Hey everyone! I wanted to thank awesome author Denise Dietz/Mary Ellen Dennis to my blog today. Please give her a warm welcome as she chats about writing in different genres.
Former singer/actress and perennial rule-breaker Denise Dietz, a.k.a. Mary Ellen Dennis, is the author of several award-winning historical romance novels and culinary mysteries. She is married to novelist Gordon Aalborg, a.k.a. Victoria Gordon, whom she met online through NINC (Novelists Inc). They live on Vancouver Island with their chocolate Lab, Magic.
JUGGLING WRITING IN MULTIPLE GENRES
I’ve always written in multiple genres because I like to write what I like to read and I read in multiple genres. I can’t even imagine an author writing in a genre she or he doesn’t read.
Once upon a long time ago, I decided I wanted to be a full-time novelist and I’d give myself 3 months to see if I could write a book. I took a hiatus from my job as a journalist and lived off my meager savings—hooray for saltine crackers from Wendy’s (along with an enormous jar of generic peanut butter). For my first book, I thought—optimistically—that I’d write a women’s fiction, somewhat modeled after Judith Krantz (Scruples) and Susan Isaacs (Almost Paradise) along with a wee bit of John Steinbeck (East of Eden). I decided I’d tell my story from the first-person POV of three different women.
Everything went splendidly until I brought my three women together! Today I’d continue writing the story from one woman’s POV. Back then, I tried to write the same chapter—and subsequent chapters—over and over (and over) again, from each woman’s POV. The book started to grow. And GROW. Until, halfway through, it was longer than Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.
Obviously, my book was a disaster. But the silver lining was that I knew I wanted, with all my heart and soul, to be a novelist. I wanted to experience the “high” I felt when I expressed my thoughts through words. All I had to do was learn my craft. So rather than go back to my newspaper job, I started my own hand-painted T-shirt business and, at the same time, worked for Paramount as a movie extra. Unfortunately, my beautiful song in Urban Cowboy (a duet with Charlie Daniels) ended up on the cutting room floor and my personal check from Debra Winger—for a hand painted T-shirt—bounced.
When extra work became too iffy and my generic peanut butter ran out, I wrote during the day and waited tables at night.
Having lost 55 (and a half!) lbs on Weight Watchers, I became a Weight Watchers lecturer and, watching members weight in, I thought: Wouldn’t it be funny if some maniac was killing off diet club member when they reached their goal weight? What if people were eating as if their lives depended on it? Using that concept, I wrote THROW DARTS AT A CHEESECAKE, then 3 other “diet club” mysteries: BEAT UP A COOKIE, CHAIN A LAMB CHOP TO THE BED and STRANGLE A LOAF OF ITALIAN BREAD.
My diet club series was very popular, but I hit the bestseller lists with FOOTPRINTS IN THE BUTTER – an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery co-starring Hitchcock the Dog, now available as an e-book – http://tinyurl.com/7agu2v8 – and full-cast audio: www.SirenAudioStudios.com. My diet club mysteries, EYE OF NEWT (a mystery that goes back and forth between the present and 1692 Salem) and “Footprints” were written by Denise Dietz.
I still wanted to write romance, my first love, so I began working on a saga—HEAVEN’S THUNDER—that would consume 10 years of my life. At the same time, I wrote more mysteries, and I finally wrote my women’s fiction novel, SOAP BUBBLES, about three women affiliated with a trendy soap opera. I also wrote a mystery/horror novel, FIFTY CENTS FOR MY SOUL, about an uptight actress possessed by a randy doppelganger. “Fifty Cents” was inspired by events that occurred during the filming of The Exorcist. My sister, Eileen Dietz, played The Demon, plus many of the possession sequences, and she allowed me to use her journal—with all the technical details: the rising bed and rotating head, the pea-soup whoops—if I killed off the film’s director
The seed for my circus historical romance, THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, was planted when I researched Heaven’s Thunder and learned that the circus had visited Colorado in the early 1900s. A big circus. With elephants! And what was then called a cameleopard (giraffe). Curiosity piqued, I ferreted out background data, read dozens of books, and although no one circus is the basis for The Greatest Love on Earth, P.T. Barnum’s comes close.
I wrote a contemporary, paranormal romance, HALLIE’S COMET, and I can’t begin to tell you the thrill I experience when that book was published. Having sworn on a stack of Stephen Kings that someday I’d write an historical romance inspired by the poem “The Highwayman,” I wrote THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER, and despite my track record as a best-selling author, that book was difficult to market because publishers were “concerned” about a couple of 13th century ghosts in a 1790s time period. One publisher didn’t shy away from the ghosts, thank goodness. Published in paperback by Sourcebooks/Casablanca, “Landlord” has been nominated for a Romantic Times award.
No matter what the genre, I always remember that the name of the game is emotions. If the sad bits don’t make me shed a tear, I’ve likely done it wrong. If the sexy bits don’t turn me on, they likely will fail to do it for my readers. Therefore, no matter what the genre—romance or mystery, women’s fiction or horror, erotica or generational saga—I need to create believable characters in believable situations, with REAL emotions my readers can share.
Visit Denise Dietz for a full list of Denise and Mary Ellen’s novels and ebooks.