You may not have noticed this about me, but I enjoy a good supernatural story every now and then. I know—hard to believe, right? From vampires to zombies to ghosts to demons, it seems there’s no shortage of books and movies out there. I’ll admit, I like the scary stuff most. The twisted stories that screw with your head or the creepy ones that make you want to leave on the lights. That said, it doesn’t have to be scary for me to like it. I like anything that stretches the imagination, and there are plenty of other types of stories out there that I’ve found interesting.
So this got me thinking about paranormal romance as a story genre. I’m not a huge romance reader by any stretch—I generally like stories that are less formulaic—still, I’ve read a few titles and enjoyed them. It’s popular enough to have its own spot in the romance section at the bookstore, and I think after Twilight’s popularity, it really exploded. There’s just something about love with a supernatural being that keeps readers coming back. So what is it? What is it about these stories that is so enticing?
I dragged in—er—invited a couple of the Coffee Talk authors to give their insight. Valerie? Renea?
Why do you think paranormal romance has gained such a huge following?
Valerie: We all love the bad boys. Men who are strong and not afraid of anything. They are also loyal and when they love, they love hard. These guys will do anything to get their woman. And of course the sex is always steamy.
Renea: It’s the modern fairy tale. Only now the Princess is the ordinary woman. She’s not going to the ball; she’s having hot, and passionate encounters with men that make human princes look ordinary.
So, what are the elements of a good paranormal romance?
Valerie: I think the same as any romance. Strong characters are a must, you can’t have a vampire or shape shifter be a sissy. Simply will not work.
Renea: For me it’s hot chemistry between the characters, an interesting mythos and brilliant dialogue. And if the author can make me laugh then that’s a big plus.
With those things in mind, which authors do you think really nailed it with this genre?
Valerie: Lara Adrian, Laura Wright, Jeaniene Frost, Gena Showalter, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kresley Cole to name a few.
Renea: Jeaniene Frost, J.R. Ward, Nalini Singh, Kerrelyn Sparks, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Karen Marie Moning just to name a few.
What are some of the most memorable characters you’ve read and why?
Valerie: Bones, from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. While he is a strong character, he had no problems telling the heroin that he loved her. It’s hard to explain, there is just something about him that makes women swoon.
Renea: Bones and Cat from the Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost. The chemistry is scorching and the characters drive the story.
Damn, two hits for Bones! Now, if I remember correctly, Bones is vampire, which brings me to my next topic…vampires and wolves. There are so many stories based on these ‘creatures’ that they’ve earned a collective eye-roll. Is there really any more material left?
Valerie: Absolutely! Not every vampire is created equal. In the romance they can be anything, not your typical walking dead that can’t be in the sunlight. There are also many other creatures that live in the paranormal world. Demons, witches, fey, and shape shifters of all sorts. The list goes on forever.
Renea: I think so. It’s fiction. Anything is possible.
Okay, with that in mind—as a writer in the genre, how do you keep it fresh?
Valerie: I have created a world that I think is different from any I’ve read. My vampires are also different, I have put a twist in my story that you simply have to read. I’ve also mixed two of my favorite creatures, vampires and dragons. Rather than the typical wolf, I’ve created the Draki, a shape shifting dragon.
Renea: I strayed away from vampires and werewolves and created a unique mythos. Vampire lovers will enjoy my story even though it’s anything but traditional vampire or werewolf lore.
What types of paranormal elements are you drawn to write about in your stories?
Valerie: That’s a hard one. I have this thing about fangs, seems most of my character have them in some form or another. I also like to have a mix of characters, I don’t stick to just one species per say.
Renea: I love writing alpha males and paranormal lets you take this to the extreme and still come back from the edge. You can easily explain away a bad boy’s naughty behavior and make him the hero in the end.
Good points! I do think the key to a good story is a certain amount of believability, no matter how far-fetched the idea is. How do you make a creature that doesn’t exist fit into the real world in a believable way?
Valerie: I think it’s easy really. People are so used to the paranormal genre that we can pretty much do anything without question. The thing is, you have to do it well.
Renea: Suspension of disbelief and compassion. You have to feel some level of compassion or they must act compassionate in some way. So, careful personification.
So it’s all about the execution. Now, it’s not always the case, but it seems like more often than not the male lead is some kind of supernatural being, while the female is just a regular human girl. Do you think this plays into a fantasy for readers? Do you think we’ll ever see more supernatural heroines?
Valerie: Of course women want to dream about being with these sexy men and I think that is why the female is usually a human, we can relate. However, there are some that have successful female characters that are not human. Jeaniene Frost and Kresley Cole have females that are not human in their books. In book two of my series my heroin is not human, but a demon.
Renea: There are some but they tend to be more urban fantasy based and a lot of those stories explore the heroine’s discovery of her abilities. So over the course of the story she discovers what she is. I think it makes for a very entertaining story but since supernatural usually equates to strength, I think it’s difficult to portray the romance women want to read when the balance of power is weighted toward the female. I’ve read stories like this and enjoyed them but then again, I’m not always one for formula.
And there you have it—some insight from a couple paranormal romance writers/readers. Thanks so much, ladies! Ladies? Oh, right—sorry! Let me remove that duct tape. Now don’t look at me like that, it wasn’t all bad, right? (*winks*) Hey, wait! Come back! (*slamming door*) Sigh. Well, I had fun anyway…