A reader asked if I find it hard to write outside the mystery genre. Actually, I feel as if I’m always both in and out of it. I’m a genre nonconformist. My series not only blends genres within books, but shifts genre to some extent as it moves along.
My decision to write this way came after I tried to write about crime, death, and violence and realized I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to be a happy writer, and my protagonist was going to be damaged by repeated exposure to things like that. I read murder mysteries but that’s a different level of involvement than creating them. There are more ways in which life presents mystery than murder, and some periods of life are more romantic, others more suspenseful, others full of family difficulties and personal growth, and there’s often something going on that we don’t understand—a mystery, but if we’re lucky, not a murder. Human behavior is often bewildering. And those phenomena we can’t explain—shared thoughts, psychic experiences—those are their own kind of mystery. My protagonist is psychic.
In The Outlaw Women, the free short story that’s a prequel the series, there’s precognition and a psychic connection, but no mystery to solve. The story is classified as literary fiction and contemporary fiction, which may be a good way for readers who enjoy what I write to find my series.
The Calling has been reviewed as literary fiction, or realistic fiction with paranormal elements, and as mystery in the sense of finding out secrets, but not a whodunit. All true. I put a tag line on my series, No Murder, Just Mystery, so readers won’t be waiting for the body, the shot, the explosion, the kidnapping, the more violent elements of a standard mystery. In The Calling the only things that blow up are people’s relationships and hopes and plans—and ideas of about the nature of reality. Shaman’s Blues gets closer to a conventional mystery. There are missing people, and a puzzling death in the past, but still no violence. The real mystery in this book is a person, in a twist on romance that turns most of the elements of that genre upside down. The third book, Snake Face, coming out in the fall, gets close to being a suspense novel.
Why all these genre shifts? Different things are asked of Mae Martin as she develops as a person, and as a psychic and healer. In the fourth book, Soul Loss, now in progress, the mystery surrounds events happening to other healers and psychics, and Mae’s role is that of a professional in those fields, asked to help in a realm only such a person can access. The fifth book (working title, Haunted) is looking like it will have a streak of horror in it (spiritual and psychological, not gory) when woman studying a healing tradition find herself entangled in its shadow side. The sixth book—no working title yet and only a few chapters written—revolves around a mystery in art authentication, art theft, and a stolen parrot. Detective work, but no murder. Rolling through genre according the pattern of my protagonist’s development, I still see a foundation of mystery under it all. Sometimes the question is, “who are you, really?” or what someone has done, rather than “whodunit,” and when Mae is finding out who did something, it’s not who killed someone. No murder, just mystery.
I do have a horror short story and fantasy novella on the back burner. It wasn’t harder to write them in terms of plot, but I love my series so much it’s been harder to make revision and publication of these other works a priority.