Don't Get Stuck in Your Genre: How War Movies and Zombies Inspired a Romance Novelist

Posted by Hayley on August 9, 2018
You know what you like, right? Kristen Ashley thought she did. The bestselling romance author, whose books like Mystery Man and Rock Chick have earned more than a million ratings from readers on Goodreads, wanted her stories sweet, sultry, and always full of heart. Then she let a series of gritty films and one sexy apocalypse change her mind. Here Ashley shares how she expanded her reading horizons and why she thinks you should branch out, too.

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I once made an insane deal with my boyfriend: I promised him I'd watch ten movies, whatever he recommended—no excuses not to watch.

He knew my preferences. I liked romantic and feel-good films, or anything with strong female characters, like Billy Elliott and Practical Magic. He also knew I never watched horror, prison, suspense, or war movies. I just found them hard to take.

The first three films he "made" me watch? Rear Window, edge-of-your-seat suspense; Cool Hand Luke, a prison movie; and The Hill, a prisoner-of-war movie. Ugh.

But guess what? They were all superb, so good that they redefined my way of thinking.

I learned not to shut the door on things I didn't think I could enjoy. And thank God, or I never would have watched the brilliant Get Out and so many other films along the way.

Why am I talking movies on a book lovers' forum? Because I so often hear the same things said about the subgenres in romance. "I've read everything you've written, except your fantasy. I don't read fantasy." Then, later: "I had to read another of your books, so I tried your fantasy. I loved it!"

I, too, was recently confronted with this by a book from my friend, and a writer I very much enjoy, Kylie Scott. Her book Flesh is a ménage romance set in—wait for it—the months after a zombie apocalypse.

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I don't normally do zombies. Now I was going to read a zombie apocalypse ménage romance?

I thought about that question for a good five minutes. The answer was yes.

And then I couldn't put the book down. Kylie writes action like you would not believe. I was right there in the apocalypse. One would think they wouldn't want to be right there, after the collapse of civilization, but I was sorry to see the story end. I bought the next book, Skin, immediately. I devoured that, pun intended, and read the short story and novella from the series, all the while begging Kylie to write more.

Her Flesh series reminded me how we can get stuck in what we know, and what we know we like, and not venture out to things that might just rock our worlds.

Along those lines, I was honored to read an advance copy of Consumed by J.R. Ward, the master of the vampire novel and the woman behind the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Consumed has nothing to do with vampires or anything paranormal, but instead focuses on firefighters and SWAT team members, exploring contemporary issues that include family relationships and gender inequality. It was fantastic.

Then there's Joey W. Hill's Natural Law. This phenomenal book inspired me to write a femme domme erotica series of my own. It's not something I'd ever thought I'd do. I think Hill's is better; Joey is a master of the craft. I've since read a number of her astonishingly good novels, and they're not to be missed.

And I'll also add Jenn Bennett, who has her Roaring Twenties series. It's a little bit historical, a little bit mystical, a little bit fantastical, and a whole lot readable. Grim Shadows (the second in the series, and my favorite) has a scene in a museum that's just awesome. I'll say no more. Just read it.

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Onward to the anthology that is sadly no longer available, The Devil's Doorbell, which was my intro to romance shorts and novellas, something I never thought I'd like. But I found it was what was missing in my busy life, the life of a writer and a reader who doesn't have a lot of time to lose myself in books, which is how I like to read. These stories were all exceptional. Every last one. And this experience led me to write for the fabulous 1,001 Dark Nights anthology.

And, of course, there's my favorite subgenre, historical romance. Judith McNaught, my ultimate, still reigns supreme. Her books stand the test of time, and if you haven't discovered her, you should, starting with A Kingdom of Dreams. Vintage romance still rocks it.

Loving historical romances, but having ventured away from them, I was a little concerned things would be different when I started reading Elizabeth Hoyt's Wicked Intentions. What had my time away done to my favorite subgenre? Suffice it to say, after a day and a half lost with my nose in Hoyt's book, I can say nothing's changed. Historical romances are still as brilliant as they always were, though thankfully a lot steamier.

So I urge you to branch out with your reading, too. Zombies? Yes! Don't like werewolves? Give them another shot. Do you scroll past an African American romance because it's something you've just never tried? Stop scrolling and give it a click, baby. Adore your second-chance love stories? They'll be waiting for you, but why not pop over to a hockey romance first?

Of course, to find the one for you, do your research. Read reviews. Ask your Goodreads friends.

And open your mind. It may change your world in a very good way.

Kristen Ashley's latest book, Wild Like the Wind, is now available. Add it to your Want to Read shelf here.

