Paranormals & historicals

Notes from two more workshops at RWA:

Hot Vampires, Demon Slayers, and Enchantresses: the Many Flavors of Fantasy (CRAFT)
Speakers: Pati Nagle and Mary Jo Putney
Fantasy author Pati Nagle and best-selling RWA Honor Roll author Mary Jo Putney discuss the varieties and core fantasies of paranormal romance.

The explosion of the paranormal in publishing parallels the explosion of scifi in the 30s:  readers are using fantasy to escape the misery of reality.  Jo Beverley has said that post-9/11, the fantasy of power and immortality presented by vampires, along with the triumph of good over evil, is reassuring to readers, escape from reality.

Fantasy is grouped with science fiction, but is fundamentally different.  More books are published in fantasy than scifi, and there are many more women readers.  Has different formats: high fantasy vs urban fantasy.  Nagle’s interest:  elves vs. fae, very different fantasy characters, with different mythologies.

Where does your book fall, as romance with fantasy elements or fantasy with romance elements?  Think about the primary noun in your description.   When is the relationship element completed?  Does the book hold romantic tension until the end, or is it disposed of before the other plot elements are concluded?

Historical readers get their fantasy fix from the setting, not from the woo-woo, which makes historical fantasy romance a harder sell. 

Urban fantasy today is not what it used to be.  Original authors were deLint, Bull; now includes romance, werewolves, vampires, classic horror elements.  Key difference from horror is the HEA, even if it only comes at the end of the series.

Monster as hero/lover is key element of paranormal romance.
Alpha as powerful –> power fantasy because "tame" ; hard to do in contemporaries because of PC problem, escape that in urban fantasy.
MJP:  there are no sparkly vampires in her world, but Meyer has tapped into power fantasy safely.

For paranormals, the heart of the book is the romance; the books tend to be shorter but the worldbuilding develops as the series continues and each relationship develops.

Urban fantasy:  bigger stories usually, with the series becoming darker as the series continues.

Marketing makes a difference:  UF marketed in an affordable format outsells high fantasy in more expensive format (JMC’s comment: duh). Difference in covers:  UF gets hot chick with tattoos; romance gets hot guy with tattoos.

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series as example:  Mercy is not one of the powerful, lives among them, is clever and does things they can’t, is both within the community and apart.  Good structure.  Same with Anna in Alpha & Omega series.

Another example:  Rebecca York/Ruth Glick’s werewolf series.

Series dominate now because of the community feel; because women/readers like continuity.  (Uh, okay, if you say so.  Am seriesed out.)

Original Buffy movie started it all.

Rec:  Adrian Phoenix, A Rush of Wings

MJP:  recently sold YA fantasy historical

How to Live in Another Century of Just Sound Like You Did (RESEARCH)
Speaker: Lauren Willig
NYT best-selling author Lauren Willig offers strategies for acquainting yourself with another century’s sights, people and politics, and how to create the illusion of specific time period while maintaining the balance between historical accuracy and demands of the narrative.

Researching a historical novel is harder than researching for dissertation because have to bring to life wihout overwhelming plot and characters.

1.  Immersion phase: broad general knowledge of the period
     a.  biographies very digestible, get detqails on food, clothes, furniture, friends, more than political/cultural studies on period
     b.  letters:  cadence and rhythm of language; can be accidental history
     c.  museums
     d.  open stack libraries
           i.  online catalogs
           ii.  mine footnotes
           iii.  ILL
     e.  talk to academics and check out historical societies (people want to share their expertise)
     f.  Research shelf
         i.  Dictionary of ________
         ii.  Baedeker’s guides
2.  Working knowledge into the book
    a.  goal is creation of illusion of era, not perfect recreation but reasonable illusion
    b.  in dialogue with reader
         i.  what you know to have happened vs what reader will believe to have happened
         ii.  is the accuracy important enough to you to break the fabric of the story?
   c.  avoid the infodump
   d.  historical reality filtered through hero/heroine
        i.  if they are used to smells, don’t notice them; if they are used to footmen everywhere, don’t see them
        ii.  if you want to draw those elements in, must figure out way to do so via the h/h perspective

Contractions are fine: they were used historically, although the popular ones were different.  Can be used to convey mood/character.  Use sparingly. 
Advocates against the use of footnotes; historical notes at the end work better and are less distracting to readers.

Found the research portion of this to be…nothing new or original.


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2 responses to “Paranormals & historicals

  1. But now I’m confused. I thought urban fantasy doesn’t guarantee a romantic HEA?

    • The speakers did not say that an HEA was guaranteed in urban fantasy; I’m sorry if I gave that impression. Their descriptions of relationships and HEAs in urban fantasy could be broken down into two variations: relationship resolved early on, romantic tension disappears but larger fantastical conflict remains; or, HEA at the end of the series, when all else is resolved. The emphasis being on the first rather than the second.
      The presentation sort of bounced around a little bit, between fantasy romance, romance, paranormal, and urban fantasy, but they were very clear in their distinctions between fantasy and romance.

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