By Kelli A. Wilkins
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. Usually their next question is: “What do you write?” My answer? “Everything.”
I write fiction in various genres and levels of intensity. I can give romance readers a tender love story or a spicy erotic novella in any time period. Fans of speculative fiction can be terrorized by my horror stories, solve a murder-mystery, or get whisked away into an alternate reality in my sci-fi tales. I’ve also written several non-fiction books. Looking to take care of a cat or a hermit crab? I’ve got those covered. And if you’re ready to write your own fiction, well, I wrote the book on how to get started.
I’m often asked a lot of questions about how (and why) I write across the genre spectrum. Here are four FAQ:
How did you get started writing in so many different genres?
I never set out to be such a multi-faceted writer; it was something that happened gradually. I started out writing short horror fiction, and always dreamed of “someday” having my work included in an anthology. (I’m happy to say my horror stories have appeared in several anthologies, both online and in print.)
Then one day I came across a “10-minute love story” in a magazine and thought, “I could write one of those.” So I did. The story was accepted and I became a regular romance author for the publication. A year or so later they asked me if I could write sci-fi. I said, “Sure!” and I did.
From that point on, I realized I didn’t have to “just” write horror, or romance, or sci fi… I could branch out into any genre or type of writing I wanted. I figured, why limit yourself? If I have an idea for a story (regardless of genre), why not write it?
Recently I’ve branched out into mystery/thrillers with The Route 9 Killer and the paranormal romance/mystery genre with In Another World. Who knows what’s next?
Within the romance genre, you write contemporary, gay, paranormal, fantasy, and historical stories. Why do you vary so much in one genre?
I get inspired from a multitude of ideas, so I basically go wherever the story takes me. My fantasy romance, A Most Unusual Princess came about because I wanted to write about a headstrong princess looking for a husband. The idea of a gay wrestler forced to come out sparked A Secret Match, and a mysterious stranger collapsing into the arms of an 1877 storekeeper became my historical romance novel, Love, Lies & Redemption.
The plot and characters dictate the genre, setting, and heat level in my books. So I may write a hot contemporary romance one month, and then two months later I’m writing a mild historical. I don’t mind switching up genres because it gives me leeway to create unique characters and plots each time I write. Even I never know where the next story will take me.
Within the historical category, my books range from mild to super-spicy and take place in different time periods (Old West, Colonial, Pioneer, Celtic). I don’t stick to writing “all” Westerns or “all” Colonials. Once I have the time period for the story, I do research for details and/or ideas for clothing, occupations, etc. I like to weave authentic details into the books and blend them in as naturally as possible.
When I’m writing fantasy romance, I try to make the details believable, even if I’m making them up. Right now I’m writing an epic historical/fantasy romantic adventure.
How do you balance writing romance and horror? Which one do you like best?
My horror stories are more psychologically spooky rather than gory, and usually after I finish writing a few romances I switch up and write a horror tale or two. I use different “writing muscles” when I tell a horror story, and I can develop different plots, characters, and have an overall darker tone in my horror fiction than I can in a romance.
I like both genres, so it was only a matter of time before I blended the two… into paranormal romance. When I write paranormal romances I have to make sure I don’t cross over too far into the horror world. You don’t want to create a paranormal hero/heroine who is too frightening and/or violent in the story.
Romance lovers don’t want to read about a full-fledged monster. The character has to be likeable and loveable with all the traits of a romance hero/heroine – even if he or she is a vampire who needs to feed. (This was the basis for my paranormal, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover.)
Lately I’ve been scaling back on my romances and focusing on speculative fiction. These short stories aren’t exactly classic “horror” tales designed to scare readers, but they do include paranormal elements. One reviewer said the stories have a “Twilight Zone feel.” For example, my More than I Bargained For is an offbeat mini-mystery about a woman who can talk to the dead.
One of my favorite horror stories is Nightmare in the North. It’s a novella about a man stranded with strangers in a blizzard. It was a lot of fun to write and after reading it, my husband called it “disturbing.” I love writing horror stories (or mainstream stories with speculative elements) and I’ve got lots of ideas…. I just need the time to write!
You wrote the non-fiction book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. What made you decide to write a book about writing?
Every time I do an interview, I’m often asked the same batch of questions: Where do you get your ideas? How do I get published? How do you write a book? What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out? Do you have any writing tips?
I’ve answered these questions many times in interviews and addressed them in blogs, but I always wanted to say more. One day, I started thinking about everything I’ve learned over the years, and inspiration hit me: Why not write a book on how to write? The result? You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction.
This fun and practical book walks you through the story-creating process step-by-step: from getting a great idea to meeting your characters, developing a plot, and on to writing, revising, and submitting your work. It covers the basics of storytelling—regardless of what genre you write.
Each easy-to-read chapter is based on my years of hands-on experience as a writer, advice I’ve received, and the technical “know-how” I’ve gained in writing classes and professional writing workshops. Basically, it’s practical advice on how to get started, almost like a Writing 101 workshop. Any writer can use the tips and writing exercises for an extra boost of motivation or just for fun.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Writers shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Yes, it might be “easier” or “better” to find a genre or a niche and stay there for your entire writing career. You could build a solid brand, get a large fan base, and become a household name in the genre. That may work for most writers, but for me, it would become tiresome after a while (like having the same thing for dinner every night). I like to explore something new and different each time I write.
For me, writing across the genre spectrum is just what I do. Some days, I venture down a dark and mysterious pathway into a haunted cemetery… Other days, I’ll lose myself in the romantic adventures of a feisty historical heroine… But no matter what I write, I enjoy creating the characters, plots, and settings that bring the story to life for readers—and I hope they enjoy the journey as much as I do.
I welcome comments from readers and other authors. Feel free to drop me a line with questions or comments about my books. You can find a full title list and all my social media links on my site: www.kelliwilkins.com
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, and 6 mystery/horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror and mystery stories.
Her latest release, The Route 9 Killer, was published in May 2023. This mystery/thriller is set in Central NJ.
Kelli’s paranormal/mystery romance, In Another World, was released in 2022. She released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.