraries - as far back as ancient Alexandria - as a way of shelving books (scrolls in Alexandria).  Bookstores picked this up.  Since shelving is not as necessary with etexts as with physical books - you can only shelve a physical book in one place - genres may wind up fading in the digital age of their own accord.
 

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Most of my books aren't quite genre "mixes," but not traditional genre reads either. 

Vive la différence!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Very interesting comment about the ancient library in Alexandria...I was just there a month or so ago...There's a brand new library built right on the exact same spot...
 

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PaulLev said:
Genres, by the way, were invented by libraries - as far back as ancient Alexandria - as a way of shelving books (scrolls in Alexandria). Bookstores picked this up. Since shelving is not as necessary with etexts as with physical books - you can only shelve a physical book in one place - genres may wind up fading in the digital age of their own accord.
Perhaps. I don't think so, though - readers still like to know what they're getting, no matter how they acquire it. They're shopping on the romance aisle (physically or digitally) because they want a Happily Ever After. Grabbing a horror isn't necessarily going to make them happy.
 

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PaulLev said:
Genres, by the way, were invented by libraries - as far back as ancient Alexandria - as a way of shelving books (scrolls in Alexandria). Bookstores picked this up. Since shelving is not as necessary with etexts as with physical books - you can only shelve a physical book in one place - genres may wind up fading in the digital age of their own accord.
Yeah, I'm not so sure genres will fade away too soon. If anything, they may become more specialized. Most libraries and bookstores have a few large categories, such as Mysteries, Romance, SciFi/Fantasy (yes, combined), and Horror, to name some of the biggies. Now, there are at least 7-10 subcategories within Romance, a bunch of others within Fantasy, more subcategories within Mysteries, etc. Plus, with the number of books and authors growing exponentially, some of the niches will become bigger and better-defined, etc. I don't pretend to understand the particularities of (and differences between) some of the sub-categories, but they definitely exist.
 

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VincentZandri said:
Very interesting comment about the ancient library in Alexandria...I was just there a month or so ago...There's a brand new library built right on the exact same spot...
About 100 yards away, but close enough :)

The ancient library figures in The Plot to Save Socrates - first published by a trad pub in 2006, just brought out by an indie press on Kindle - and even more so in the sequel (which I'm now writing). The destruction of the Library's holdings - at least three times - is considered by many to be the greatest blow to intellectual history. By some counts, at least 2/3rds of Aristotle's works were lost.
 

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PaulLev said:
The destruction of the Library's holdings - at least three times - is considered by many to be the greatest blow to intellectual history.
I would agree with that. I can only imagine the knowledge that was lost. Sad. :'(
 
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