Comments Showing 1-50 of 92 (92 new)

message 1: by Suzette (new)

Suzette I already bought the book and have on my to read list. I have also read several of the 1,001 books in the series.

message 2: by Willow (new)

Willow Dumas Judith Mcnaught is the best! Kristin Ashley is the best.

message 3: by Tina (new)

Tina I have to admit, I'm a stick to what I know kinda girl. I have branched out from time to time. I have always enjoyed the books I have read while doing so. But I always go back to my faves. I can see why some authors should change things up a little. I have many times read several books from an author and they are very predictable, everyone the same with different character names added. These are the authors that need to branch out. Give us something different. In saying that, I hope KA never changes her writing style. I have never not enjoyed one of her books. I love them all. But I agree with her, there are millions of books out there. How do you know something else isn't your favourite if you aren't willing to give something different a try?

message 4: by Creative_Mii (new)

Creative_Mii Excellent reminder. Thanks Kristen and Goodreads. I was thinking about this just recently re sports romances which I've never tried as I always considered them 'not my thing'. I think I'll change that and give em a go :-)

message 5: by Martha (new)

Martha Willow wrote: "Judith Mcnaught is the best! Kristin Ashley is the best." I agree with you :-)

MJ Codename: ♕Duchess♕ I never understood women who *only* watch romance and "feel good movies". Her boyfriend has amazing taste in movies.

message 7: by Ramona (new)

Ramona Wonderful reminder and I have started to just that! Great article!

message 8: by Pat (new)

Pat I'm now on book 50 by Kristen Ashley and I really wondered if I'd like the fantasy ones. I absolutely loved them!!

message 9: by Tt (new)

Tt I love to branch out and try something out of my ordinary or out of my comfort zone and can be pleasantly surprised by my choices! . But I admit, I have to be in an adventurous mood before I start one of those books to have and keep an open mind.

message 10: by Sari (new)

Koskinen Sari I have read so many books after I find ebooks which helped a lot. There isn't seems to be any subgenre what I haven't try if there is some romance. To me the hardest thing is read books with religion if it too much like to read the Bible.
I have learn to love mafia and mc books but sometimes I want to read also books where some locations are from Skandinavian or for examples Finland/ Lapland because I want learn also how authors around the World see my homecountry.

And because different styles of writing, KA, J.R.Ward and Sharon Sala are my favorites. I love every books for them, because themes are interesting and the writing style is really nice. And I learn many things for US. Even some books are telling me more about politics in US or laws etc because are so differents than in Europe or in North Europe. But if there are good books like politics which are fiction, then I can read them. Only books I think have been to me books like American Queen by Sierra Simone or some like that. And some books where was elections of the President etc.

message 11: by Whit (new)

Whit Wow! Kristen Ashley is absolutely on point. I skipped over "Consumed" by J. R. Ward because I assumed it would be like her other "dark series". I tend to avoid those genres. Now I will give "Consumed" a second look.

message 12: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth A timely reminder to read lots of different genres. I haven’t read some of Kirsten’s recommendations but I will now. Thank you.

message 13: by EvilAntie Jan (new)

EvilAntie Jan I’m so open to read any genre- I might prefer one over another. That said it’s about the author. Letting an author move through genres is important - it stretches them as writers and as a reader it excites me- on the other hand it can be disappointing. Authors need encouragement.

message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Zeigler I do read various genres but tend to stay mostly in the contemporary romance track - sports, business, small town, second chance, etc. I love comedy and also mystery/suspense/legal stories and am getting back into historical romances.
I do pass up books like vampires, werewolves, aliens, etc. partly because that just doesn't seem like something I would like but also because I already have a massive TBR.
I work at a state Health Science Center and we strive to be better at diversity and inclusiveness, that can also (to a certain degree) include a wide variety of books. Thanks for sharing the essay!

message 15: by Alejandra (new)

Alejandra As always, Kristen inspires me to enjoy reading!! And you are right!! That's the good thing of reading!! you can tavel around different genres and subgenres. I was unsure to change of author or genre at first but I've been surprised with so many authors!!!
I invite all Rock Chicks open your minds and find new favorites genres!

message 16: by Mona (new)

Mona  Kamel I admit that I has become a fan of Kristen Ashley since I read her Colorado Mountain Series. Her writing style is one of my favourites in Romance fiction. I cannot agree more with her about the subgenres, as I found some of them incredible when I gave them a try. I think she will excel them, and I'm looking forward to read hers.

message 17: by Andrea (new)

Andrea clegg I couldn’t agree more. Mystical and fantastical books were never my thing until I read your three and fantastical series, because they were yours I had to read them. I love them, and some of my fav KA alphas come from those books. My mind is open thanks to you ❤️

message 18: by Teresa (new)

Teresa I love Kylie Scott's writing! That said, I'm super terrified of zombies so I'm reluctant to read Flesh even though I want to. Zombies are like spiders to me. They make me freeze in fear. My fear has kept me from reading this series. I MIGHT pick it up again and see if I can get through it.

