3 Genre Series Ideas Outside Of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery, & Thrillers

When you think of beloved book series, it’s fair to say that most of them fall into a few categories. While there are of course exceptions, it tends to be fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and thriller stories that warrant series - or at least popular or commercially successful ones. This is wonderful for countless millions of people around the world who love nothing more than to dive right into these specific genres. The Lord Of The Rings represents everything from foundational fiction to a moral code to many readers; Harry Potter helped shape a generation; something like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series can effectively lie dormant for years before exploding (as it has recently) back into popular relevance.

Again, this is wonderful for fans. There are few things as rewarding as it can be to dive into a series that simply plucks you from the real world. But what about people who simply don’t relate to those genres? Again, there are some exceptions here and there - series that have made it in other genres - but there really aren’t many of note, which is why I thought it would be fun and interesting to put forth some ideas.

Who knows? Maybe someone will be inspired to write something like one of the following….

A Family Through History

There have been various books and series to chronicle multiple chapters in history in sequence. Some have even stuck with individual narrators, or versions of them, through time. Perhaps the most famous example would be David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas - a novel that is many things (most of all extraordinary, despite its widely-panned film adaptation), including a chronicle of history through (in part) reincarnation. But it’s hard to think of a series that follows a single family through history in one cohesive story.

One could imagine something like this taking the shape of Forrest Gump but stretched longer such that multiple generations highlighted the significant moments of sequential eras. Or perhaps it could be arranged like so many fantasy histories (Game Of Thrones being a relevant example), but set in the real world, in real kingdoms and countries and surrounding actual historical figures. Such a tale told with the same magical quality of a great fantasy would undoubtedly thrive despite being grounded in the real world, and it would give those who prefer history and reality to pure fantasy something to fall in love with.

A Fictional Sports Team

Needless to say, sports are popular all over the world. But those who don’t pay close attention may not realize how close society is coming to embracing purely fictional sports. People use video games to customize leagues and create entire rosters’ worth of imagined athletes. Millions build fantasy rosters to compete with real players in artificial circumstances. Some of the latest online sportsbooks, many of which are now available in some American states, include simulated activities (typically horse races or tennis matches) among the things people can bet real money on!

Given all of this, would a fictional sports series be too far-fetched? It’s something that to my knowledge has only ever been tried in the form of a children’s series or one-off book, but might a whole, sprawling collection of stories detailing a made-up athlete’s journey inspire something close to fanhood? Might people, indeed, even speculate about sporting outcomes in books to come, or even bet on results, the same way they wonder who might perish in a fantasy? It may sound strange to fans of more typical genre fiction, but for countless sports fans it may be a delight.

A Real Science Adventure

Finally, there’s real science to consider as well! Some science fiction certainly comes close, or at least touches on real concepts and principles. Indeed, a few years ago Barnes and Noble wrote up a very nice list of thriller writers who don’t cheat when it comes to science - and that was only a start. But has there ever really been a truly science-based fiction series, written to entertain and engage?

As far as I’m aware, the closest thing to such an idea might actually be the often-mocked works of Dan Brown. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Brown is a scientist, nor that he’s a flawless storyteller. But he is somewhat unique in that he’s used real academic disciplines to create a brand of thriller based at least loosely on knowledge. I suppose Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could be another example. Whatever the case, something similar in which real, fascinating science were at the core of a series of thrillers, or a detective’s methods, could make for a wonderful series.

Melissa Landers Looks Back on Debut Thoughts... Seven Years Later

It’s time for a new interview seriesa… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel a little… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

Today’s guest for the NOW is Melissa Landers, a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public. Her books include the YA Sci-Fi series beginning with Alienated, the Starflight series, and the middle-grade title, Blastaway.

Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?

Yes and no. Looking back at my first interview with you, I made some suggestions that I still stand by, but find a little difficult to follow. For example, I said the best way for an author to deal with anxiety while on submission is to “put it out of mind and get to work on the next book…Do whatever it takes to keep writing.” It’s good advice, but the simplicity of it feels naive to me now. Seven years ago, I had no idea how much my creativity, confidence, and motivation would be affected by publishing. I still try to “do whatever it takes to keep writing,” but it’s not as easy. 

Let’s talk about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I still write the stories that excite me, but I also do my best to maximize the marketability of each book. I’ve learned over the years that some things make a book harder to sell than others…and because publishing is a business, strong sales numbers are the key to staying in business. 

The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

 Hmm… I think what’s faded for me the most is my wishful “anything can happen” attitude when I release a new book. I used to think that if I worked/promoted/marketed hard enough, my books would hit the lists, but now I know that sort of thing isn’t likely to happen unless the publisher makes it happen. I do what I can to stay connected with my readers, but I don’t put pressure on myself to “move the needle” in unrealistic ways.

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Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would?

I’ve grown much more accepting of my lack of control regarding cover design. I used to HATE that other people had more say than I did when it came to choosing my covers, but looking back, I can see some times when my instincts were wrong and the publisher’s were right. So now I keep an open mind and trust their judgment…at least more than I used to. 

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how has it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Getting published completely changed the direction of my career. When I started writing, I was on extended maternity leave from teaching. I loved my job in education, and I had every intention of returning to the classroom someday. But then Alienated was published…and Invaded and United…and Starflight, Starfall, and Blastaway. Now I write full-time, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Despite the challenges of publishing, I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.  

Rhinoceros Skin - Every Writer's Must-Have

I recently did a presentation about the path to publication that included a big fat picture of a rhinoceros, which always seems to set people back a bit. One of the first things I tell aspiring authors to procure for themselves is some rhinoceros skin. Don't actually go kill a rhinoceros and say Mindy McGinnis told you to do it before reading the rest of this post.

Rhinoceros skin is 1.5 centimeters thick - that's pretty thick skin. Even on our fleshiest parts (hands and feet) human skin is only about 4mm thick. Big game hunters in the early 1900's even believed that rhinos had bulletproof skin. This is not actually the case, but that particular myth has staying power- Kevlar backpacks have been dubbed Rhino Skin.

And this is the kind of protective layer you need to have covering your ego when it's time for feedback. Whether that is coming from your critique partners, casual readers, agents, editors, bloggers or professional reviewers, anything negative that anyone has to say about your book is going to sting a little. And stinging a little is just fine. In fact, even the rhino is used to it - the biggest threat to their skin is sunburn and insect bites. Rhinos cover themselves in mud to protect their skin from these threats, and then they move on with their lives.

These topical concerns can't kill you - in fact, much like the rhino you learn from them. But you can't allow the negativity about your work sink past your epidermis and get down into your organs where you can be fatally damaged by it. Your ego can take a bruising (in fact it's good for all of us) but a seeping lesion will drain the life out of you.

So put on your rhinoceros skin and roll around in some mud, at which point you'll be ready to face any negativity about your writing. And yes, you can say that Mindy told you to roll in the mud.