This morning I was filling out my passport renewal forms and I got stuck. One of the little drop down menus confused the hell out of me. I began calling family members, begging for assistance. It is a tribute to how bizarre some of my conversations with my family are that none of them were thrown for even a second when the first words out of my mouth were not "Hello" or any varietal thereof, but rather "Mom, what color are my eyes?"
See, I'd always thought that hazel meant changeable. Apparently I was wrong. Hazel (adj.) 1. of a light brown or yellowish brown color. My eyes are sort of a bluish-greenish-greyish mutable color with a ring of yellow-brown right around the pupil. The passport form's dropdown menu didn't have an option for that.
The debate raged on. My father thought "blue-green" should be an option (yeah, well, tell that to the US Passport Service) while my mother argued that "there are many different kinds of blue." My aunt didn't think I could qualify for hazel since my eyes never look fully brown. When informed that my eyes often change color based on what I'm wearing, she wanted to know what color they are when I'm not wearing anything. Logical, but since I plan on wearing clothing while traveling in and out of the country... I ended up going with grey, because, as my best friend said, "Grey is the most like both green and blue somehow."
Now why am I burdening you with all this ridiculous babble about eye color? Cuz it's a metaphor, baby!
My eyes don't always fit into the same neat little box, and neither does my writing. This is actually something I've been worrying about quite a bit lately. As writers, we are told that we need to brand ourselves. The Ghost Shrink (et al) is clearly a paranormal romantic comedy. And so will The Ghost Exterminator be. However, I recently wrote a lion shape-shifter novella that is in no way comedy and several degrees steamier. If that gets published, are my readers going to rebel? I'm also puttering away at a dark-actiony-psychic novel. Is that a mistake?
All these books are paranormal, but am I sabotaging my career with these blue-green-grey shifts? When a reader picks up a book by a certain author, aren't they trusting that author to give them what they got before? Is writing a career in which it is necessary to think inside the box? (Or at least pick one box and stick to it?)
Genre-jumping is okay, but is it only okay when the genres being jumped between are so drastically different there could be no confusion? Once you have branded yourself, are you stuck? If that's true, I might be in trouble. I've never been very good at sticking.