I write cross-genre romance, and while I'm published by a romance house (Loose Id), I started on the science fiction and fantasy side. I've been a speculative fiction reader since I was old enough to read, but I got started writing fiction about twelve years ago, when I discovered fanfiction -- specifically, fanfiction for an old sf show on the BBC. It was dark and political and had some fascinating characters and world-building, and it left a lot of loose threads waiting to be picked up by fan writers who wanted to explore that world.
When I started getting ideas for stories with original characters, they were by and large speculative fiction -- science fiction and fantasy. But they were speculative fiction about relationships between people, stories that reflected some of the books I'd loved best as a reader. Not always romantic or sexual relationships, but very much about people learning to make things work between them. So it's not a surprise that the first stories I sold were cross-genre erotic romance, and that's continued to be a strong strand in my output. But as I keep writing, I keep exploring different aspects of my chosen genres. Each book is a learning experience, a chance to develop new skills and techniques.
My books range across a variety of styles of SF&F. The Syndicate, my first full-length book (and Loose Id's first m/m title) is slapstick comedy about geeks in space. It's silly, over the top, and was enormous fun to write. It's also, in the third book in the series, a gay inspirational romance. At the time Alex and I wrote volume 3, theAnglican communion was having a family fight over the acceptance of gay church members, and I wanted to show a future where it was no longer an issue. So there are a lot of anachronistic jokes about potential culture clashes at a mixed Anglican-Methodist wedding, and not a mention of the fact that it's two men getting married.
The Buildup series, Mindscan and Pulling Strings (and maybe one day I'll break the writer's block on the third book) is dark space opera with strong political undertones. It's essentially looking at some of the same themes that attracted me to writing in the first place, only with my own characters and stories rather than with someone else's universe. And, of course, a romantic couple in each book who manage to win their way to an ending that's at least happy for now, with hopefor the future.
I had a change of pace and shift of genre with the Spindrift stories.These books are fantasy, a reworking of British and Irish mythology in a modern setting. I took the legend of the silkies, the fairy people who live as seals but can shed their sealskin to appear human, and wrote a story of silkies in the present day -- a people who are dying out as the magic fades away, but who remain yet, hidden amongst human friends in a Scottish fishing village.
One of the staples of silkie mythology is the silkie woman whose skin is stolen so that she cannot return to seal form, forcing her to remain on land as wife to a human man. But my stranded silkie is a man, his skin stolen in mistake for his sister's, in a community where such theft has not been known in generations; and the refuge he finds while his friends look for his lost skin is with another man, a stranger to the village who finds himself trusted with its greatest secret. On the surface it's lighter in tone than Buildup and much more slice-of-life, and there's a much more unequivocal HEA ending for the central couple, but it's also a look at the problems faced by people who want or need to live in two worlds. You can see a more detailed discussion of where this and some similarly themed short stories came from in a blog post I wrote to answer a piece of fanmail: http://julesjones.livejournal.com/273475.html
I stayed with shapeshifters in a contemporary world when I wrote my next book, Dolphin Dreams, but this was another development in my writing range -- it was the first time I wrote a menage a trois romance. That was an interesting thing to handle, as I needed to develop a balanced relationship where nobody felt like a spare part brought in to make up the numbers. Writing it was also interesting from another perspective, as when I started researching real dolphin biology and social behaviour to do my world-building, I found a lot of nifty stuff that fitted neatly into how I wanted the story to go. Sometimes you get lucky this way, and your research gives you even more ideas for the book.
And after that I moved out of sf&F altogether, with my take on that classic romance plot, the tycoon/secretary. In Lord and Master, my tycoon and secretary are both openly gay men, and with more in common than their gender and sexual orientation. What separates them is a gap in age and experience, the tycoon a self-made millionaire in his forties who's built up his own engineering consultancy firm, his secretary the newly-qualified young scientist he's just hired as his research assistant -- a man much like himself twenty years earlier.
This started as a very short erotica story about a young man who got involved in a friends-with-benefits affair with his older boss, but then fell in love and has no idea if his feelings are reciprocated. But as sometimes happens, I then wanted to write more about the characters -- how they got into that situation, and what happened next. And in the two years the story had been in submission to various anthologies, the UK Civil Partnership legislation had passed through parliament. That was an interesting plot hook to base the story around, all by itself. But I wanted something more for the conflict in the story, and so as I developed the book, something else crept in -- the downside to the creativity that had made Steven successful in business...
The next completely new book I work on will be an urban fantasy. It started as so many of my stories have -- a single scene, a sudden mental image of characters doing something, and the need to know how they got there and what happened next. In this case, a protagonist who has befriended a local homeless man is asked to help a mutual acquaintance who has been badly beaten -- and discovers that the reason they've asked him for help rather than going to the police is that there are dragonfly wings under that long shapeless coat the man always wears. _Someone_ has collared and bound a fairy, in 21st century inner London. I've got about 15,000 words so far, although I set it aside for a while to work on more material in the Lord and Master series.
And that's the theme that runs through much of my writing. It covers a broad range of sub-genres, and more than one genre, but it's largely character-driven. One of my sf writer friends says that writing is chasing your characters up a tree and throwing rocks at them to see what they do -- and that does describe a lot of my writing. I hope it's as interesting to read as it is to write.
Main website: http://www.julesjones.com/
Free stories: http://julesjones.com/fiction/downloads.html