Carrie Vaughn Explains The Downside Of Becoming Famous For One Thing

Illustration for article titled Carrie Vaughn Explains The Downside Of Becoming Famous For One Thing

Carrie Vaughn is the author of the mega-successful Kitty Norville novels — but she didn't want to rest on her laurels. Instead, she fought to break out of the "urban fantasy" category, which she hadn't even known existed until she was put into it. Her story is fascinating.


Talking to Westword, Vaughn, explains how she discovered she was writing urban fantasy, and how she fought to be allowed to write other things:

The industry had identified this genre of urban fantasy, and my publisher decided to push my book as part of it," Vaughn says. "I got a crash-course education in urban fantasy. I suddenly had to look up all these other writers I was supposed to be in a genre with. I instantly had to become an expert in this genre I knew almost nothing about. I was doing all these interviews and being asked, 'So, have you always been into vampires and werewolves?' And my answer was, 'No, but I am now.'...

Vaughn's dream had come true, but at a price. As much as she loved sharing Kitty's adventures, werewolves weren't the only thing she could write about. The problem was, aside from the wide variety of short stories she still wrote and published, her body of work didn't reflect her range. When her publisher showed no interest in buying her other, non-Kitty novels — including Discord's Apple, a contemporary fantasy with a mythic edge, and After the Golden Age, a story about the daughter of two world-famous superheroes trying to find her own place in the world — she made a move that might have been brave or crazy or both: She left her publisher.

Vaughn explains, "I got into an argument with my original publisher. They wanted me to do Kitty and nothing else. I wanted to do lots of things, not just Kitty books." Still, her decision to leave didn't come easy: "It was traumatic. Trying to explain it to people was tough, because it didn't make any sense. This publisher got me onto the New York Times bestseller list. Why would I let that go? The answer was, I had to leave so that I could have the kind of career I wanted. I wanted to be Carrie Vaughn the awesome writer, not the chick who writes the Kitty books."

In the end, Vaughn ditched her earlier publisher and went to Tor Books, which now publishes her Kitty novels as well as Discord's Apple and After the Golden Age. [Full disclosure: Tor is publishing a couple of my novels, too.] Getting identified as part of the hot genre of urban fantasy, at a time when Sookie Stackhouse and other heroines were making it big, helped Vaughn to become a publishing sensation. But it also threatened to restrict her options as a writer.

In the same article, Warren Hammond, author of the KOP extraterrestrial detective novels (which we reviewed here), talks about trying to appeal to both mystery and science fiction fans — and finding that science fiction fans didn't want to read mysteries, and mystery fans didn't want science fiction. The whole article, in which Vaughn and Hammond talk about their careers, is well worth reading. [Westword]



As someone who desperately wants a career in writing fiction, this scares the crap out of me. I love to write, and my stories fall into many genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Westerns, Crime. I don't want to get pigeonholed in one genre, but I'm also aware that not everyone can jump around. Not unless they're super famous, or willing to jeopardize their chances, anyway.