DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Oct 3 2012

Switching gears

by Dea Anne M

Perhaps the biggest news in publishing lately is the release of J. K. Rowling’s first work of adult fiction The Casual Vacancy. The reviews, thus far, have been mixed, to say the least. Some reviewers hate it (New York Times), some love it (Time), and many more are ambivalent (Washington Post). It’s probably inevitable that the creator of what many believe to be the best series of books ever written for younger readers would come under more than a little critical fire in switching genres. Of course, Rowling isn’t the first author to cross genres and she most certainly won’t be the last. A recent example of an author who has successfully done so is one who has moved from adult fiction to young adult, or, more accurately, has added YA fiction to an already enormous oeuvre. I’m speaking, of course, of James Patterson whose Maximum Ride series enjoys great popularity (and which he apparently writes himself…not being snarky here…Patterson is quite open about working with co-authors). Another example of an author who has enjoyed success in switching genres is the prolific Nora Roberts who has had a long career publishing best selling romance fiction under her own name as well as her “In Death” near-future detective series as J. D. Robb. Roberts and Robb have even “collaborated” on a few novels and pose together on the covers—Roberts usually dressed in an elegant suit and Robb in a black leather jacket.

Other genre-crossing authors include:

John Banville, an acclaimed author of literary fiction who won The Man Booker Prize in 2005 for his novel The Sea, also writes mystery fiction under the name Benjamin Black.

H. G. Wells is best known today for visionary science fiction such as The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. In his own time, Wells was also a well-known author of history, political commentary, and realistic fiction. These titles include A Short History of the World.

In 1948, Dodie Smith published the charming novel I Capture the Castle—the story of a quirky British family which retains to this day many devoted fans (I count myself as one). Smith also enjoyed success as a playwright, but in 1956 she published a novel for children that would bring her the most widespread recognition adapted as it was, by Disney,  into a beloved movie. That book is The Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Today, we remember the Victorian writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton chiefly for the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” It appears at the beginning of Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford and and is used as a tag for the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest which celebrates the purplest of prose. Bulwer-Lytton wrote in a variety of genres including romance, horror, mystery, and historical fiction (The Last Days of Pompeii is probably his best known novel today). His writing might seem overwrought to the modern reader but it was wildly popular at the time and went a long way toward financing Bulwer-Lytton’s extravagant lifestyle. Above all, Bulwer-Lytton seemed to possess a talent for producing phrases so persistently memorable that they have since become cliches. “The pen is mightier than the sword” is from his play Richelieu and “the almighty dollar” appears in the novel The Coming Race.

Do you plan to read J. K. Rowling’s latest? Do you have a favorite genre-crossing author?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leigh P. October 3, 2012 at 2:06 PM

I think this is one of the rare novels I’m going to wait to see what those around me think before reading it. I loved Harry Potter for the story…I’m hesitant to jump into an “adult” book without a proven record…does that make sense? I’ll cut a debut some slack, of course (glad I did The Night Circus!).

John Banville writes some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read. The Sea captivated me. The writing reminded me of a quieter Sarah Hall, kind of a cross between her and Anne Enright.

I recently read I Capture the Castle and although it wasn’t at all what I expected, I found it lovely and a fun read.

Maybe I’ll check back and see what you guys think of Rowling’s new book before I decide if it’s something I want to get into.

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