Hm, writing blog posts is tricky. It’s all very well to say blithely “I’ll write something about crossovers” but it’s an entirely different matter to get beyond a single sentence. The single sentence in my case would be “I like them.”
I suppose I’d better start by defining my terms. (An early training in philosophy can be a handy thing at times!) What am I talking about when I say “I like crossovers”? What is a “crossover”?
I’m using the word to mean “a piece of fiction that could be shelved in two or more genres.” So the Midsomer Murders books are pure Mystery, Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom is a pure Historical, but the Cadfael books are crossovers because they are mysteries with a historical setting. They’re both historicals and mysteries.
Historical mystery has become so popular that it’s earned a category of its own, of course, but it’s not the only crossover genre out there. What about the Temeraire series – historical/fantasy, or one of my own favourites “His Majesty’s Wizard” which was a historical/fantasy/murder mystery.
I don’t know if I hold a record for the number of genres you can cram into one book, but I made a good stab at it with “The Wages of Sin,” which is a historical, paranormal, gothic horror, murder mystery, m/m romance. Of all my stuff, that was the one that gave me most joy to write.
Crossovers have long been a bit of a red-headed step child in the publishing industry, though I for one don’t know why. I suppose it must be hard to know where to shelve them, but on the other hand you must appeal to twice the readers, so I would have supposed they made lots of marketing sense.
They also make lots of sense to me, both as a reader and as a writer, from a structural point of view. Certain genres are verbs in a world where other genres are nouns and adjectives. So for example, one of the glories of Fantasy is the world-building. Lots of imagination goes in to creating the setting. But there isn’t, as far as I’m aware, a standard fantasy plot other than the ‘group of friends (possibly with a chosen one) quest for something in order to save the world.’ And frankly that one is so specific that it’s been done to death already.
So you may find yourself
living in a shotgun shack with an amazing setting and a beautiful world, unsure what to do with them. That’s where another genre comes in handy. Romance and Mystery have the plot already built in – they are the verbs of the genre sentence. Person A meets Person B, they fall in love, are separated by internal and external obstacles, overcome them and live happily until the next adventure. That plot can happen anywhere – in a historical, in a fantasy, in a horror story, in a comedy. You name it and you can find a romance in it.
The same goes for mystery – the action is built in – someone does something horrible, someone else has to figure out what it was and how it was done, and justice has to be done. For both a reader and a writer it’s convenient and reassuring to know that the genre of the plot means that something is going to happen. They’re not going to be left floating around amidst a great setting and characters waiting for the story to start.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone who doesn’t like them, why not? And from anyone who does, I can’t imagine I’ve hit on the only reason. What do you think?