The notion of writing under a pen name was not something I ever really considered – and so, I look back now and wonder how on earth I arrived at place in my writing where I’m as comfortable signing off emails as Faith Hogan as I am with Geraldine Hogan (my real name.)
The fact is, by the end of January I’ll have five books published by Aria Fiction under my pen name – Faith Hogan. These books are firmly set in the Women’s Fiction genre – they have covers with soft colours, a woman facing from the camera – mostly towards the sea – because my books are usually based here in the west of Ireland. They are described as uplifting, touching books about family, secrets and lies. When I examine them, there’s at least one death in each and yet never a murderer!
It’s funny though, because long before I signed with my publisher, I had written a number of crime fiction books. I read mostly Irish and Scottish crime and it turned out to be what I would cut my creative teeth on. For the last few years, these manuscripts have sat in a drawer, and I’ve eyed them guiltily occasionally while continuing to produce more novels under my pen name.
I suppose, they tugged at me, in some ways, just gently, but all the same, the idea of all those words…. Then in 2018 an opportunity came my way. Bookouture would take an initial two books. They liked the Limerick setting; they liked the banter between Iris Locke and Ben Slattery and most importantly they liked the writing and could see a future for a long-term series from the first book I sent on.
Here in Ireland, we know Bookouture because it’s brought one of our favourite writers to us – Patricia Gibney burst onto the crime fiction scene with The Missing Ones – her absolutely gripping series featuring Lottie Parker. I was completely hooked from the first book and could see that with the same publisher my books could have a good start!
Alongside the publishing deal, there was a whole host of future publishing plans – I couldn’t wait to sign the dotted line once my agent had tweaked the contract to suit us best.
Of course, I’d heard all the reasons why I shouldn’t go down the road of writing in two distinct genres. Open up the internet – there are two many industry insiders telling you all the reasons why you shouldn’t cross over. They range from the dangers of diluting your brand, to the amount of additional work (this bit is true!) that comes flooding in your door. There is also the possibility that you might even have less income. It’s hard to build traction in one genre, let alone several.
And then, there’s the practicality of getting your writing brain in gear to move from a very character driven sort of story telling to one that’s propelled by action. For people outside of the publishing world this seems to be the biggest part they don’t understand.
I try to explain that a book is a book – my police procedurals are still all about the people. They are, if you like character driven, however, I’ve learned a lot about the need for circumstance to influence movement and the story follows Iris and Slattery’s reaction, as much as action in terms of spinning out towards a satisfying end.
Then there was the notion of telling my current publisher (Aria Fiction) that I’m branching out – would they see it as a defection?
Actually, the answer is no.
It was greeted by both parties as super news. The tide that would lift all boats – while there was some crossover – a number of my Faith Hogan readers are happy to read either, others don’t read crime and they’ve been eagerly awaiting my new women’s fiction book – The Place We Call Home.
The only downside was that I missed publishing a new women’s fiction book this year – although I did have two titles going into paper back, so that was nice.
The big difference however was that this year, with two books and a tight publishing schedule for the crime books, as well as the women’s fiction paper backs – it felt as if I spent a lot of time editing. True I have a new book out in January 2020, and a paperback due to hit the shops in spring for Faith Hogan, but still, it came as a bit of a surprise that I hardly lifted my head from one edit when another seemed to land on my desk!
As to the actual process of writing – for me it is much the same. Every book needs a hook, but long before that, I need a voice, someone that resonates with me, a character that I will be happy to spend a lot of time with! With the crime procedurals I’ve learned that there is a pattern – almost a template which I’ve kept in the back of my mind. Readers expect certain things and so too, do editors – let’s face it, none of us likes to be disappointed when we pick up a book and so, the crime books follow a certain path. Whereas, with the women’s fiction books, I feel as if the road ahead is mine for the making.
I’ve learned too, that I really love writing the Faith Hogan books, I’ve missed creating characters that you’d quite happily sit and have a cup of coffee with and delving into the areas of our lives that resound with everyone at some point.
If I was asked about the best piece of advice to writing in two different genres – I’d say keep it separate. Create a new brand for whatever you intend to dip your toes into – quite apart from the possibility of confusing (and losing) readers – it means that if it doesn’t go as well as you hoped, there is no great damage done to the books you’ve already published.
It may seem odd in the beginning that you are ‘talking’ to people under a different name, but even now, Bookouture will send me information with the greeting ‘Hi Faith!’ – now, that’s the measure of brand building!
So, follow the age-old advice – don’t cross genres, don’t dilute your brand, don’t expect readers to follow you… and on it goes, if you really want to…
But I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s been the most amazing year. I’ve learned so much about pacing, plot and even just experiencing what it is to have worked with a different publishing house has been a fantastic experience and one I wouldn’t trade – it’s opened up possibilities I wouldn’t have dreamed of before.
My final piece of advice – if you have a notion to do something different – go for it!
(c) Geraldine Hogan
About Why She Ran:
Yesterday they were a family like any other…
Twenty-year-old Rachel McDermott was your typical girl-next-door. She loved her job as a nurse, was close to her family in the small Irish town of Corbally and seemed to have no enemies. So when she is brutally murdered, the local community reels in horror and Detective Iris Locke is put on the case.
The main suspect is her close friend, sixteen-year-old Eleanor Marshall, a tearaway teenager with addiction problems whose parents have long since turned their backs on her. Eleanor was last seen fleeing the scene where Rachel’s body was found and is now missing in the woods near the Comeragh mountains.
Eleanor’s sister Karena insists Eleanor wouldn’t have hurt her best friend, but a day later, when Karena is found dead in the area Eleanor is hiding, Iris knows things don’t look good for the runaway teen. She doesn’t want to believe that Eleanor is her sister’s killer, but all the evidence seems to point that way.
But Iris can’t let go of the elements of the case she doesn’t have answers for. The fact that Rachel’s father died in suspicious circumstances. The strange company that Rachel was keeping the night before she died. Was it guilt or fear that made Eleanor run? And can Iris find her before it is too late?
This gripping mystery thriller is perfect for fans of Carol Wyer, Robert Dugoni and LJ Ross.
Order your copy online here.