My mind doesn’t work like anyone else’s. Usually I consider that a good thing, but these days, it’s causing me a marketing headache. Long ago and far away, the publishing industry was a different place. Science fiction writers weren’t allowed to write romance and romance writers weren’t allowed to write science fiction. We were told to choose.
Those of us too stubborn to choose had to hide our identities. Even though my real name is Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and people in science fiction know me as a Hugo-award winning, bestselling sf writer, the Powers That Be in romance decreed that no one who read sf would read romance. (Um, except, I guess, me.) So when I started writing romance, I picked the name Kristine Grayson for my funny paranormals. Then I chose Kristine Dexter for my romantic suspense (because back in the day, apparently, romantic suspense readers didn’t read paranormal romances. Except, of course, me).
And then, I wrote a short story called “Drinking Games,” under the Rusch name for an anthology, and I knew, I knew, that story was only the beginning of a great big space adventure romance series. Well, Grayson couldn’t write it, and Dexter has her feet firmly planted on the ground. Rusch is known for her award-winning (and scientific) sf. So who was left? Besides, um, me? Under a new alias.
I sold the novel, now called Assassins in Love, to Sourcebooks, and the novel came out to great acclaim. Publisher’s Weekly called it a “compelling, hot, and believable tale.” Believable—if outer space adventure involving hired killers who happen to be soul mates is believable.
Anyway, Assassins was part of a series, and the second book, A Spy To Die for has just come out. It’s getting great reviews as well. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a hair-raising and enjoyable journey with engaging characters.” I had fun writing it, and I guess it shows.
But my aliases have come back to bite me. In order to figure out who my heroine, Skylight Jones, truly is, I had to write her back story. And I published that, as Rusch, in Asimov’s Science Fiction, in a story called “Skylight.”
That story will join three others written as Rusch about the Assassins characters. There’s the aforementioned “Drinking Games,” now available in an e-book, as well as two stories about Misha, the hero of Assassins. The first story, “Defect,” is really about his (rather nasty) mother. The second, “Killer Advice,” is about an adventure he had before he met Rikki, his true love.
Both “Defect” and “Killer Advice” are science fiction without the romance. As is “Skylight.” So when I contracted with WMG Publishing to release my entire backlist of novels and short stories, I mentioned this problem. Their solution? Put both names on the cover.
Honestly, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have chosen a pen name. I’d let readers figure it out. But publishing has changed over the last ten years. Heck, publishing has finally accepted that romance readers have very eclectic tastes. I’m not the only reader who likes paranormals and real science fiction and romantic suspense.
But my pen names date from the days when the only thing fantastic about romance was the fact that every historical romance couple actually bathed and had good teeth.
So I’m stuck with the pen names for good or for ill. And if you pick up Spy and want something similar, you’ll have to go to Assassins. But if you want to know more about Skye, you’ll need to read “Skylight.” Most of the short stories only have an electronic edition, but Killer Advice which is an sf/mystery (yes, I bend every genre I can think of) has a trade paper and an audio edition.
A friend of mine, lucky enough to come into publishing after the changes too place, has said that writers need to trust readers when it comes to picking books. Readers know what they like, he says, and if they’re not fond of a genre, they won’t pick it up, even if it has their favorite author’s name on it.
I agree. But I’m not going to abandon my aliases of long-standing. I’ve just decided to stop keeping secrets.
So here’s the truth of it. My mind doesn’t work like anyone else’s. I haven’t found a genre I can’t bend or mix with another. I’m Kris(tine) (Kathryn) Rusch DeLake Dexter Nelscott Grayson and I write fiction. Most of the time.
Except when I’m writing nonfiction.
Like right now.