Monday, November 18, 2013

Wordcraft -- Romance with the strangest beings

Dear Romance Writer -- I can’t figure my boyfriend out. One minute, he’s normal, the next he’s grown fangs that would give an orthodontist nightmares. And even though I have visions about him (literally), I can’t tell whether the scene where he mistakes an obnoxious relative for a turkey is about the coming Thanksgiving dinner or from a past life. Is it safe to bring him home to meet my family? Signed, Desperate in Dallas

With apologies to paranormal romance authors, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Jaye Wells, and Shannon K. Butcher, Desperate in Dallas’s letter is a sample of world they write about. It’s a twenty-first century world, but one where heroine and hero face more challenges than Jane Austen ever dreamed of on their way to finding happiness together. But although the heroine’s family may be witches and the hero’s beasts, love still wins if lovers can keep their wits as sharp as their fangs.

It’s a subgenre dominated by the world of the internet and e-books, and a panel discussion of “All Things Paranormal” drew a standing room only crowd at the Readers & ’ritas conference in Allen, Texas this month.

What draws writers and their readers to this genre of romance and the supernatural?

“It’s so engrossing,” Butcher said. (Yes, she is married to paranormal fantasy author Jim Butcher). “You live in this other world, keeping true to the laws of physics you set up. I‘ll reverse engineer a world to evoke a particular emotional response, to forge an emotional landscape.” (And for more about her and the world of her stories, see

Wells agreed. “World building is the organic, play part for me. I find it hard not to write paranormal. When you’re writing paranormal, if things slow down, you can always throw in a demon.”

“What I do when it’s getting boring is throw in some sex,” Thompson said, drawing a hearty response from the audience. She admits to being the most light-hearted of the group. “Since I like humor, I’m going to have humorous stuff in the world.” In addition to more traditional romance series, the latest in her “Wild About You” series, Werewolf in Las Vegas, is due out next spring, according to her site,

Wells asserts that the devil beams her wittiest lines to her through her dental fillings, and otherwise indulges her hand at humor under the pen name Kate Eden. Her (Wells’, not Eden’s) next book is the first of an upcoming series, Prospero’s War, is about a female cop out to clean up the traffic in illegal and addictive dirty magic. For more updates and to read sample chapters of this and other Wells’ series, see

Butcher’s upcoming Willing Sacrifice, due March 2014, opens with a vision heroine Rory Rainey declares can’t be expunged from her mind with all the brain bleach in the world.

Given that they’re writing about sex, magic, the supernatural, and decidedly un-normal characters, have they ever written anything bizarre enough for their editors to delete?

“I try things,” Wells said, “thinking my editor’s not going to let me get away with it, but she never does. The only thing she insists on is that it needs to drive the story action.”

“I’ve never had an editor call me (on writing),” Thompson said, “but my daughter is my beta reader and she’s called me!”

And for those wanting to learn more about writing romances (the biggest-selling book genre in the U.S.), see the Romance Writers of America website, at

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