Genre Mash-Ups by Karen Duvall

Genre Mash-ups

You may have noticed that a lot of novels lately seem to defy the genre status quo of several years ago. It’s been happening gradually, beginning with a combination of sub-genres that appear to apply mostly to romance: Paranormal, suspense, historical, fantasy…

9780373803491_SMP.inddToday we’re seeing multiple mash-ups of all kinds of fiction that are not restricted to romance. Science   Fantasy, Paranormal Mystery, Historical Mystery, Alternate History Fantasy, and even Inspirational Horror, just to name a few.

I’ve been mashing up my fiction since before mash-ups were cool, but in the beginning I had poor luck finding publishers for my work. It seemed that no one wanted to risk taking on something so different. I’m sure other factors played into those rejections, but the overall reason had something to do with a blurred definition of genre that crossed several categories. I wrote what I wanted to read, and mash-ups were what I wanted to read.

Fast forward to today, and we have a lot more freedom to write and publish cross-bred mash-ups of countless variety. Small presses have helped bridge the gap between genres, and now that self-publishing is in vogue, we’re seeing more and more fascinating combinations. I love it!

My first mash-up was a futuristic supernatural medical thriller. Yeah, quite a mouthful, but I managed to find a wonderful little press in 2000 (Speculation Press) to publish the book. The title was Project Resurrection and the premise dealt with cryogenics and reanimation. The story attempts to answer the question of where our soul goes after death, and whether or not it can return when the body is brought back to life. It was an ambitious project, but it turned out pretty good and I got a lot of great reviews. However, it was a bit too weird for prime time.

My next experiment was a paranormal friendship reunion mystery. Kind of a Big Chill meets Charlies Angels, but with ghosts and other things that go bump in the night. Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now. I tried. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), this one came close a couple of times, but it never found a home.

Lucky for me, Knight’s Curse, the first book in my Knight’s Curse series, was my sweet spot. It hit all points for the popular urban fantasy market at the time Harlequin Luna bought it. My heroine is a half-angel thief cursed by a gargoyle that wants to either eat her, or turn her into a beast like itself. The story has angels (white as well as fallen), curses, charms, knights, a mummy, fae, sorcery… It’s a mixed bag. In fact, if you’ve ever watched an episode of Lost Girl on the SyFy Channel, that’s similar in tone and style to my Knight’s Curse books.

My latest published project is a mash-up of Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, which combine to create a post-apocalyptic tale for Harlequin Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology. My novella is one of three included in the book. I found this one especially challenging because science and fantasy can be prickly bed-fellows, but it works. My novella is called Sun Storm.

Sun Storm Pictorial (1)

Here’s the blurb: After the biggest solar flares in history nearly destroy the planet, Sarah Daggot becomes a Kinetic, endowed by her exposure to extreme radiation with the power to forecast sun storms. And she’s not the only one. Other Kinetics possess different kinetic abilities, and Sarah believes they’re destined to join forces and halt the final onslaught of the sun… before the world ends.


Are there any genres that are too much like oil and water to mix? Inspirational and Erotica would clash as badly as mixing plaid with floral. A Historical Futuristic might sound like an oxymoron, unless it’s Alternate History. In fact, Inspirational is the only genre I can think of that doesn’t mix well with everything. How about a Mermaid Western? Can you think of an unlikely combo? If so, please share.


4 comments on “Genre Mash-Ups by Karen Duvall

  1. Nancy-Gail Burns says:

    You’re right, mash-ups have broken the box. Cowboys & Aliens, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, come to mind. I find Nelson Van Alden, a character from Boardwalk Empire, a great blend of erotica and religious zealot. He proves repression is not always a bad thing.

  2. Karen Duvall says:

    That’s a great observation, Nancy. I know both the movies you mentioned got a lot of raised eyebrows, but a lot of movie goers enjoyed them. I loved Cowboys & Aliens, but I haven’t seen (nor read) the Abraham Lincoln one yet. It’s on my list. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. dianamcc says:

    Mash-ups have certainly changed the landscape of genres. I have one I’ve been working on off and on for a couple of years. It is a Historical/witch/vampire/cursed prince. I call it an adult fairy tale, simply because I wasn’t sure of the genre. I would say the show “Happily Ever After” (think that’s the name) is a mix genre of Time Travel, modern and magic.All the fairy tale characters live there Storybrook where the fairy tale characters live in the present day, is still a magical place. If the characters step beyond the city limits they die. Yet, people from the outside can come in to town. I really like Mash-ups. Congratulations on the new book, Karen! Wishing you many sales. I read “Knights Curse” & the follow up “Darkest Knight”. Both books are really good. Great Post.

    • Karen Duvall says:

      Thanks, Diana! You must be talking about the show called Once Upon a Time, so that’s close. 🙂 I love that show. I would say mash-ups are here to stay and I can’t wait for the “next big thing” to come along.

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