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Juggling iPhones, Broadswords, and Magic—Oh My!: Straddling Sub-Genres Guest Post by Heather McCollum

Thank you so much for having me here today! I’m very excited about my recent release (TANGLED HEARTS) and my upcoming release (SIREN’S SONG). Both are romances. Both contain paranormal elements. Both are my favorites. And that is where the similarities end.

Tangled Hearts, a historical romance by Heather McCollumTANGLED HEARTS is a historical romance, written for adults, set in Tudor England with a Highlander and a female pirate with magical powers. SIREN’S SONG is a contemporary, Young Adult romance, set in North Carolina with both main characters possessing their own kind of magic. With release dates so close together, I ended up editing both of these at the same time. During that process I felt as if I had a split personality. I warned my editor of the Tudor historical to catch me if my heroine asked the hero to text her.

On top of the obvious differences in setting and language, I also chose to write the YA romance in first person, present tense and the historical romance in third person, past tense. Here are two examples of the same sentence.

I grab his hand, and my fingers slide between his.

She grabbed his hand, and her fingers slid between his.

Editing these two books at the same time was like rubbing my head and patting my stomach simultaneously – wait, the other way around, patting my head and rubbing my stomach – you can see the problem!

However, I believe the books needed to be written differently. Many YAs are written in first person so the reader can really identify with the main character, usually the heroine in romance. In first person, all the unspoken insecurities and thoughts of that one character are easily understood. I also feel that young adults, like my teenage daughter, think more inward, constantly checking to see how they measure up as they grow into who they are going to be. This can come across much easier in first person. Young adults might also be more in the dark about the motivations and feelings of others, as they haven’t had a chance to experience decades of life yet. First person is the perfect vehicle to show confusion about the minds or feelings of the other characters.

Siren's Song, a young adult fantasy romance by Heather McCollumMany adult romances are written in third person. Perhaps readers of this subgenre are used to third person and thus prefer it. I’ve only read a few first person historicals, and although I enjoyed them, it felt a bit odd, and I really wanted to know what the hero was thinking.

Another difference is the heat level.

He leans in, and the car door catches me. Warm lips touch mine as his thumb slides against my cheek, making my heart pound. My first kiss.

He leaned in, his bare biceps on either side of her head, caging her there against the wall. His fingers raked through her hair. No retreat. Her heart slammed in her chest as he descended, searing heat devouring her.

Of course there are very different heat levels in the same subgenres, but overall, YA (thankfully) tends to be tamer sexually. So I had to keep the sensuality details in check while writing the YA. This wasn’t too difficult as I was imagining my own daughter in the heroine’s role, and there was no way I was writing about a guy’s tongue in her mouth, no matter how hot Luke Whitmore (the hero) is!

Marketing varies between subgenres if you are expecting two very different groups of readers. However, I, an adult, read a lot of YA, so I am not only promoting my YA romance to teens. Social media is used by all ages, although teens seem to use Vine and Instagram on a more regular basis. Adults tend to use Facebook more than teens. Twitter seems to be universal, as is Pinterest. But I am not a marketing expert and luckily have wonderful publicists who will help me market these books differently. With the YA, we are planning to create notebooks for teens to use in school. I am also giving away concert tickets to a popular boy band show in exchange for follows on Twitter. For my adult book I will give away Amazon gift cards and trinkets from my recent visit to England. Quite different strategies.

I asked Autumn Jordon, author of OBSESSED BY WILDFIRE, about her biggest challenge writing in two subgenres.

“I write both romantic suspense and contemporary romantic comedy. I think keeping the elements of each genre in check is my biggest challenge. While I love a hero with a humorous side, my RS hero wouldn’t crack a joke at every turn. A perfect line could be used only as a release after a tense situation, if that is his character.  And in my RC, all my hero’s clothes might go missing leaving him no choice but to grab his mother’s frilly half-apron to answer a feverish rap at the front door, but never would his dog or a child be kidnapped.”

Situational elements are different between YA and adult historical too. Teens and young adults tend to be more brutally honest while adults, with a lot of back story behind them, are more reserved or may not act quite so rash. So like Autumn said above, I need to think carefully about how my characters might act in order to preserve character authenticity. Where my teen heroine might ditch school without much thought regarding consequences, my historical heroine would go to a dreaded dinner with Henry VIII because the consequences for refusing could be deadly.

I’ve also noticed that many YA paranormal romances deal with saving the world, whether from zombies or vampires or some other apocalypse. In adult paranormal romances, issues still deal with the outside world, but the characters are interested in finding their own personal happily-ever-after. Perhaps this is because teens seldom find their soul mates at seventeen. So happily-ever-after is more about saving the world than getting married. Yes, I do ponder these things : )

Writing in two subgenres is tricky. It takes time to switch gears and can make me feel dizzy. But it is also refreshing and throws me out of my comfort zone. Just like wearing your watch on the other hand, writing in a completely different way stretches the brain. When I get tired of writing ‘twas or dealing with the many parts of a gown to disrobe my heroine, I switch my iPhone play list to Ke$ha and Eminem and fall into my self-consumed teen self to save the world. : ) It keeps me and my stories fresh.

