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[GUEST POST] Joe Hart, Author of THE LAST GIRL, on Crossover Thrillers (or “The Elvis Sandwich”)

Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota, where he still resides today. He’s been writing horror and thriller fiction since he was nine years old. He is the author of five novels and numerous short stories, including the books The River Is Dark, Lineage, and The Waiting. When he’s not writing, Joe enjoys reading, working out, watching movies with his family, and spending time outdoors.

Crossover Thrillers, or “The Elvis Sandwich”

by Joe Hart

Genre blending isn’t necessarily a new thing. In fact, authors have been doing it for a long time but that’s not to say there aren’t new and exciting things happening in the writing world right now when it comes to mixing and matching different varieties of fiction. We have many young adult books that are wildly popular with adults as well as kids, urban fantasies that are off-the-wall-brilliant because they combine everyday life and the utterly weird or fantastic, as well as crossover thrillers, which to me are kind of like one of Elvis’s favorite foods.

The fried peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich.

Stay with me here. Think about the structure of that sandwich. Peanut butter, a childhood favorite, right? Banana, a food that comes with its own packaging, how handy! And bacon, I don’t even need to say anything. Unless you’re allergic to one of those foods you know they are quite tasty on their own. But combining them? I can vouch from experience that they go together awesomely.

To me the crossover thriller can contain a little bit of everything to make a really cool combination. For instance, take a more or less typical thriller involving a homicide detective chasing a serial killer. Fairly familiar, right? But what if the detective was able to see fifteen seconds into the future whenever he or she chose? Or maybe we have a political espionage thriller, but instead of being set completely on Earth there are colonies on the moon and other planets that are being taken over by a shadowy, multinational corporation. Or perhaps a young FBI agent has been assigned a case involving a high profile kidnapping only to learn that the victim is not a helpless teenager but an ancient entity in disguise set on destroying the world.

Crossover thrillers also open up the creativity side of things for the writer. With a crossover the author isn’t necessarily limited to the natural laws normally governing the world in a typical thriller. They have room to move and stretch the boundaries, design a new map and deviate from tropes that have become routine. Besides the freedom they grant the creator, there is also the potential to reach different groups of readers who may not have picked up the book if it was relegated to a single category. Books like Blake Crouch’s upcoming novel Dark Matter or Markus Sakey’s Brilliance saga are two great examples of blending genres and elements not always found closely paired together.

I know as a reader I love the way crossover thrillers can yank the rug out from under you and take the story in a completely new direction simply by including another aspect of fiction.

And that to me is the essence of creation.

Breaking molds and re-drawing lines is what writing is all about. Expanding the imagination has always been the goal in this field and I think crossover thrillers are an excellent example of this.

So next time you see a plot that contains several very different genre elements, don’t turn up your nose just because it sounds bizarre.

Live a little and take a bite.

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