Never Stop Reading or Dreaming I loved this series. I really really hope she continues it and soon. ❤️

message 20: by Liz (new)

Liz Esteves Kristen, I love your series books that you have written. I would love another series like rock chicks. Your books make me feel like I’m part of that group. I have yet to find another author that has kept me Still interested and captivated in their books.

message 21: by Ginger (new)

Ginger I love to read different genres, romance, erotica, mystery, paranormal, some sci-fi. I think it gets boring reading the same thing all the time, so I like to mix it up. Through in a vampire, then a serial killer, maybe a dominant, get dark once in a while, then a sweet romance, there is so much out there to get lost in, and very rarely get bored.
So keep those stories coming authors, and please put them on audible, so I can listen and work at the same time. You have a huge listening audience to connect to, and some of you don’t realize it!

message 22: by David (new)

David No matter what you're writing, it's so important to read widely outside your genre. Remember, Tolkien wasn't reading fantasy novels when he wrote Lord of the Rings, he was reading books on finnish philology. Gene Wolfe didn't write Book of the New Sun after a diet of nothing but pulp scifi, he also read Borges and Proust. "Originality," is really just having more diverse and less obvious literary influences than the next writer.

message 23: by Jeta (new)

Jeta I love Kristen Ashley’s books and i can say for sure that i have read all of them.I’ve also love J.R.Ward and i’ve read all her books too,Judith Mcnaught’s books have made me love the historical romace books and that made me find another author Stephanie Laurens.I love to branch out ,read different kind of genres and thanks for letting me know some others authors that i can read.

message 24: by Phyllis (new)

Phyllis Heather Codename: ♕Dutchess♕ wrote: "I never understood women who *only* watch romance and "feel good movies". Her boyfriend has amazing taste in movies." I mainly watch feel-good movies, although Hitchcock is my favorite author. Had issues with depression as a young woman and I avoided depressing movies. Later in life, I work in a field with a lot of turmoil. It is easy to judge people, but we are all different people.

message 25: by E_lovesbooks (new)

E_lovesbooks I didn’t read The Will at first because it has a hero that runs a strip club. Shock !! horror!! Sample deleted!! A few series later and feeling a lot more tolerant I read it. Of course I loved it but most of all I loved how KA reminded me of the important things in life. Her books carry the themes of love, tolerance and redemption with hardworking strong minded characters that anyone can relate and aspire to. The genre is irrelevant to me it’s the message that counts and I need to like something about a character to care what happens to them. The genre is just window dressing. I love KA’s easy style and I think to keep fresh as a writer new challenges and directions are essential. I’d try anything she writes. Good luck!

message 26: by Steelwhisper (new)

Steelwhisper None of these are as good as Rachel Aukes' 100 Days in Deadland (Deadland Saga, #1) by Rachel Aukes rsp. Deadland series.

message 27: by Margi (new)

Margi I'll read anything and everything except for zombies. Hate the subject. Give me an alien, big or small, tall or short, green or purple. Makes no difference. There isn't a genre I haven't read. The one thing I noticed getting older is that I have less patience to read an entire book when I'm not crazy about it. Used to be if I started it I finished it. I belong to an e-reader site that send me free books and of course the library. I also have read and convinced the library to order indie authors from blogs I read. Some have gone on to win awards and the books have been excellent. Told my kids to put my favorite book in with me when I die as I'll need something to read on my trip to heaven.

Jayne {aka cupcakesandbookshelves} I love reading outside of my box, I've read some of these books already and loved them particularly Flesh and Honey series .... I especially LOVE it when authors write and read outside of their boxes too. I can't wait to read Consumed, the BDB series is one of favourites so it will be so good to read something unlike that by JR. This post made me smile and smile so much.

message 29: by Corinna (new)

Corinna Rock Chick kept showing up on my recommended books and I kept thinking It so wasn’t my style of book after just finishing all 8 Outlander books. I was looking for a book with a similar feel and couldn’t understand why Rock Chick kept showing up on my must reads. One day I decided to try it and that same week I read every single Rock Chick book and found an author I love. ❤️

message 30: by Dotty (new)

Dotty Weis Just finished Wild like the wind and loved The MC series SAD TO SEE IT END WITH THE NEXT BOOK

message 31: by Kai (new)

