Everyone knows Stephen King for his scary stories, but did you know that the Master of Horror has also penned an alternate history of the United States, mysteries and hard crime novels, and even an epic fantasy? Like several of the other greats, King is one of many bestselling authors who has mastered more than one genre.
Writing isn’t an easy career path to follow, and finding success in one genre is hard enough as it is. Breaking into the literary fiction world is a feat similar to reaching the peak of Everest, and even getting noticed in a smaller popular fiction genre can feel impossible. Yet, there are some authors whose names appear in several sections of the library and who have amassed huge followings across the book world.
If you do a quick Google search on advice on writing in more than one genre, you will find the internet will spit back the same warning: don’t do it. Literary agents, critics, and everyday readers seem to share the opinion that crossing genres makes an author less appealing, harder to market, and more difficult to build a brand around. While that may be true for many beginners who are just dipping their toes into the bookish pool, some of the greatest writers of our time have found success crossing genre lines.
If you thought you were impressed by professional writers before, check out these 13 bestselling authors who have mastered more than one genre.
Best know for his work in the dark fantasy genre with books like American Godsand Coraline, Neil Gaiman has also mastered the art of comic books, graphic novels, audio theater plays, children’s books, short fiction, and even poetry. Whether you are in the mood for an otherworldly adult read like The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a lighthearted children’s story like Chu’s Day, or even a touching poem like “Blueberry Girl,” Gaiman’s nearly endless library is perfect for you.
The aforementioned Master of Horror Stephen King is actually a multi-genre master. Not only have his bestselling scary stories like It and Carrie been delighting (and terrifying) readers for years, his works of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and suspense have kept his readers going back to his library time and time again. For readers who have been avoiding the literary giant because of his reputation for horror, mystery books like The Colorado Kid and Gothic fantasies like The Green Mile provide a great alternative.
You’ve seen her name plastered on the cover of vampire novels and witchy stories, but did you know Anne Rice is also a master of erotic romance? Under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure, Rice has published the popular Sleeping Beauty quartet, erotic BDSM fantasy novels that make 50 Shades of Grey seem tame. If you like her dark fantasy but are looking for something a little sexier, fear not: the master knows her way around the bedroom as well as she does the graveyard.
A celebrated author in the literary fiction world, Philip Roth is best known for his autobiographically-inspired works, but the bestselling writer has several tricks up his sleeve. Aside from his celebrated novels Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus, Roth has found success writing alternate history science fiction with The Plot Against America, which chronicles a timeline in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to Charles Lindbergh. While it is far from his best-known work, and was not incredibly well received by the sci-fi community, The Plot Against America proved that Roth can do no wrong.
A multi-award winning author of both children and adult books, Woodson is a Jacqueline (see what I did there?) of many trades. Not only has she found success writing middle grade and young adult titles including the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Miracle Boysand the Newbery Honor Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson has also earned praise for her adult novels like 2016’s National Book Award-nominated Another Brooklyn.
If you read her bestselling fiction novel, Room, you know that Emma Donoghueknows how to write a chilling novel. Did you also know she can create fun children’s stories, fascinating historical fiction, and addicting short stories? If reading about a mother and son in captivity doesn’t appeal to you, try Donoghue’s thrilling historical work, Frog Music, or her spooky gothic novel The Wonder.
Chilean-American author Isabel Allende has gained notoriety for work in magical realism with novels like The House of Spirits and City of Beasts, but she has also made a name for herself writing mystery. While the author created controversy for herself when she made negative comments about the mystery genre, her novel Ripper is still a terrific addition to the book category. If neither magical realism nor mystery are for you, however, the celebrated author has several nonfiction works, including Paula, a dark memoir about her life, that might appeal to your literary preferences.
After winning the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her literary novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan became a household name. The writer may be best known for meta-fiction novels, her newest book, Manhattan Beach, has proven that Egan can do it all, including historical fiction.
Author Lisa See has found both commercial and critical success with her literary fiction novels, including 2017’s incredible family saga, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. In addition to her well known fiction, however, See has also penned the fun and addicting Red Princess mystery series that follows a Chinese police inspector and and American attorney who take on the bad guys in China. If you thought you liked her historical fiction, just wait until you try her mysteries.
When Margaret Atwood decided to write The Handmaid’s Tale, she was famously afraid of making the jump from literary fiction to genre fiction. Luckily for her readers, she did just that and, in her signature style, has gone on to create some of the best speculative fiction of our time. While we may know the Canadian author now for her dystopian works like the MaddAddam series, Atwood has actually penned several children’s books, literary novels, works of historical fiction including the Man Booker Prize winning The Blind Assassin, and short story collections. The real question is, is there anything this bookish goddess can’t do?
J. K. Rowling
Not unlike Atwood, Harry Potter creator and children’s literature legend J.K. Rowling was nervous to make a genre jump when publishing her first novel for adults. Upon its release, The Casual Vacancy received mixed but mostly positive reviews, and fans were thrilled to see the novel come to life as a BBC miniseries. Since then, Rowling has continues to publish magical stories, plays, and movies for children, as well as the both critically acclaimed and commercially successful Cormoran Strike series under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Is there anything the woman can’t do?
Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates has published over 40 novels, short stories, poetry collections, and works of nonfiction over her long and illustrious career. The multi-award winning author has mastered the art of literary fiction, historical fiction, mystery, theater, memoir, children’s literature, criticism, and more. One of the most versatile writers today, Joyce Carol Oates has never met a genre she couldn’t conquer.