9 Famous Authors Who Completely Switched Genres In Their Careers
Having different genres can be a good thing when you're bumbling around a bookstore, trying to find something to read. Genre labels can help you tell which books will have vampires in them (horror), which books will have sexy vampires in them (paranormal romance), and which books will have no vampires at all (contemporary nonfiction and most cookbooks). But splitting books up by genre can also get a bit complicated: once we think of an author as a romance author, it can be difficult for them to transition to writing nonfiction vampire cookbooks. We tend to take some genres more seriously than others, or make assumptions about who a writer is based on whether they write kid's lit or erotica. But here are a few of the well-known authors who completely switched genres during their careers, because it is possible to tell more than one story in a lifetime.
These authors might be better known for one genre or another, but all of them managed to write in wildly different worlds. From sci-fi crime to romance, children's books to spy novels to weird psycho-sexual comedy, they all escaped the single genre trap. And their work proves that you are never doomed to stick with one genre forever:
1. Louisa May Alcott went from drugs to wholesome family fun
Louisa May Alcott had quite the life. Before writing the heartwarming family classic Little Women, she was writing drug and sex-soaked pulp novels under the name A.M. Barnard. Her books included titles like Perilous Play and Pauline’s Passion and Punishment. Before that, she was an abolitionist and a nurse during the Civil War, where she wrote semi-autobiographical short stories about the mismanagement of hospitals.
2. A. A. Milne went from murder mysteries to Pooh Bear
A.A. Milne is best known for his creation Winnie-the-Pooh, based on his son's very own stuffed bear. But A.A. Milne didn't care much for sticking to a single genre: he started off writing humor, then moved on to plays and murder mysteries, like The Red House Mystery, before finding his place in children's literature.
3. Ian Fleming went from James Bond to magic, flying cars
James Bond is well known for his gadgets and technologically advanced vehicles, so it only makes sense that his creator, Ian Fleming, is also the man behind Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. The Bond books were based on his real experiences as a spy. As his son got older, though, he was inspired to write more a less sexy, more child friendly adventure story. Fleming died unexpectedly just before the book was published, so we'll never know if he would have put Bond aside for a longer series about flying cars.
4. Nora Roberts went from steamy romance to sci-fi crime
Nora Roberts is the bestselling author of more than 225 romance novels. The name "Nora Roberts" just screams romance. So when she wanted to try her hand at writing police procedurals set in the future, she picked the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Robb's In Death series is wildly popular in its own right, consisting of 57 books so far, with a 58th planned. Clearly, Roberts can write up a storm regardless of her genre or her name.
5. Roald Dahl went from chocolate factories to some very kinky books for adults
Beloved kids' author Roald Dahl gets pretty freaky with some of his books for grown ups. His recurring character Uncle Oswald is known as "the greatest fornicator of all time," and most of his adult female characters are either cruel schemers or victims of sexual humiliation. His erotica is still weird and funny, but he's definitely not winning any awards for feminism (sorry, Matilda fans).
6. J.K. Rowling went from Hogwarts to detective novels
The secret's definitely out on this one. J.K. Rowling wanted to keep her identity hidden when she started writing her Cormoran Strike detective novels, but an errant tweet from a fan revealed that Robert Galbraith was, in fact, a pen name for the Harry Potter author (it wouldn't be the first time that Twitter has gotten Jo in trouble). Regardless, The Cuckoo's Calling was a well-received mystery novel even before Rowling was unmasked as its author, proving that she can handle both children's fantasy and contemporary crime.
7. Iain Banks went from literary fiction to science fiction (and back again)
Iain Banks is a respected novelist who writes literary fiction, but Iain M. Banks is a beloved sci-fi writer. They are, of course, the very same person. Banks managed to go back and forth between mainstream literary fiction and science fiction throughout his career. He also thought that there could and should be more conversation between "respectable" writing and "genre" writing. As he put it: "...a further dialogue between genres is possible, especially if we concede that literary fiction may be legitimately regarded as one as well."
8. Anne Rice went from vampires to BDSM
Yes, vampires are pretty sexy already. But Anne Rice's vampire novels stay firmly in the realm of Gothic fiction, while A. N. Roquelaure's Sleeping Beauty novels go full BDSM erotica. The fairy tale character gets up to some fairly extreme sexual role play, bondage, and so forth. Rice also has a series called Christ the Lord, which chronicles the life of a young Jesus Christ, so it's safe to say that she's accomplished across several different genres.
9. Dr. Seuss went from political cartoons to children's cartoons
Dr. Seuss is best known for his silly drawings in children's literature, but he started out doing silly drawings for political activism. His political cartoons critiqued the "America First" policies of the U.S. during World War II. His cartoons were staunchly anti-fascist, but also pretty horrifically racist in their depiction of the Japanese—later in his life, after traveling to Japan and coming to terms with his own bigotry, he revised racist drawings in his early kids' books. He also wrote Horton Hears a Who as a public apology for his prejudice, because a "person's a person no matter how small" (or how far away from your own country of origin).