Kai I love all of KA’s books, and while I haven’t read her fantasy series, I was hesitant to read her Honey series but while I didn’t care much for the Domme/sub relationship, I still enjoyed the love stories that developed as the characters got to know one another. For some reason I have a problem with ménage. I’ve read some but it is isnt my favorite. I am a huge paranormal fan, wolves being my favorite Of the sub genre. I look for books that have a story line as well as some romance to it, and some danger. And a good book that has romance, danger and is psychologically thrilling? Now you’re talking.

message 32: by Debra (new)

Debra Johnson For me, if its adult and there is romance, as long as it is well written, I want it.
Kristen Ashley is one of my top 10 favorite authors.
As is J. R. Ward. So as you can see, I am very diverse in my genres. The only genre I no longer read is young adult. However, in my lifetime I have read a boat load of them too.

message 33: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Kocerginsky Alread read all Kristen Ashley Books and she never disappoints even with her honey series that a lot of fans posted comments that they didn’t like. I read all kinds of books, from Paranormal to reverse harem and honestly some are really hot, some the sex scenes are not for my personal taste but the book plot is always interesting. So I encourage everyone to expand and try 😃✌️😊

message 34: by M.J. (new)

M.J. Great article!!!!

message 35: by Njemile (new)

Njemile Taylor Great article. And Krishten Ashley is the reason i first read motorcycle romance books and hers are fantastic which was never to my tastes before. My first KA book was Fairy Tales and i was hooked which is as different from Motorcycle Man as you can imagine but still great . Kylie Scott's Flesh was sublime. I haven't read a new historical romance in ages. This might give me a push in that direction.

message 36: by Tzelina (new)

Tzelina I really loved Chaos series!! I hope that we will be able to read next one really soon !!

message 37: by Piper (new)

Piper McLean I am completely down for her to try out new genres, I am going to add this book to the list as we speak!

message 38: by RJ (new)

RJ Jenkins Go for it girl, lead male character can look like Luke’! Wow, I just finished Flesh, loved it.

message 39: by Mae (new)

Mae This essay is one for the masses. Too often I get caught up in my own little bubble of reading preferences. I am completely down for the challenge of trying out new genres/sub-genres which for me will include historical romance, zombies, and urban fantasy. #2018readinggoals

message 40: by Karen (new)

Karen Jarrell Thanks for inviting me to this! I liked the challenge to try new genres and I think Kristen's added some interesting ones . I find I stick to mostly contemporary but I am opened to other's as well. Guess it's time to update my to be read pile?! lol!

message 41: by Kristen (new)

Kristen I really like what this post is preaching. As a fellow Kristen, I agree.

message 42: by Terri (last edited Aug 09, 2018 05:22PM) (new)

Terri Reading outside my genre is important to me. A long time ago, I only read a certain type. I branched out and have found many amazing authors.

message 43: by angie (new)

angie I love this. Very refreshing and very timely for me as I'm struggling on what to read next. I guess I tend to stick with my comfort zones. I only started venturing to fantasy novels last year. The length of fantasy novels used to scare me but when I started reading on this genre... WOW. :)

message 44: by Amy the book-bat (new)

Amy the book-bat Creative_Mii wrote: "Excellent reminder. Thanks Kristen and Goodreads. I was thinking about this just recently re sports romances which I've never tried as I always considered them 'not my thing'. I think I'll change t..."

check out Sawyer Bennett's Cold Fury Hockey series. They are excellent. (and I'm not a big sports fan)

message 45: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Great blog post! Gave me some new ideas, and I can't wait to get started on some of those listed.

Tee loves Kyle Jacobson I love reading books from all genres. It takes me on a different vacation each time.

message 47: by Purplesnow13 (new)

Purplesnow13 I read everything for this reason. Don't knock it till you try it is what I always say. You never know what you'll like unless you see if you like it or not. I've found I love all sorts of stuff I didn't think I would but I'm always happy to find out and see.

message 48: by Heather (last edited Aug 09, 2018 10:02PM) (new)

Heather Judith McNaught is my favorite historical romance writer! And Kingdom of Dreams is my favorite book by her. I also love Almost Heaven.
This is good advice to step out of your comfort zone once in a while, and dip your toes into other genres. I read romance and YA books, and even some children's if they look good, but this is a reminder that I should try subgenres of each that I don't normally read.
This is something to think about!

message 49: by Labeebah (new)

Labeebah Hasan I LOVE that you wrote this. Personally, I try to read wide and when I find that I've been reading a lot in one genre or sub-genre then I know it's time to shake things up a bit and do something different. There are a lot of amazing books and poetry out there full of perspectives and stories that will challenge you, but that are also awesome reminders of how much we really have in common.

message 50: by Alison (new)

Alison I love how we get to see a little in to how KA thinks & every subgene I have read I always started with Kristen Ashley cause I knew i was in safe hands

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