Breaking Free From Your Genre

It’s always nice to see a writer breaking out of their usual genre. It gives readers a deeper insight into their talents. Marnie Riches is one such author. I first knew her as a children’s writer but she’s branched out from children’s fiction to take a much darker turn with her series of moody crime thrillers. She’s a recent winner at the Dead Good Reader Awards, receiving the Patricia Highsmith Award for most exotic location.

Here’s how she transformed from children’s author to crime writer.

The difficult birth of The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by Marnie Riches

the-girl-who-wouldnt-dieI had been writing for children for some years when I started work on The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. Always a fan of crime fiction, particularly the Scandi-noir of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo, it had been the pinnacle of my writing aspirations to pen a complex crime thriller. But what sort of a shape would an adult thriller penned by a children’s author take?

Back in 2010, when New Adult was a newly mooted age-banding, I realised I wanted to write about a girl on the cusp of adulthood. I wasn’t ready to leave my stories in the hands of a solely middle-aged cast of misanthropes, perverts and murderers (although the series is inevitably littered with those). My heroine, George McKenzie is therefore twenty in the first book and an Erasmus student studying at Amsterdam university. I think her youth brings a freshness and derring-do to the genre, in the same way Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander did to the Millennium Trilogy.

It took me two years to get The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die just right. Rewrite, after rewrite, after rewrite. It grew to 150K words. I cut it back to just over 100K. In the interim, I penned the first six books of the HarperCollins’ Time-Hunters series for 7+ children, under a pseudonym, Chris Blake. When The Girl was polished to perfection, after my second agent had sadly retired, I went on the hunt for a new agent, knowing that “clicking” would be essential for a long term commitment. Within a few weeks, I had two offers of representation, and though both were from reputable agencies, I followed my gut instincts when I made my choice. My judgement was spot on.

the-girl-who-broke-the-rulesThe Girl Who Wouldn’t Die took a year for my agent to place – the enthusiasm from my publisher Avon (HarperCollins’ commercial imprint) was there immediately following submission, but the imprint had to undergo a lengthy period of restructuring and was not initially in a position to offer. We waited for them, though, and with hindsight, Avon, which publishes great women’s fiction and crime, was always the right home for my series. Now, I’m beginning to see that patience and belief pay off. My debut made it to the top of the Kindle free chart within days and is now climbing quickly in Kindle paid. With The Girl Who Broke the Rules out in August 2015 and The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows coming in late November, I’m optimistic that the series will have won a loyal following by the end of 2015. But the buzz wouldn’t be there without the support of fellow authors, SCBWI, reviewers, book bloggers and friends. Building your supportive network is essential whether you self-publish or are traditionally published like me.

No doubt, being published can be a fraught and emotional rollercoaster ride, but it’s one worth taking. The highs are bloody awesome! It’s the best job in the world. So, if you’re an aspiring author, my advice is to keep writing, aim for the stars, surround yourself with supportive allies and never give up!

About the Author

marnie-richesMarnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, aptly within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. She swapped those for the spires of Cambridge University, gaining a Masters degree in Modern & Medieval Dutch and German. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser. In her spare time, she likes to run, renovate houses and paint. Oh, and drinking. She likes a drink. And eating. She likes that too. Especially in exotic destinations.

Having authored the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series, her George McKenzie crime thrillers for adults were inspired, in part, by her own youth and time spent in The Netherlands as a student. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction.