John Scalzi has an interesting post over at his site about the stupidity of the idea that writers don’t write to get rich. I agree with all of his points and that’s exactly why I write. I want to be wealthy and I don’t have the connections/schooling/money to be a CEO, I don’t have the desire to be a doctor or lawyer, and I don’t have the talent to play professional sports, be a professional singer, or be a professional actor. That leaves writing. I’m good at it and it provides me the most realistic path to the sort of wealth I seek. Granted, it’s not a 100% guarantee, but I stand a greater chance of becoming wealthy as a writer than I do at my day job.
This is why I don’t really write short stories anymore and why I still maintain an interest in screenwriting despite lots of anecdotal evidence that madness that way lies. Now this doesn’t mean that money is the ONLY reason I write, just as money isn’t the only reasons athletes compete, singers sing, or actors act. But it’s certainly high up there. Which brings me to part two of today’s ramble.
The book I’m writing right now is not a crime novel. Well, it’s not just a crime novel. It’s what would broadly be defined as an urban fantasy. While it maintains many of the elements of a noir novel, it also has the added bonus of monsters and magic and birds that shoot lightening out of their feathers. Part of the reason for this switch was a growing boredom with mainstream crime fiction. I don’t like thrillers or serial killers or foreign novels or historical mysteries which left me with few options.
Back when I started writing mysteries I loved PI novels and it was a good time to be writing PI novels. I saw authors I admired frequently hitting the bestseller list and knew that would be my destiny. But since then the audience for PI novels has diminished as has my desire to write them. I finished one short neo-noir novel that I loved and sent it to a well-known indie press. I think a respected indie press would be a great home for that novel, but when it came time to write another novel I wasn’t in the mood to write another small stakes novel to send to an indie press.
I wanted to write something bigger where I could really unleash my imagination. One of the trends in fiction I have enjoyed is the infusion of paranormal elements into crime fiction and, once again inspired by Victor Gischler, among others, I decided to aim for the fences and write a big, fat, meaty urban fantasy adventure novel and I’m having a riot. I also think it’s the most commercial thing I’ve written so far. Will this book make me rich and famous if it gets published? Most likely no, but I think it will put me in a better spot for mass success than writing another small stakes book full of inside jokes that has an audience of maybe 500 folks at most.
The nice part about exploring this territory is that I don’t have to abandon the crime fiction community I’ve come to love. Crime readers have been shown to be a wide and loyal readership and I’ve seen many authors who got their start in crime fiction move successfully to other genres and not lose their connection to crime fandom. We’ll see how this all plays out for the future, but for now I’m using parts of my imagination I haven’t tapped since I was in middle school and that’s exciting.