Do you read books in only one genre or from a variety? Do you ever read across sub-genres or genres? Will you read a favorite author’s book even if it is different from what you usually read?

Siren’s Song blurb:

Jule Welsh can sing. She enthralls people with her bel canto voice. But it takes more than practice to reach her level of exquisite song; it takes siren’s blood running through her veins. Jule is starting her senior year at Cougar Creek High when her relatively normal world begins to resemble a roller coaster flying through a carnival scare house. Her mother is diagnosed as insane and committed, a psycho-stalker is snapping pictures of her to put into his homemade Jule-shrine, her voice is suddenly putting people into comatose trances, oh and the gorgeous new guy in town, Luke Whitmore, is interested in her . . . but also wants to kill her.


Luke stands next to me, and I swear I hear him inhale again. Tendrils of excitement take root in the simple brush of his arm against my hair. My heart pounds and my stomach back-flips. To hell with apathy! I spin toward him and barely control my gasp at his closeness. I lean back slightly so I can focus on his face. Time to take the offensive.

“So what? You were interested,” I throw up little quotation marks with my fingers, “the other night. But now you’re ignoring me?”

“It’s complicated.” He stares into my eyes as if willing me to just take his word for it.

I nod and repeat. “It’s complicated.” I frown. “Life’s complicated, or hadn’t you heard?”

He almost smiles. “I’ve heard that, actually.”

“So what’s so complicated that you’re not interested anymore?” Ah, the big question. I should get points for kick-ass bravery.

He shakes his head, sending the thick, perfectly casual mane swinging around his strong jawline. His dark, blue-black eyes catch mine again with an intense, hooded look. “Interested?” A low chuckle comes out more like a growl and I feel a prickle spider-walk along my shoulders. “More like obsessed.”

I blink. Did he just say he’s obsessed? With me? “O-okay. Lost here.” And a little creeped out.

“It’s better that way.” He turns to his locker and grabs a lunchbag. He walks away.

“Hey.” I can’t just let him go when he is finally sort of talking. “Did you bring me dinner last night?” A blush heats up my neck into my cheeks.

He turns back with a smile. “You like mushrooms. My mom makes a killer lasagna.”

“So, you broke into my house, fed the dog, left dinner, and turned on the lights for me. I almost called the police.”

He leans back against the lockers and glances at the ceiling like he is beseeching heavenly help. “I want to…I need to make sure you are…taken care of.”

My eyes narrow as I try to understand his words. “And you have decided to take on the assignment? Why?”

A sad smile touches his mouth as his head rolls across the lockers so he can look at me again. “I believe I mentioned being obsessed.” His face suddenly seems tired, older somehow, like he has lived a long time and is tired of the whole thing, like he is hopeless.

“How old are you?” I ask.


“How long have you been seventeen?” I know it’s a ridiculous question, but my heart slams in my chest and I hold my breath, waiting for his answer. There is just something strange about him, something dark, and yet I’m drawn to him, want to know all about him.

He laughs and this time the smile reaches his eyes. “Since last October thirty-first.” He steps closer to me. I freeze as his warm palm cups my cheek, covering the whole expanse. “See, I’m warm.” He drops his hand. “And I eat lasagna, too. Lots of it.”

October thirty-first? Halloween? “Your cousin, Taylin, her birthday is October thirty-first, too.”

Luke’s smile fades and his gaze moves to a spot on my forehead, like he can’t look me in the eyes. “It’s complicated, Jule.” His eyes move down to meet mine. They are narrowed, fierce and sad again. He drops his voice even though the hall is virtually empty. “You and I,” he shakes his head, “we shouldn’t be together. I’m…dangerous.”

“You leave a dry towel for me on the porch, but you’re dangerous?” My eyes are narrowed right along with his now.

Luke swallows and glances away. “I can’t go into it. Just know that we,” he looks back, “we can’t be together, ever.” With that, he pivots on his heel and heads toward the outer doors, away from the cafeteria.

Tangled Hearts blurb:

Growing up on a pirate ship, every day was full of adventure for Pandora Wyatt. It was also the perfect place for her to use her magic without persecution. But after her surrogate father is imprisoned in the Tower of London, Pandora leaves the safety of the vessel to rescue him before he’s executed. She expects her mission to be difficult, but what she doesn’t expect is to have her life saved by the sexiest man she’s ever met.

Highland warrior Ewan Brody always wanted a sweet, uncomplicated woman by his side, but he can’t fight his attraction to the beautiful enchantress who’s stumbled into his life.  He quickly learns, though, that Pandora is not only a witch, but also a pirate and possibly a traitor’s daughter—and though she’s tricked him into playing her husband at King Henry’s court, he’s falling hard.

Soon, they begin to discover dark secrets leading to the real traitor of the Tudor court, the one Ewan was hired to capture. Now, Ewan and Pandora must uncover the truth before they lose more than just their hearts.


