Typecasting can be a boon or a career-crippler, depending on who you ask. While the term is most closely associated with acting, I find it can be applied to other fields of creative work: the visual arts, music, and of course writing. Once the creative person is associated with one style in their field, their name becomes synonymous with that style. Andy Warhol had his soup cans. Dolly Parton sings country music. Stephen King writes horror.
Many people are perfectly happy doing their little piece of the magnificent tapestry that is human expression. They build their little universe and play in it, doing what it is they do best. We enjoy them doing what we expect of them.
Ah, but some of us don’t want to keep coloring within the lines. Sometimes we break out, and the results can be disastrous.
Imagine Bela Lugosi doing anything but Dracula. It’s not easy, is it? He was typecast. Would you accept him if he had played Rhett Butler? Hamlet? Nope. You wouldn't have given him the chance.
Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines was counted as a flop ... his fans weren’t having him as anything but a country music singer. And in her post-Harry Potter writing of Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling is not earning a lot of love, at least not from the reviews I’ve read. Many readers are moaning, “It’s not Harry Potter.” Well, duh. It’s not supposed to be.
It’s not easy when you’re known for one thing and you wish to stretch your wings and try something different. I found that out when my alter-ego, who is best known for her sci-fi erotica, decided to write paranormal erotica as well. The sales of those books are nowhere near the bestselling futuristic stuff, even with Alt-Tamara’s name attached. It’s too bad because I love writing those books. I have no right to complain, but it makes me a little sad that they go mostly unnoticed.
As myself, I write mainstream sci-fi and horror. That’s what I’m building my reputation on. However, I recently got the idea of a series geared towards the YA segment of readers. I’m very excited about it and have begun character sketches of that project, which delves into the world of Faerie. I’m turning fantasy writer for the adolescent readers.
Yet there’s the whole typecast thing. Being the author of the Willow and Lilith books, which are definitely not for younger audiences, could get in the way of this series I plan to write. Now I face maybe concocting a second Alt-Tam identity to release it under.
Sheesh, it’s tough being two people. How am I supposed to handle being three?
Unlike my erotica writing persona, I won’t be keeping another pseudonym so secret. It’s mainly an issue of branding, as far as I can tell. Keeping YA writer me separate from sci-fi/horror writer me can keep people from getting too confused ... I hope. That way if you buy a Tamara Jock book, you know what you’re getting, and vice versa. No surprises. No disappointments because “it’s not a Willow book”.
So I guess I am looking to be typecast after all. It’s just different names come with different expectations – and one hell of a case of split personalities.