Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow writer of books that feature wise-cracking badasses and demons, Matt Schiariti, to the blog! He's here today, not with demons, but romance. Or maybe kinda both. Take it away, Matt!
Thanks to Naomi Clark for letting me muddle up her blog with some of my rampant ramblings for a while. I promise I’ll try not to do too much damage. Good thing I signed that waiver.
Today’s topic is on switching writing genres. Was it hard? Fun? Why did I go from one category of book to something completely different? In order to answer those questions, I’ll have to give you some background about my work and myself. Then we’ll get into the whys, difficulties, fun factor, and why I write what I write. Go on, make yourself comfortable!
If you go to my Amazon author page you’ll see six works with my name on them. Three are self-published, and the other three are small press anthologies. In order of publication they are as follows: Hollow: Be Careful What You Wish For (horror short in the Apocalypse 13 anthology), Words with Fiends: A Short Story (horror/suspense novelette … permanently free pretty much everywhere including Amazon, by the way), Ghosts of Demons Past (my debut paranormal/urban fantasy novel), The Carnival 13 (I’m responsible for Chapter 7 of this shared world horror story), A Dollar and a $cream (paranormal/crime noire short in the Lucky 13 Anthology), and Funeral with a View (my contemporary romance novel).
*queue the sound of screeching tires*
You wouldn’t be alone if you did a double take after reading the end of the preceding paragraph. A contemporary romance novel? This guy who’s written about mediums, ghosts, demons, twisted carnivals, haunted lottery tickets, and vengeful spirits almost exclusively? Stranger things have happened, I assure you. Let’s get into the why, and you’ll see it’s not so strange after all.
Funeral with a View was my first foray into novel writing even though it’s my most recent publication. I cranked it out in just over five weeks back in early 2012, and then went to work on what would become Ghosts of Demons Past, Words with Fiends, etc., etc. The funny thing is, it wasn’t supposed to be a romance. I had an idea for a retrospective of sorts and ran with it. I had no idea what it would turn into back then; I sat and wrote, pantsing every single chapter. The story took on a life of its own—as many authors will tell you stories are wont to do—early in the writing and at the end of the day it had turned into a love story on me. What really made the book what it would become was real life. Funeral with a View is partially based on true events. It’s not a personal memoire or a “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” tell-all, but some personal experiences were the inspiration for what’s in those chapters. In a way writing the book was cathartic, a chance to take some of the things on my mind and toss them onto unsuspecting characters of my own creation.
So, was it fun? Difficult?
The initial writing of Funeral with a View was very fun. I had nothing riding on it. I was writing for the sake of writing, trying to find my voice, completely filled with the piss and vinegar of the inexperienced. It wasn’t until I came back to it well over a year later that it turned into work.
After publishing Ghosts of Demons Past, I went back to the world of Richard Franchitti (the main character and narrator) and his cast of supporting characters, wanting to see if what I’d written by the seat of my pants was worth putting out into the world. There was gold in them thar hills, but it wasn’t easy to mine it. I spent a few months chopping and rewriting. The original manuscript was over 130,000 words (!!). Hard to believe I did that in just five weeks. I trimmed it down to about 78,000 or so, thought it was at the point where I could send it out to beta readers, and did just that. Response was mostly positive, but there were flaws. You see, the book is such a character-driven emotional roller coaster that everything, from cause and consequence to character motivations and reactions, had to be damned near perfect. Turned out that I didn’t do quite a few things right. I was ham-fisted with some characters, didn’t assign enough weight to others. It was always a romance, but I had to romancify (I just made that up, but you can use it if you like) it even more. Given that my previous work had never had that level of “romance” to it, it required a lot of thought and planning to get it correct. Those five weeks of writing turned into almost a year of editing. So, no. In that regard switching genres, or going so far afield of what I’d published before, really, was anything but easy, and was the polar opposite of fun. It didn’t help that I had all kinds of personal crises rain down on me during that time period. It wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. I couldn’t be any happier with the book, and reader reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Guess I’ve done something right, huh?
This topic is rather timely. The subject of straying so far from “my norm” came up a few times in conversations with book friends as I slaved away editing Funeral with a View, but it’s just come up again within the last few days. I’ve already started a sequel to Ghosts of Demons Past, but there’s been this idea nagging at me for months, an idea that falls right into the romantic suspense category. Essentially the conversation became a discussion about sticking to a single genre and working it, the market, what sells. It was then that I realized something important: I don’t have a specific genre. Funeral with a View, while retaining my voice and style, proves that.
I am an indie hobbyist. There is no denying that. Writing isn’t my job. Writing is something I do. Because of that, I can write whatever I feel like. My stories aren’t reliant on on what’s selling or what the market dictates. I can get away with that because I have a career with a steady paycheck, benefits, pension, the whole nine yards. I wrote Funeral with a View not because I thought it would sell as a romance, but because I had the seed of an idea that I thought would make a good story. Same can be said for Ghosts of Demons Past. I didn’t write a paranormal novel about a screw-up medium and ghosts and demons because it’s popular. I wrote it because, once again, I had the idea for good character, a back story, and a plot. My romantic suspense work in progress? The genre is huge right now, but that’s not why I’m traveling down that avenue. I’m doing it because there’s potential for a great, engaging story is there based on the ideas that keep coming to me and I’d like to see what I can do with it. A good friend once told me she likes my stories because I’m “not commercial, but that could be hurting my sales.” And that’s fine. I like not being commercial, and I like writing whatever moves me. There’s a certain degree of freedom in all of this when you’re not dependent on it.
Maybe I do have a genre, after all. I’ll call it the “Good Stories That Are Fun For Me To Write” genre. Because that’s what I’m getting back to with all this writing business: fun.
Matt Schiariti is an Engineeer by profession, guitar legend in his own mind, and would-be author, time permitting. When he’s not writing, he’s reading. When he’s not reading, he’s enjoying a beer sporting a fancy name on the label. When he’s not enjoying a fancy-named beer, he’s most likely reading some more. Sometimes he does all three at once, to disastrous effect.
Matt lives in southern New Jersey with his wife, two children, and insane dog. Funeral with a View is his second published novel, but not his last.
You have been warned.
Here are some links should you want to find out more about what he’s up to or just say hi.