Ewan’s tall frame bent around her and his hand cupped her face. His thumb strummed the sensitive skin over her cheekbone, and he pulled gently away. She kept her eyes closed. The absence of his lips made her frown, and she felt his thumb rub the lines on her forehead.

“Not happy?” he asked.

She opened her eyes. Her breath hitched for a moment at the concern on his face that melted into a half grin. Was he truly interested in her happiness? “Not happy that you stopped.”

“One of us has to guard yer honor,” he said and it was his turn to frown.

She reached up to rub his forehead. “Now you aren’t happy.”

His gaze connected with hers, mesmerizing, almost shackling. So intent on reading her, she almost pulled away. “Where did ye learn to kiss?”

She blinked, trying to understand the fierce intensity transforming him from soul-melting heat to lethal ice cold in the span of seconds.

He inhaled fully, his chest expanding. “Who have ye kissed like that?”

Had she done it wrong? “No one, not like that,” she whispered and the tip of her tongue slid out to touch her lower lip. It hadn’t felt wrong, not in the sense of fouling it up. Perhaps wrong from a nun’s point of view. She shook her head. “Not in that way.”

“But ye’ve kissed? Men?”

Her temper started to simmer, replacing the worry with annoyance. “Well I’m not in the habit of kissing women.”

“But men. Ye’ve kissed men before,” he stated, more than asked.

She couldn’t help the blush that rushed up into her cheeks, but she raised her head even. “I’ve done my part to help my family.”

“By kissing them?” he yelled.

“When necessary.”

“Did they tell ye that kissing them was the way to help them? This pirate family of yours?” Fists curled at his side.

By the devil! What grotesque scenarios filled his head? Did he think her the ship whore?

“I want the names of each and every man who has touched ye,” he said slowly, succinctly through a tight jaw.

“Touched or kissed?” she asked, matching his tight face. One kiss and he had her swinging in the hammocks with the Queen Siren crew!


“I don’t know all their names,” she taunted.

The words blackened his look even more. He grabbed her shoulders, and she instantly felt his soaring, rushing blood, his large muscles engaging as if in battle.

“Tell me what they did to ye.”

Her breath caught at the intensity in his gaze. “Why?”

“So I know exactly how much pain to inflict on each bloody bastard as I slice them open for touching ye.”


Heather McCollum, author of Tangled Hearts. a historical romance Bio:

Heather McCollum is an award winning, historical paranormal romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology, much to her English professor’s dismay, and was a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist. She currently has five paranormal historical romances out with three more scheduled to release this winter.

When she is not creating vibrant characters & magical adventures on the page, she is roaring her own battle cry in the war against ovarian cancer. Ms. McCollum recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own hero & 3 kids in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast. 

You can find Heather at:

Siren’s Song Book Trailer

6 thoughts on “Juggling iPhones, Broadswords, and Magic—Oh My!: Straddling Sub-Genres Guest Post by Heather McCollum”

  1. I can’t image editing two different books at the same time. I write in 3 different genres—SciFi, horror and romance. It’s uses different parts of my brain and I find lots of down time between genres. Do you have any tips for flipping the switch?

    1. Hi Linda! It was very difficult. I kept switching inadvertently from first person to third person and present tense to past tense. I was definitely tired by the end of the day.
      After that I decided to dedicate myself for two or three days to just one book (the one with the most pressing time line) and then switch to the other. Doing both in the same day just made more mistakes to fix later – not good when revising.
      SciFi, horror and romance – wow! I will have to check out your books and see how different your voice is in each genre.
      Have a lovely, rich-hot-coco-with-fresh-cream kind of night!

    1. Hi Tina!
      I love historical! I did end up following some of my favorite authors into contemporary (Julie Garwood for one). Then I read some romantic fantasy work, urban fantasy, time travel and finally got hooked on YA paranormal romance. When my teen asked to read my fiction, and I knew my adult romance was too spicy, I tried my hand at YA and loved it too. Now I have a split personality ; )
      Thanks for commenting! I will have to check out your historicals.
      Have a lovely, see-a-double-rainbow kind of day!

  2. Heather, your comment about catching the Tudor heroine asking her hero to ‘text’ her made me laugh. I write historical romance, but my stories range from the Dark Ages to Edwardian, so it’s not hard to relate to the difficulty of staying ‘in period’. The differences may be more subtle between historical eras than between historical and contemporary, but they’re definitely there. I recently tried to work on an early medieval at the same time I was writing an Edwardian. Switching back and forth between the two different mindsets was interesting, but I finally gave it up to focus on the medieval.
    I read historical romance almost exclusively, but I do cross over to contempory romance now and again just to remind myself I live in 2014 instead of 1014. On occasion, I will buy a contemporary romance from a favorite historical romance author. Except for research and some sci-fi, I rarely read anything that is not a romance.
    Interesting post! Best of luck on sales of both your books.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping in : ) My first series is about sisters who are scattered and hidden in different time periods so I had to leap from 18th century to 10th century to 16th to 19th. And once I write a whole book in one century, I must really use some mental power to move to a different.
      I too only read romance. There are enough non-happy endings out there in the world so I want a guarantee of one when I read : )

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