“Oh you can’t write in more than one genre. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
The man was lecturing me at a recent holiday social event. He is himself an author, not famous, but has several detective novels out. Despite my noble attempts to argue with him, his words have haunted me.
Followers of this blog know that I have three social justice-themed novels published and more on the way. I have written a sequel to Unwanted Heroes and have a framework for a third book involving many of the same characters and also based in San Francisco, the city I find so rich in novel fodder!
But I am also excited to be writing Young Adult Epic Fantasy. Over the past three years I have written three novels – a series – and the first was just published with Tourmaline Books.
While I see a lot in common between epic fantasy and more activist literature, in terms of imbuing certain values, I have to admit that I often feel embarrassed revealing to someone who knows me through my social justice-themed novels and Left Coast Voices that I also write YA epic fantasy.
I tried to explain to the man that I maintain separate blogs (elfwriter.com) and twitter accounts (@elfwriter) and that my target audiences for both are very separate – actually I am not the only one who enjoys more than one genre – but he would not hear of it.
I am very proud of my social justice-themed novels. When I give talks I begin by stating that I write novels that highlight social injustices with everyday characters who discover they can help create a better world.
I am passionate about this and it is what has kept me writing not only the four novels I have completed, but also nearly 800 blog posts in just over two years. I know I am not alone. It is why you read this blog and why I have 19,000 twitter followers.
But I love my epic fantasy books as well. It began as a project together with my sons (I would read a new novel to them on each of our annual summer camping trips. Snuggling in my tent or sitting around the campfire have become definitive memories for all of us. Seeing my eldest cradle the first copy of At The Walls Of Galbrieth with such pride was priceless).
But it has become more than just a family project. As I have met more fantasy fans through the social media I mentioned, I have discovered a rich and wonderfully warm group of people. And if some are a bit quirky, well, I love it.
Writing Young Adult affords an opportunity to share values I believe important with a different age group and if I play a small part in helping create the next generation of book readers, then I am also very proud of my work.
And I will continue to write in both genres for as long as I feel inspired to do so.
Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).