May 8, 2011

WRITING ADVICE – Mike Duran #8: What’s Your Brand?

I have never seen Mike Duran. We “met” online a couple years ago because of a little…altercation I caused by saying something less-than-nice about Christian speculative fiction on his blog. Mike, being both a specfic writer and editor, won me closer to his side with gentle and wise words. Since then I’ve found that Mike has lots of gentle and wise words. I’m looking at how some of them have had an impact on my own writing in these WRITING ADVICE posts. (Quotes are used with his permission.) He also participates in “ONE OF WRITER'S DIGEST 101 MOST VALUABLE WEBSITES FOR WRITERS, 2008 & 2010”, NOVEL JOURNEY at The original article for THIS entry is here:

I’ve known my brand for a long time: science fiction.

However, along the way, I’ve become…diversified. HOW it happened, I’ve iterated at another blog I write for ( I’m pretty sure I’m going to stay this way, despite what some people say. I’m going to let Mike Duran stand in the place of those who advocate for the importance of focusing on a genre or style or formula for writing.

Mike Duran says, “One question that’s often asked when defining one’s brand is: Who is your ideal reader? And we need specifics here, folks. What is their ethnicity, gender, and age? Where do they buy their clothes? Do they sport tattoos? Have they attended college? What other authors do they like? And what attracts them to your writing? Which leads me to the following (and rather perfectly timed), question:

“‘Why are you reading this?’

“How you answer that question not only helps me determine what my brand might be, it probably says something about yours as well….What’s your brand? Is it something you have set out to craft? Or do you think this ‘branding’ stuff is a bunch of hoakem?”

My vote will be for “bunch of hoakem”.

I have come to believe that “brand” can be something deeper than what Mike is talking about – where Mike sees it in the “trees”, I see it in the “forest”. Where he looks for detail, I’m going to craft in whole. Of course, I’m no expert – but I’ve been a huge fan of one aspect of a person who might qualify. The part I have read and respect goes by other names that will be familiar to people who read OTHER kinds of fiction: Kris Rusch, Kris Nelscott, Kristine Grayson, Sandy Schofield, and Kathryn Wesley. These are all one in the same person – Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Under this name not only does she write science fiction, she was the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for six years. She is clearly a speculative fiction genre writer.

But by her other incarnations, she writes different BRANDS – general fiction, mysteries and romances and with her husband they use a composite name when they write media tie-ins like STAR TREK, ALIENS and PREDATOR.

So either Kristine Kathryn Rusch knows what she’s doing – or she suffers from a severe case of schizophrenia. What she seems to be doing is answering the question: “I just read this really fascinating article/book or talked with this interesting person – now, how would that scenario play out as a romance or a fantasy or science fiction or mystery?” She appears to continually wonder “what if?” Because of this way of thinking, she frequently mixes genres, “I didn’t know what a genre was until Kevin. J. Anderson explained it to me in college, so I mix genres because I mix them when I read. And writers are influenced by what they read, you know.” (

After reading her science fiction and fantasy novels for years, I tend to think she knows what she’s doing (her current book is #39,315 out of like 2.5 million or more) and I’m planning on moving out the same way. I’ll use pseudonyms for my science fiction and fantasy, my children’s books and my young adult contemporary or historical fiction and a Christian fiction series I’m working on – maybe Guy Stewart, G. James Stewart, GJ Stewart and Elizabeth R. Stewart. Who knows?

As to what my theme will be, there seems to be only one that I have ever cared about. I will always explore how my characters share or experience the love of the Father God, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

No hoakem there!


1 comment:

Paul said...

With at least one of your pseudonyms, your first name should be Stewart, don't you think?

I just finished reading Where Good Ideas Come From: The natural history of ideas, by Steven Johnson. On page 223, there's a chart of British Novelistic Genres from 1740-1900, all FORTY-FOUR of them. So, yeah, not sticking with one of the current genres is probably a good idea.