Guest Post: Do Writing Habits Change When Switching Genres? by Eric D. Goodman, author of The Color of Jadeite

As you can see from the book trailer, The Color of Jadeite by Eric D. Goodman would likely be considered a thriller. Today, Mr. Goodman is going to talk about what it was like to write in a different genre after writing short stories, a literary novel, and a children’s book. But first, read a little bit about The Color of Jadeite.

Book Synopsis:

Clive Allan, a suave private eye, ventures throughout China in search of an ancient jadeite tablet from the Ming dynasty. Along the way, he delves into the mysteries of China’s art, history, and culture.

Every bit as captivating as the treasure Clive seeks is the mysterious Wei Wei, an expert on Chinese artifacts who helps the droll detective navigate the most perilous pockets of Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and beyond.

With sidekicks Salvador and Mackenzie, Clive sets out to find the priceless artifact, outwitting their rivals at almost every turn. But between the fistfights and rickshaw chases, gunfights and betrayals, Clive’s deep connection with the treasure he seeks and his romance with Wei Wei force him to confront truths about his past and himself.

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? My mom loves a good PI novel and so do I. This sounds like a thrilling ride.

Please give Eric Goodman a warm welcome:

Aside from one published storybook for children, most of my published fiction, both long-form and short stories, falls rather firmly into the “literary fiction” genre—perhaps spilling over into “contemporary fiction” or “mainstream fiction” the way a pop song might break into country or a country ballad may sway into rock and roll.

So I’ve been asked more than a few times: what made me decide to cross the tracks into genre fiction? Why write a thriller?

The truth is, I think a good story is a good story, regardless of what genre label gets slapped onto the cover. I’ve been interested in adventures and thrillers for as long as I’ve been writing—since childhood. I’ve also always been fascinated with characters, interaction between them, and perspective. It turns out most of the work I’ve had published in my career has been focused on people and their relationships and everyday life. But even as a child and teen, I was writing adventure stories. So it was inevitable that I eventually write an adventure thriller.

The “how” of this particular book relates to the setting. I love to travel, and I make it a habit to visit multiple countries each year—when we’re not in pandemic lockdown.

Sometimes I travel with the purpose of writing a travel story or scouting out potential settings for novels and stories. Sometimes, just for the unique experience.

All of the locations featured in The Color of Jadeite are real paces that I visited during my recent trip to China. I found the places to be exotic and knew that I would want to use them as settings in a novel or series of stories. From the twisting side streets of Shanghai to the Imperial architecture of Beijing, even when I was there I could see that
these would be interesting places to set scenes. Knowing that I also wanted to try my hand at a thriller, I realized that these colorful and exotic locales would be the perfect settings.

Another thing I’ve been asked is whether my writing habits changed when switching genres. I really don’t think so—writing a story with good characters in interesting places and situations is more or less the same whether you’re writing historic fiction or science fiction.

My writing habits for Jadeite were much the same as with past novels. I tend to write in long spurts, and when I’m writing I submerge myself in the process and subject matter.

So when I began working on The Color of Jadeite, I read a lot about Chinese culture and Emperor Xuande and the Forbidden City and such. I also read thrillers and old gumshoe detective novels. And I watched a good number of documentaries and classic films, from noir detective to glob-trotting adventure.

After writing a first draft, I put it aside for a few months before revisiting it: reviewing and rewriting the novel. Again and again.

The one difference for this novel is that I needed to spend more time plotting it out. With literary fiction, I usually know where I’m headed and some pivotal scenes from point A to B, but I don’t tend to outline beyond having several pages of notes and scenes.

For The Color of Jadeite, it was important to outline in detail, not only because of the action that needed to take place and the locations I needed them to visit, but also because of the larger cast of intertwining characters—some of whom don’t make it to the end of the novel.

Before I began writing Jadeite, I already had both a full outline and a “beat sheet” that described every scene I knew needed to be included.

I’ve done this in the past, but for most of my recent writing I have not used outlines or beat sheets. So this made it a very different process in that way.

The other way the writing process changed was that in addition to fitting in plot points, I needed to fit in all of the interesting places I wanted to take the characters. In some ways, I think of Jadeite as a “novel in settings.” The list of interesting places I wanted to take my characters came early in the process, and part of the plot was driven by how to
take them there.

In the end, the most important part of the writing process is character development—trying to make the characters real, honest, and relatable. And offering them an opportunity to change.

Whether driven by dynamic action scenes or engaging dialogue, my goal is to make the reader have feelings for the characters—whether it’s country, rock and roll, or K-pop.

Thanks, Eric. I always find the writing process intriguing.

Pick up a copy of The Color of Jadeite at your local independent bookstore or Amazon.

You can find other interviews, reviews and guest posts by Eric D. Goodman, here.

About the Author:

Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, son, daughter, and Weimaraner. His most recent novel is the literary thriller, The Color of Jadeite (Apprentice House Press, October 2020). He is author of Setting the Family Free (Apprentice House Press, 2019), Womb: a novel in utero, (Merge Publishing, 2017), Tracks: A Novel in Stories, (Atticus Books, 2011) and Flightless Goose, a storybook for children (Writer’s Lair Books, 2008). More than a hundred of his works of short fiction, travel stories, and articles about writing have been published in literary journals and periodicals. When he’s not writing, Eric loves traveling, and most of the settings in The Color of Jadeite are places he has visited. Founder and curator of Baltimore’s popular Lit and Art Reading Series, Eric can be found at Facebook, Twitter, and his website.