Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What is romantic fiction, anyway?

That's the title of the author panel--yes, author panel--I'm on at the RNA conference this weekend. And, you know, if someone asks me that, I'm going to be stumped. I mean, your obvious answer is, "Fiction about romance" or, for the less sarky, it's a story about two people falling in love and living, if not happily ever after, them for the foreseeable future.

I'm representing the paranormal genre for the panel, and this makes it a little trickier. Paranormal romance is not a huge market in the UK. The authors you might find on the shelves are a) imports, mostly from America, and b) not very well known by much of the public over here. Therefore, unlike the other authors on the panel (Kate Harrison, chick lit; Anna Jacobs, sagas; Kate Hardy, category; Nicola Cornick, historical), I'm going to be going in cold, because most of the conference-goes won't be familiar with the genre.

So, as Jan (who coerced me into doing the panel in the first place) asked, "Why are elves sexy?" I immediately replied, "Didn't you see Lord of the Rings?" but I fear I'm going to need more of an answer than that.

What's so special about paranormal romance? Why do we find vampires and werewolves, traditionally the very unsexy monsters of horror stories, suddenly attractive? What about future worlds and alien species? Fantasy universes? Why is paranormal romance, well, romantic?


  1. Paranormal romance pushes the boundaries of the imagination. Not only do we believe for a short time that there are such things as werewolves and vampires, but we also believe that they have a more "human" side that craves love and compassion. Paranormal romance is also dangerous and primal. The characters allow readers to look into themselves and see the animal inside. Also doesn't hurt that they were little to no clothing LOL

  2. PNR opens up huge areas of possibilities in fiction, not accesible through traditional contemporary and historical fiction.

    In some ways the powers are analogies - both vampires and werewolves are incredibly sexual creations. With vampires you have penetration, fluid exchange, the fact a human being gives them life. Werewolves are all about releasing the passions inside, acting on animal instinct.

    There's also the transformative aspect, redemption of the monster through love.

    It allows you to look at relationships in different familial structures - wolf packs, hive minds.

    I think as Kassie said, it's the human aspect that draws the reader in.

    It's a genre where the only restrictions are those in your own imagination and that doesn't mean it's easy to write. I think the worldbuilding in PNR needs to be just as tight as any other fiction.