Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Crossing Genre Lines with Melissa F. Olson

I'm happy to have author Melissa F. Olson on the blog today! I know Melissa through our connection to 47North, and she is great people, guys. Her latest mystery novel, The Big Keep, just released through Westmarch Publishing, so please check it out!


Sometimes, I think about my protagonists like they’re my kids.

It’s a little weird, I know, especially given that my oldest protagonist, Allison Luther of the upcoming “Boundary” series, is exactly my age, and my youngest protagonist, Scarlett Bernard, is eight years younger than me.

But I’m not the first to compare writing books (especially book series, which are by definition ongoing) to having kids. It’s one of those analogies that’s occasionally very useful (i.e.: “I don’t want that audiobook narrator because I don’t trust anyone with my babies!”) but breaks down if you get too far into it.

For example, while I used the same method to make both of my actual children*, my three different book series were developed along two different patterns: one of them, you see, is a mystery.

I’m not being metaphorical here. One of them is actually in the mystery genre. Historically, it’s not uncommon for authors to have a finger in more than one pie**, but it’s not so popular these days from a “branding” perspective. In the days of author websites and Facebook pages, every author is his or her own brand, and there is a line of thought that those brands need to be protected.  That’s how you end up having an author like Seanan McGuire write science fiction under a pseudonym.

I thought about using a pseudonym for about five seconds, and then I got tired and had to lie down. Two Facebook pages? Two websites? Two Twitter accounts? Exhausting.

But here I am anyway.*** I’ve always been a firm believer in writing the book you want to read, and the two genres I read for my own personal fun are mystery and urban fantasy. So even if it didn’t make sense from a branding standpoint, writing in both genres makes perfect sense to me. My private investigator, Selena Dane, is smart and daring and fun to write. Even if she’d have no idea how to handle vampires and werewolves, I like to think she’d get along great with Scarlett, too.  After all, they’re technically sisters.


*You know the one.
**I’m sorry. In retrospect I should have thought of a more appealing metaphor.
***This may be the new title of my autobiography.


Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at


  1. "I’ve always been a firm believer in writing the book you want to read..."

    Makes sense to me, and while it's true that it does affect branding, and there may not be a great jump in readers of urban fantasy to mystery--or mystery to urban fantasy, they still are readers who can enjoy what you write.

  2. Fantasy and horror, I think, are (among others, probably) really great genres for cross-overs. The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan takes advantage of mystery tropes and the first John Cleaver trilogy takes advantage of crime tropes. Space Opera is both fantasy and science fiction simultaneously.

  3. Another facet to it is losing the momentum and clout of the first name, if your book(s) has done well. I'm debating revising and releasing some old WIPs, but (if I do) I'll probably do it under a different pen name in case they don't do so well.


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