The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: Is Genre-Switching an Option?

In case you hadn’t seen it yet, J.K. Rowling is writing adult fiction. (Well, at this point I’d think she’s done with it, but you know what I mean.)

 

Anyway, the author of a bestselling kids’ (okay, YA) series about magic and adventures is coming out with a book for adults. I read the Amazon description of the plot and, excluding all the hyperbole, Ms. Rowling’s new work sounds…remarkably ordinary. Like, man on the street hey small town in England because I know so much about English life ordinary. (Obviously, HP had the English touch too, but it was not that strong. I mean, I was never like, how Eeeeenglish, although there was probably more tea than is normal for an American novel. In case you forgot, here’s what she’s known for:

 

And what she’s coming out is more like…well, I have a mental image of tweed. Lots of tweed. There are probably also biscuits and lemon.

So…can you do this? Is it possible to just reinvent one’s author-image like that?

 

I think it’s kind of like the time Jim Carrey or Robin Williams tried to make serious movies. The only way you can pull it off is if you’re so good at it, or at least so pulled into it, that nobody thinks too hard about what you normally do. And if Rowling’s writing style has stayed consistent–which it might not have, since she did get better about the whole “He, Harry” thing every five paragraphs by the third book–it won’t work.

 

I contend that, if you’re going to explore a different genre, you have to change your writing style to go with it.

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6 thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: Is Genre-Switching an Option?

  1. The tone of writing must fit with the mood of the story. Having too much brevity or unrelated prose in a horror or thriller will cushion the impact of scenes. It’s not a hard or fast rule, but a general tendency. I’m sure there are authors who use bullet sentences and nitty details to enhance the reality of a love story or can weave prose around horror in such a way to dig the dread deeper. Whether she will change her writing style to match, we’ll have to see.

    Maybe this is a work that’s been on her mind for a while, maybe it targets a smaller audience. Either way, it’s not like she’s hurting to write another franchise.

    As far as genre swapping, well, from what I gather it’s a debatable topic at best. Some authors use pen names to write in a different genre, some don’t. When you don’t, you have the mixed reaction J.K. is probably receiving; where an audience used to one style/genre is apprehensive about a book in another genre. If Stephen King said, “Hey, this here’s my new love story. No horror or alien clowns, I promise.”, then his audience might shy back from the book. However, he did manage to pull off something similar with ‘Lisey’s Story’, albeit containing supernatural elements and such.

    • For sure–I think there are some basic stylistic elements that have got to change as soon as you try different genres.

      There’s that, too. I’m a little surprised she didn’t go completely independent on this one, especially if it’s entirely because she wanted to, but maybe this has been in the works for a while.

      Haven’t read that–perhaps I should check it out. (I think Stephen King is alright as long as he’s not trying to scare people.) I believe Mark Twain used a completely different name when he went for serious nonfiction as well.

      • As well as Josh for humor sketches and Snodgrass for written humor pieces.

        King himself went under Richard Bachman until he was outed. Anne Rice wrote erotica under A.N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling. So and and such forth. Keeping a pen name in this day and age I imagine is much, much more difficult.

        Perhaps the modern audience should expect an author to branch out until they find several genres to specialize in.

      • Huhh. Bet there’s a whole site dedicated to these somewhere 😀

        I wonder if authors have to set an expectation of specializing in a genre, at least initially, or if that’s a side effect of popularity….

      • That’s been the common guidance from editors and agents alike for a long time now. I’m not sure if it’s changed in recent times.

      • I doubt it, but what with e-books I think authors will have an easier time sharing their explorations in other genres, even if they’re not full-length novels.

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