The paranormal market is booming. Editors are buying it. Readers are gobbling it up. And I’m loving writing it–and crossing my fingers that the wave doesn’t crest.
I know there are readers and editors who just wandered into this magical land. But I spent years WAITING FOR this market.
As a young reader, my first love was fantasy and science fiction. It all started in fifth grade, when the D.C. Public Library delivered the monthly “book basket” to our classroom–and one of the selections was RED PLANET, by Robert Heinlein.
As soon as the teacher put the books on the chalk ledge below the blackboard, I knew I wanted to read that book–and I dashed up to get it before anybody else could.
RED PLANET hooked me on the genre. And in many of the Heinlein books I read as a young adult, there was a love story. I didn’t find out until years later that there was a whole genre where that romance subplot became the focus of the story.
Back when I started writing romances, any hint of the paranormal was rare. But I wanted to include those elements in my books, since I always loved reading books where people had psychic abilities. Or books about time travel. Or creatures that couldn’t exist in the real world.
I was lucky enough to have an editor at Harlequin Intrigue who would let me include the paranormal in my stories, but only if I was subtle about it.
For years I wrote what I called "stealth paranormal" for Harlequin Intrigue--where the reader didn't find out about the weird twists until she was way into the story and had gotten invested in the characters. (In PRINCE OF TIME, you don't know that the hero is a space alien who's been in suspended animation in Alaska until well into the book. In NOWHERE MAN, you don't learn the hero is a clone being groomed for an army suicide mission until you get to know and like him.)
I longed to make the paranormal the focus of my stories, so I wrote a proposal for a book about telepaths who don’t develop their talents until they link sexually with each other.
My agent sent it out, and nobody would buy it. So I put it away in a drawer, and pulled it out occasionally to fiddle with it. I wasn’t able to sell it until last year, when Berkley published it as BEYOND CONTROL.
Before that, I got into the market with KILLING MOON, my first werewolf book.
I’d been selling steadily to Harlequin Intrigue on a brief proposal. But I was sure nobody would buy a werewolf book from me unless I wrote the whole thing on speculation. It was hard for me to fit that into my schedule, but finally I decided I had to write the book.
While I was writing it, my agent retired. When I went looking for a new one, I wanted someone who would love my werewolf story. My new agent did but told me it might be a “hard sell.” Lucky for me, Berkley was starting a dark paranormal line. Then when they decided to close all their lines in favor of the Sensation imprint, they made KILLING MOON one of the launch books.
I’m still writing for Harlequin Intrigue as well as Berkley. About two-thirds of my Intrigues are paranormal–with the weird elements right up front.
My next one is CHAIN REACTION, in October. It’s about an explosion in a secret weapons lab. The men who are exposed all develop paranormal powers. CHAIN REACTION is the first book in the three-book SECURITY BREACH series. In the next two books, the reader discovers that it’s not just the good guys who have developed special powers.
My current Berkley release is SHADOW OF THE MOON, continuing my werewolf series. I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s made the Waldenbooks’ mass market paperback list, the B&N romance list and the USA Today list. It’s the story of a werewolf journalist and an artist who go underground to investigate the sinister aspects of a private Washington, D.C., club, where the rich and famous can indulge their sexual fantasies. Unfortunately for them, there’s a "mind vampire" lurking in the basement, feeding off their emotions.
I’m finding that the S&M theme of the book is somewhat controversial. Some readers have told me they love it. Others are turned off. How do you feel about the subject matter?
And how do you feel about paranormal in general? You love it? You can take it or leave it? You hope the current boom in this genre is here to stay?
I’d love to hear how other people feel.