Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Honk If You Love Paranormal!

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.

10 comments:

Linda said...

Hi Ruth,

Like you, paranormal holds a special place for me and I'm so glad we're allowed to do it more and more. I was able to write it for Harlequin American Romance in the late 80's and early 90's but it didn't have the reader appeal it does now. So now we can have fun with things that go bump in the night!

Linda

AlbertaFlo said...

I've always loved the paranormal. I was an avid reader of Steven King and Dean Koontz. How wonderful, I thought, it would be if the paranormal and romance could be combined.

Than along came Silhouette Shadows - just what I'd been dreaming about. That's also where I first "met" Rebecca york. I once owned the entire collection. It was a big disappointment when the series ended.

But now the paranormal has become an important genre of romance fiction. Right where it belongs.

Tyler B said...

I've always loved paranormal and also cut my teeth on Stephen King.

When Christine Feehan started her Carpathian series, I was in absolute heaven. I've since discovered Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, and Lynn Viehl.

All these wonderful authors have such fabulous worlds where magic and shape-shifting are everyday things. I love it and I'm glad New York is buying. I hope it continues for a long, long time to come.

Vivi Anna said...

I can't seem to read anything but paranormals right now. I LOVE LOVE LOVE them, and of course I am thrilled to be able to write them as well. I'm happily plugging along in my book for the NOCTURNE line. I can't wait until they launhc in October.

Some of my favorites, Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Gena Showalter, Patricia Briggs, JR Ward, Lillith Saintcrow, Kresley Cole, the Crimson City series from Dorchester, and this week I'm picking up a ton of others...including one by Ms. York...:-)

Eli said...

Hi Ruth,
I'm thrilled that paranormal has finally caught the attention of readers and editors. I tried to publish SF/Rom for years and was told, "no market." After lots of non fiction, I'm baaack. Here's to no end in sight for paranormal.
As for Russia, you pulled me into a nostalgia trip. I loved St. Petersburg and the Hermitage.
Eli

Helen said...

Hi Ruth,

I could really relate to Robert Heinlein serving as your doorway into the larger world of science fiction. For me, it was his "The Rolling Stones" which I pulled off the library shelves at random on the second day of third grade at a brand new school (Arlington, VA, not too far from you). To this day, the memory of Grandma Hazel transferring the last bit of her oxygen to her grandson's space suit can still make me sniffle. It fostered a lifetime's love for exploring a character's reactions under extreme conditions. And what better place to explore extremes other than paranormal romance? Long story short, I'm thrilled this niche of the publishing industry is thriving, and I’m looking forward to reading your latest additions to it.

Helen

Gail Oliver said...

You were definitely speaking to me on this one, Ruth. I first read S/F with Heinlein, but my first book of his was Podkayne of Mars. That lead me to many others in the genre, and when I had read everything in the library, I moved on to fantasy and then horror.

I only got into the romance genre fairly recently, because my husband likes it. :-) He led me to paranormal romance, which I have been reading and writing constantly every since. Just picked up your latest in the Moon books, and look forward to reading it soon.

Keep on writing it, and may the publishing houses keep buying it!

Michele said...

you definitely have a new fan in me! I just read Shadow of the Moon in a day. I love how you wove the supernatural and romance together, and I for one liked the s&m theme, though I can see where it might be a bit too much for some more conservative readers. Thanks for the great read!

Karen said...

I have always loved reading books or having them read to me. I started reading Harlequin Romances a long time ago. As for the paranormal aspect I grew up believing in ghosts (spirits), things that go bump in the night. Vampires, werewolves and fairies are my favorites, but hey all things paranormal are good reads.

To me some of the books nowadays seem to go over board on the sex and leave out the best part the plot and No I am not a prud. LOL.

A good book can keep a person company and with the right combination keep that reader on their toes, holding their breathe waiting for the other shoe to drop. All you excellent authors and authores's keep up the good work. Thank you for all the excellent books that are out there to keep one person satisfied.

Karen

MsIsis said...

As for Me, I LOVE paranormals, and I hope they are here to stay. As a romance genre, it offers more intrigue, more meat, and more originality than any other romance style.

Like you, I found Robert Heinlein, Star Trek, but also the dreaded Dark Shadows as my first all time favorite things.


And Time Travel! Goodness, that show had it all. Add a little Star Trek in, and you've got the perfect genre. LOL.

In fact, I tell everyone that Dark Shadows is probably why so many people are open to paranormal romances now! How many of us cut our teeth by running home from school flipping on the tube, to watch a SOAP OPERA about vampires, werewolves, witches and ghosts? I still remember some of my childhood friends and I having fake seances, etc. Wow! I was so young that when that went off the air I actually cried! When the last scene was shown, they ran a little "the rest of the story" if I remember right, and it scrolled past, white words filling in all the blanks. I stared at it and then said "What does all that mean?" My mom said "It's going off the air." I must have stared at the screen for a full minute before I shouted "NOOO! It can't!"

I felt like I'd lost my best friend. Course for a little geeky 9 yr old, I almost did!

But Barnabus was my first Vampire hero, and always will hold a place in my heart. I can't think of the names Barnabus or Quentin without getting a little shiver down my spine remembering the Collins'. Oh, and to hear the last name of Collins, now 35 years later still brings memories of Collinsport and the Collins family of Dark Shadows.

Who'd have thunk? I've watched reruns, and the acting was horrible, but still I watch with fascinated horror!

So all those vampire hunks and werewolf heros have alot to live up to for those of us raised in Collinsport!