Cheri Oggy wins a free Patricia Rice book by asking how authors choose an idea and narrow them down to a particular genre.
Wish I knew the answer to that one! I’d say experience plays a big part of it. And contracts! Keep in mind that publishing moves verrrrrry slowly. After I turn in a book, it could be months before an editor has read it and asked for revisions and I’ve provided them and so forth. During that time, I’ll be playing with ideas, knowing my historical editor will want more historicals. So that's how I choose at least one genre goal!
If I know I need to write an historical, then my mind will normally focus on elements that work well in that genre. I’m not likely to put my favorite space aliens into Regency England. Not likely, mind you. That doesn’t mean I rule it out forever. I’m just familiar with the traditions of historical romance and experience tells me that some things work better than others. But sometimes, my Muse refuses to let me choose, and I’m stuck with insane ideas that I have to make work within the parameters of the genre as I know it. Psychic heroines and fire-breathing superheroes aren’t precisely historical romance convention, but I needed to write the Magic and Mystic series, so I did. (lest I forget I'm supposed to be doing book promotion instead of blathering, that's the hot cover of my July release–the third book of the MYSTIC trilogy!) And now I have a fantastic Regency historical idea, so I’m off and running in another direction. I never run out of history!
Outside of historical, I have all sorts of interests, and play with them regularly. I’m currently toying with two contemporary ideas, one of them I thought would be a traditional contemporary romance, except a dead body showed up in the first chapter. So I wrote the normal romance proposal, hoping I could get away with a sentimental story that just happens to have a mystery in the background. And then I turned around and wrote the same proposal as a mystery, just to see what happened. My agent loves the sentimental story, probably because romance sells better than mystery. So I guess we can say market demands also choose genre.
And now the idea of an urban fantasy is giving me nightmares, so I’m trying to learn the elements of that field. (For my recommended author list in UF, check my personal blog) I read a lot of it, and many of the books are extremely well written, in a defined manner that I’m not sure I can emulate —especially since I can’t write vampires and werewolves. This is a genre that combines elements of mystery, fantasy, and horror, sometimes with a touch of romance, so I think I can really spread my wings and fly with it if I can get the basics right–and leave out the fangs and fur!
I just can’t say how I “chose” those ideas, and I’m not entirely certain I narrowed them down to a single genre. But trying to figure out how I wean out the bad ideas (space aliens) and choose the more fitting one (marriage of convenience) combines a lot of factors, I think. My experience, my preferences, my reading habits, my knowledge of the industry, my friends screaming at me not to jump off a cliff…
And before you leap in and say you want to know what to expect when you pick up a book–keep in mind that genres are continually changing. Subtly, perhaps, but changing. And they change because of innovation. Pick up any old historical–I'm re-reading Edith's THE DUKE'S WAGER right now, in which the villain has a larger part than the hero–you'll see how the genre has shifted over the years. Would you like to go back to the old ways?