Dean Koontz published his first novel Star Quest in 1968, but he wasn't a novice at writing. He'd published countless short stories before Star Quest.
In the next several years, he wrote dozens of novels under many different names. Many of these novels mixed elements of different genres. In the mid-1970's, his genre-blending really took off. I'm not sure, but I think every book after The Key to Midnight, originally appearing under the name Leigh Nichols, was a cross-genre novel.
He made other writers want to write these kinds of books. I don't know if Constance O'Day-Flannery was influenced by him, but in 1986, her time-travel romance Timeless Passion was published and became the first of many of her best-selling time-travels.
Timeswept Lovers (1987), Time-Kept Promises (1988), and Time-Kissed Destiny (1990) quickly followed. Then in 1991, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander was published. It went on to win the Romance Writers of America award for Best Romance in 1991.
Disturbance In The Force
About that time, there was a disturbance in the force. At least that's one way of looking at the search for different, if not greener, pastures by the many best-selling romance novelists who had cut their teeth on series romance. They had their skills down pat and they wanted to stretch, to grow. Or perhaps they were just tired of straight romance novels.
In any event, they wanted to write something different. Blended, cross-genre novels started appearing. First were other time travel novels and a few science fiction romances that just didn't launch successfully. Then dark suspense, really light horror in actuality, emerged.
Publishing houses put a few of these early paranormal novels into their list, and they hit a nerve among readers who either loved them or hated them. Then they subsided Publishers said they just weren't a big enough part of the market, but readers screamed for more.
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on TV, followed by Angel, and by Roswell on a different network, the hungry paranormal audience exulted, but an interesting thing occurred. Mainstream audiences found these stories highly addictive too. Thus began the explosion of paranormal. The audience, eager for different stories, expanded.
Of course Nora Roberts, as J. D. Robb, had great success with her futuristic detective novels replete with sex so publishers, and the young editors who did the grunt work at the houses, started looking for more novels like the TV shows and like the early paranormals.
Chicken Or The Egg
Pinning down the exploding popularity of cross-genre fiction from late 1990's is kind of like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. Did the TV shows promote like Buffy, Angel, and Roswell produce the demand or were writers like Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Constance O'Day Flannery, and Nora Roberts producing these books that whetted the public's appetite for more?
Jayne Krentz, Catherine Coulter, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Karen Robards, to name a few, blend suspense, sex, and romance. Janet Evanovich, Nancy Martin, and others blend mystery, romance, sex, and humor. Nora Roberts blends science fiction, sex, and mystery. The list is endless.
Once, publishers didn't know how to sell cross-genre novels. They claimed that blending genres made it too hard to shelve the books in stores. Should it go in mystery or romance? Horror or suspense? Funny how the readers didn't have a problem finding these books.
A good book will find its audience.