As promised in my last post, here guest-blogger Lucinda E. Clarke talks about some of the challenges of being a multi-genre author, and will be of interest to both readers and fellow writers.
Once upon a time, in the age of the dinosaurs when people actually paid me to write, I was commissioned by the South African Broadcasting Service (SABC), firstly for radio and later television programmes. The subjects were as diverse as splitting the atom, how to be an entrepreneur, how to fashion a toothbrush from twigs and how to feed a family of 10 on a piece of ground the size of a door.
I became a fountain of knowledge and a master of nothing. Almost any subject that comes up in everyday conversation I can think, "I once wrote a programme about that."
These were my first thoughts when Graham very kindly asked me to scribble a few words about working on more than one genre and I guess he is referring to books. But let me add that to write for radio you have to think in sounds, actors use character names frequently so you know who is talking and you can fly to Mars and plunge down the Marianas Trench for nothing using equipment found in most kitchens.
Moving to television was a huge learning curve. Now, I had a budget to consider (even stock shots can cost a small fortune), a director to please and a cameraman to instruct.
When I started writing my own books as my own boss, I revelled in the freedom. No longer did I have to time out scripts, locations and car crashes were once again free; I was in charge. What I hadn’t expected was to start again right at the bottom of the ladder.
My first effort was my "sensitive" memoir, in that it was true and revolved around my family. For this I used a pen name and waited until members of the older generation had passed on. It was easy to write physically, if not as easy mentally, as my life has been somewhat bizarre and traumatic.
My next effort was a full-length novel – could I do it? A big step into the unknown. I based it very loosely on my own experiences of arriving to live in Africa, only I took it a step further and put my heroine through hell – what fun!
The wrinkles in the mirror told me time was running out, so with memory fading, I rushed to record my days of media work in two volumes – it got too long for the one I planned – and suddenly I had 4 books out there.
I could have published the last 3 in my real name but it seemed too much effort to open another Facebook page, Twitter account and all the rest, so Lucinda it remained. Some very kind and possibly deluded readers liked Amie so much they urged me to write more and I’m scribbling book 5, but in the meantime, while spring cleaning under the bed, I found an old manuscript – Unhappily Ever After, a comedy set in Fairyland. I scraped the dust off and revamped it.
The weird thing is most of my media writing was comedy – many programmes were educational and I firmly believe you can impart information more easily if you make it fun. So, I enjoyed completing my comedy book – it’s very much along the lines of Tom Sharpe and I’d be tempted to write more but for one large problem: comedy has changed and to be honest I don’t understand what makes younger people laugh these days. There’s little humour in clever word play, embarrassing situations and innuendo. I’m tempted to follow Cinderella as a newly divorcee, but I’m not sure the sales would warrant it.
Promotion across boundaries? A nightmare. I couldn’t see myself writing memoir after memoir about my hectic life; the first three said most of what there was to say and that was an end to it. OK, so I have a free reader magnet book about my riding school in Botswana, but it’s only a short book.
Overall, I’m out of sync with that’s "in". I’ve written memoirs, an old-style comedy and an adventure series – not detective books, crime novels, erotic or supernatural – but then I couldn’t stop writing if I tried, I’m hooked – a lost cause. I will write for me.
Thank you for these insightful comments, Lucinda. I shall be continuing this theme in the next post.