Not all writers find the genre that best suits them right away. Finding the genre that best fits your writing style, knowledge, and interest can be a journey for some of us. Many of us start out writing the kinds of stories we read or what we know about and love. Sometimes a writer gets lucky and the right genre falls in his or her lap.
The famous western romance writer, Linda Lael Miller, wrote in several genres before she settled into western romance. She wrote a vampire trilogy, a detective trilogy, and a time travel western before she became exclusive to western historical and contemporary romance. She used her actual name for all her work rather than a pen name specific to the genre. Her brand became established as a western author. I wonder sometimes if she ever decided to go back to writing in widely different genres would she still stick to her actual name or create a pen name for the new genre. Would her brand suffer because of the change in genre?
Nora Roberts writes mostly contemporary romance often with a touch of paranormal tucked into the stories. She established her brand early in her career—and then she decided to write murder mysteries. Perhaps because she had already established her brand, she decided to write under the pen name J.D. Robb for her detective books. Her readers know exactly what genre they are purchasing because of her pen name
James Patterson writes murder mysteries for adults and also writes for middle school age children. His name does not change, but the covers for his books make the different genres obvious. He also personally announces his new releases on TV ads and tells the readers if it’s for adults or kids.
How do we know what genre is right for us and do we differentiate our work if we write in several genres?
I did not start my writing career as a western romance writer. My first stories were not even romance; they were paranormal and science fiction…straight up, no chaser. They did not sell. A writing instructor suggested I add romance to the stories because romance is a very popular genre. (See? There are many readers out there apparently reading romance novels hidden behind their high-falutin’ biographies, political essays, and world order and financial advisory tomes.) Romance is a circumstance that touches us all at one time or another—even though many men deny they have an interest in the romance department.
I took her advice and added romance to five of the stories previously rejected. They all became published in magazines. Next, I decide to dedicate my time to lengthier stories and began writing novels, but kept to paranormal romances. Dark Isle, Lake of Sorrows, and The Light of Valmora gave me a fair start and later I combined them into the trilogy titled Legends of Winatuke. They have succeeded fairly well, but I still needed something. Then I wrote a time travel romance, The Violin, which led to greater success. I wrote a couple contemporary stories and a vampire story, but I still hadn’t found that certain something I was looking for that would feel right for me.
And then I wrote a western.
I wrote a time travel story that took my heroine back to the west to the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming and a man called Harmonica Joe.
A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.
Lola Barton’s life has been chaotic and uncertain. When she inherits a rundown plantation, she believes her life has finally taken a positive turn. But, when she finds a mysterious trunk in the attic, it takes her into the past and to a man with dark secrets—and she’s married to him.
Joe Wilding carries his shame in his pocket in the form of a harmonica. The woman he thought he married to save her life, is beginning to break through his stoic wall and find the secret he hides. Loving her could be his ruin. Only time can tell.
Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride was supposed to be a one time western, but something began to take shape. I had never written a western before, heck I’m a southerner from North Carolina, what did I know about the old west, or even the new west? It just so happened that readers liked Harmonica Joe and, at the same time, I fell in love with the secondary character, the homeless, streetwise kid named Banjo.
My writing life was about to change.
I loved Banjo so much I felt compelled to write another western with him as the lead in the World War I book, For Love of Banjo.
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.
There would be no turning back for me. I researched the state of Wyoming, its history, geography, plants and trees, horses, cattle, and ranching. I was fortunate to have visited the state some years back and lived in Nebraska for about a year.
It seemed so natural to me to begin writing about the next generation of Wildings including the children of Joe Wilding, Banjo Wilding, and Teekonka Red Sky. I found that I enjoy writing westerns. The way they talk, their down home attitude, no nonsense way of living, and belief in hard work and equality definitely appealed to me. I have come to love my Wildings and the people who live in the town of Hazard. I am thinking of going back in time a bit and write about the families that established the town of Hazard.
All my western romances are published by Prairie Rose Publications and some are under their specific imprints, but all the Wilding westerns are together on my Wildings page at PRP. For the present, my paranormal/fantasy stories are with another publisher in order to separate and the wide variance in genres.
So, I’ve become a western romance writer. The genre chose me and I am extremely grateful it did.
How did you come to write western romance? Was it the genre you planned to write or did it come as a surprise? Did you try other genres before you settled into western writing? Are western romances what you love to read?
Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: