Today’s guest post is really helpful for me, and I hope it is for you as well. Tara Moeller shares what it is like to write in a variety of genres and the complexity that that holds for writers. To learn more about Tara, keep reading, and if you want to write a guest post, fill out this form and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Most writers get ideas that are different -different worlds, different time periods, maybe even different levels of “scary”. And sometimes, when these ideas hit the paper—or the computer screen—you realize that the intended audience is for middle grade students instead of adults.
Many authors write in different genres, and that’s okay. There’s no rule that says an author can only write one kind of story, like romance, or western, or fantasy. The elements that make those genres different doesn’t make the story arc or the characters so different that they can’t be written by the same person.
I write a lot of different stuff; my first full-length published novel, Dhampyr Heritage, was set in the late Victorian period and was about a teenage boy finding out there were a lot of vampires in the world, and that his grandfather had been a vampire hunter. Now, I also had a manuscript, already written and finalized several years earlier, that got published soon after, The Secret of Magik and Dragons; it was a magical fantasy for middle-grade audiences.
Now, I don’t think you can use the same pen name for those two books; what I wrote in Dhampyr Heritage was not appropriate for middle-grade readers. That’s why Dhampyr Heritage has E. G. Gaddess on it and not T. L. Frye.
It can be hard juggling all the different story ideas and made-up worlds that go into all these stories, but so far I’ve managed…mostly. Juggling manuscripts and “personas” means that while E. G. Gaddess has been pretty prolific, T. L. Frye only has a second manuscript ready now.
How do I manage it as well as I do? Notebooks—oodles of them.
I have one filled with ideas and character descriptions and scene plots for my Dhampyr series (there are three books so far), as well as for my steampunk YA series also by E. G. Gaddess. I also have one for my middle grade fantasy books, and another for an early reader steampunk that I’d like to put together, but it’s still in the very early stages, so we’ll see where that goes.
I don’t even want to think about what I’m going to do with my other steampunk manuscripts that have just older-than-teenage protagonists—Edwina Gaddess may have to rise from the coffin, and soon.
I also have a notebook for short story ideas, most of which, when realized and complete, get submitted under my real name, Tara Moeller. I’ve also got some odd novellas published under my name, and a slightly horrific (and a little sexy) ghost story that doesn’t really fit anywhere else, so it will go out under my real name. And a similar one with a demon and a stinky portal to the underworld.
This situation doesn’t help me create a unified “brand” (we’ve all heard about personal author branding, right?) so my marketing of anything has been pretty sporadic, but I’m starting to figure out how to get the word out about each project that has a running theme and developing “brand.”
E. G. Gaddess is Victorian and steampunk (which can be described as Victorian science fiction, so I think they fit together). My author photos as E. G. Gaddess include my steampunk costumes, which I love, and wear whenever I appear anywhere to sell those books.
My publicity pictures for Tara Moeller tend to be humorous, which I think lends to an adult audience, while I try to extend “teacherly” vibes in my T. L. Frye pics, though I’m not sure I succeed.
This “persona” extends to when I make appearances. E. G. Gaddess tends to attend local conventions, especially since I get to wear any one of my many steampunk or semi-Victorian get ups when I do. I sit on panels as an author, and though I don’t pretend I’m only E. G. Gaddess, I try to limit my answers and discussions to areas that fit with the books I write as E. G. Gaddess.
For T. L. Frye, I don’t costume up, but wear comfy pants and usually a sweater. Younger kids (and their parents) don’t seem to know what to make of someone dressed up and selling them a book, so I limit those appearances (and they are limited) to library events and kid festivals and Ren Faires (which are family events and fit with the fantasy theme of those books); I will dress up for a Ren Faire—I mean, pretty much EVERYONE does.
When I get an opportunity to represent the publishing collective, DreamPunk Press, that I’m a part of, I usually go as Tara Moeller, mainly because I also edit for the collective and curate the charity anthology we publish every year. I have also been asked to sit on panels at conventions as an editor, and when I do, I attend as Tara Moeller. This, I think, helps me keep my personas separate and distinct, and helps keep the confusion down for my readers.
But one thing I never do, is lie that I don’t write under all those names. I may not offer it up first thing when at a DreamPunk Press table, but I don’t ever lie about it. That is the easiest way to lose fans. And I can’t afford to do that; I only have about five.
And with that, let me talk about my latest pen name, Zahra Jons (don’t ask where it came from). When my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma, it threw the life of my entire family into a tailspin. My husband and I became her main caregivers, and my recently teenaged kid’s world was thrown into chaos. I tried writing this out several times, with several voices, and finally a contemporary YA story was the result. It didn’t fit with anything else I’ve written, so yet another name was created.
This wasn’t an easy book to write, and it is almost too close to me. I may not ever write anything similar again (but who are we kidding, I already have something written down in another notebook). But if I never do, E.G., T. L., and Tara will keep on writing and publishing, and we’ll be fine.
Tara Moeller is the dreamer-in-chief at DreamPunk press, a small publishing collective out of Norfolk, Virginia. She has been working as an editor for over 20 years and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Old Dominion University. She is also an author, publishing under several pen names across several genres. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including Airships and Automatons from White Cat Publishing, Street Magick from Elder Signs Press, and the Cynthia Shepp Editing published Stardust. You can also find short fiction from her at her blog, www.taramoeller.com, and of course many of her novels and novellas are available from www.dreampunkpress.com.