Hey, I published a novel. It's called Honoring Juanita, and it's a contemporary novel set in the High Sierra, where I grew up, so to that extent I wrote about what I ostensibly know. It does have an historical subplot based on the notorious lynching of a woman named Juanita during the Gold Rush.
Anyway, here's a link, but not a sales-pitch, mind you (you have more important things to spend $ on), although if you were to mention the book to your local librarian, I wouldn't mount a huge protest:
The brief official recap of the novel is . . ."The global scramble for energy has made a river in California's High Sierra ripe for damming. Mary Bluestone, woodcarver and longtime resident of a remote mountain town, impulsively puts herself between the river and the dam, becoming a protester in spite of herself. Mary's husband, the county sheriff, must arrest her. A flood of unintended consequences ensues as the 21st century invades a pristine canyon. Meanwhile, Mary Bluestone is haunted by the legend of Juanita, a woman lynched during the Gold Rush Era. Honoring Juanita is a tale of entangled histories and divided loyalties, of greed, power, memory, and love."
This is the second novel I've published and, if memory serves, the 6th I've written.
With all genres, writers learn to write in them by writing in them, but I think with poetry, short fiction, and occasional essays (or creative nonfiction), I think it's easier to find ways to learn things efficiently, through reading about the genre, taking classes, etc. Of course, one may read a lot of novels, and one should do so, but for me, at least, it's harder to extract the structure and method of a novel from a novel than to extract same from a poem.
Probably this means what I already know: I'm a poet first, an essayist second, a short-fiction writer third, and a novelist fourth. Writing novels doesn't come easily to me. All the more reason why I've had fun making lots of mistakes writing them. I now know many things NOT to do when writing a novel.
I teach both the writing of (short) fiction and of poetry, and occasionally I'll run into a student is is more or less a "pure" poet, and she or he and I usually end up commiserating about just how many words it takes to finish a story, let alone a novel. And with novels, you have to manage people, move them around, remember their birthdays, know something about their extended families. I tell you, it's exhausting work! But pure novelists like Tolstoy, Dickens, Faulkner, and Morrison didn't/don't feel that way, I suspect.
Three of my favorite poets--Randall Jarrell, Karl Shapiro, and Richard Hugo--published exactly one novel each. I think I know why. It's because they were, well, you know, poets. Read Faulkner's or Hemingway's poetry, and you'll see how this genre-preference thing works in the other direction.
The biggest thrill out of publishing this novel was that I got to dedicate it to my two brothers, Ike and Sven.