December 29, 2017

One Genre—or Two?

By Irene Hannon 

I write in two genres—contemporary romance and romantic suspense—and I’m often asked how this came about and how I make it work. So let’s talk about that for a few minutes.

My very first book was a romantic suspense novella—and it was really, really, really bad. (Sorry for all those adverbs, but they capture the badness!) One of the many reasons it was so bad is because I had no contacts in law enforcement (a serious problem if your main character is a police detective) and there was no internet. We’re talking the Dark Ages here.

Stymied, I decided to switch to contemporary romance. While most books in that genre do require some research, in general it’s less intense and technical than the kind needed for a heavy-duty suspense novel.

After writing three books, I connected with a publisher and was off and running in contemporary romance.

Or so I thought.

Problem was, after two of my three contracted books were published, the line I wrote for was discontinued.

I did connect with another publisher eventually…then another…and my career picked up momentum.

Twenty-six books later, I got the urge to try romantic suspense again. This time, I not only had contacts, I had the internet. Piece of cake, right?


My 26 mass market series romance books didn’t mean a thing to single-title, trade-paperback publishers—especially since I was an unknown in romantic suspense.

In the end, I did connect with a wonderful publisher, and now write both contemporary romance and romantic suspense for them under the same pen name.

I think this has worked well for me because my books share three common elements.

First, romance is central to all my novels. A reader who picks up an Irene Hannon book knows it will contain a central love story and that the ending will be happy.

Second, my focus in both genres is on my characters. I use the plot to deepen character development as well as to propel the story. As a result, my suspense books are not action/adventure novels, where characters’ lives hang in the balance on every page while shots fly and bombs explode and planes are hijacked. Instead, I build toward a suspenseful climax while delving deep into my characters’ minds (including the villain’s), taking readers along with me. Those who read my books know they’ll get an in-depth character dive in every story I write.

Third, all my books contain moments of mirth, deeply emotional scenes, and relatable heroes and heroines the reader can connect with and root for.

As a result of these common elements, I have many readers who enjoy my books in both genres.

That said, some of the suspense readers have dinged me in Amazon reviews because my contemporary romances weren’t to their taste. There are also some readers who enjoy my contemporary romances but find my suspense tales too scary. So the crossover isn’t one hundred percent.

My publisher does differentiate between the two genres with two very different cover styles, and that helps readers make choices consistent with their tastes. It’s pretty obvious that Sandpiper Cove and Dangerous Illusions are not in the same genre!

Bottom line, writing in two genres has worked for me for the reasons outlined above. But if you’re thinking of writing, say, young adult dystopian fantasy and regency romance—different pseudonyms might be in order!
Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America (the “Oscar” of romance fiction) and is also a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. In 2016, she received a Career Achievement award from RT Book Reviews magazine for her entire body of work. She loves to chat with readers on Facebook!


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