If you’ve read the ‘What next?’ section of my website, you’ll know I’m currently working on three different books. Although I’m not yet ready to go into any detail, what I will say is that all three books are in different genres. One of them is a (sort of) thriller but none are alternative history. This has already caused some consternation with my publisher. Ideally they’d like another alternative history thriller (and even better, one with victorious Nazis). In other words, what they really want is more of the same.
Which brings me to a hero of mine: Stanley Kubrick. One of the things I admire most about Kubrick is how much he shifted from one genre to another. In 1962 he made Lolita, an adaptation of Nabakov’s novel. After that he moved to black comedy, then sci-fi, dystopian fantasy, 18th Century period drama, horror, war and finally to Eyes Wide Shut which defies easy classification altogether. I cannot imagine a novelist being given such free reign.
OK, so Kubrick was working at a different time, in a different medium; he was a genius. Nevertheless, I look at his example and feel frustrated.
I understand why publishers want more of the same: it’s a way of building a brand and making money. Plenty of writers are happy to work this way. But I find it shackling. I want to go where my imagination takes me and that means a disregard for categorisation. Quite how I will square this circle is an issue I’ve yet to work out. When people ask me what I’m currently working on, perhaps that should be my answer: trying to satisfy my needs as a writer with those of the business… something Stanley never had to worry about.