Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A bluffer's guide to... Paranormals

by Olivia Knight

With the beautiful new Black Lace covers came three new lines: paranormals, contemporaries, and historicals. Over the next three Wednesdays, we’ll be rounding up their pretty pictures and offering a bluffer’s guide to each line.

Top facts:
Black Lace line: paranormals
Colour: purple
Committed Lusties, past and present: Janine Ashbless, Portia Da Costa, Mathilde Madden, Olivia Knight, Kristina Lloyd, Madelynne Ellis

In a nutshell
‘Paranormal’ means fantasy, fairytale, magic, myth, mysterious beasties, and things that go bump! in the night. Some just bump! and some bumpitty-bumpitty-bump.

Behind the scenes
This is the line of books which made our editor decree “If they’re going to sleep with it, it has to have a human head!” Now you can imagine the story proposals that didn’t get the official stamp of approval. Rejected non-human-head lovers included dragons, trees, and minotaurs. Giant scorpions with human heads snuck in the back door.

The heroes
Even the most thigh-slappingly normal bloke will have his secret identity. He may appear to be an environmental activist, a university student, a tourist, a local musician, or an arctic explorer, but he’ll turn out to be a magician, a ghost, a member of an ancient race, a god, or a vampire. He probably faces a daily struggle not to accidentally kill you, but the chances are good your love was foredestined in a previous lifetime / by a prophecy / by an inescapable supernatural tie.

The heroines
Alpha-females to a woman: there’s no time for simpering flowers when you’re locked in a battle against forces what man was not meant to wot of. These chicks are tough: they’ll gut ex-lovers, eat snakes to survive, lead armies, face down the devil, catch werewolves, exorcise demons, endure bitter physical hardship, and wield insane amounts of power. They’re queens, time-travellers, priestesses, sorceresses, reincarnated witches, and goddesses, although at first glance they may seem to be a landscape gardener, a barmaid, or a student. Won't say: "No, don't... we shouldn't..." Will say: "CHARGE!"

The best bit about writing paranormals
• You can let your imagination out its cage and have an iron-clad reason for keeping your hero in a cage
• Sleeping is reclassified as research: after all, you have to know what it’s like to fly
• All your delusions of grandeur find their home

The best bit about reading paranormals
• Destiny! Contemporary couples just have this feeling they’re meant for each other – in paranormals, the elves said so. Or the stars, or an ancient scroll, or a forgotten prophecy, but you get the picture.
• Mystery! Magic and mystery are hand-in-glove: unpeeling the layers to the final truth makes gripping reading.
• Sex! In other lines, it’s emotionally and physically important – in paranormals, it can literally move the world.

Top tip: internal logic
Unlike historicals and contemporaries, you can make up your own rules and create your own world, but beware: within your world, the logic has to be absolute and consistent. We’ll happily accept chickens building airplanes, but they still need fuel to fly.

What to say
• "Is it cheating to sleep with someone from another dimension?"
• "Fantasy and myth are a powerful way to explore subconscious desires."

What not to say
• "Yeah, but that couldn’t really happen, could it? I mean, [insert-supernatural-beings] don’t exist, do they?"

Over to you:
• What’s your favourite ‘paranormal’ fantasy?
• What mythical-magical hero type do you fancy most?


ev said...

I love paras. I just finished LKH's newest one- to hell with the housework and laundry that actually is in desperate need of doing.

Vamps are my favs but I like weres and elves and fairies and...

I can't wait to read these stories!!

Janine Ashbless said...

Aren't those books pretty? And so much better-behaved than pirates!

You're so right about paranormals - mysterious men, tough chicks and delusions of grandeur. What's not to love? :-D

And, fingers crossed, Adam might just OK my latest minotaur story.

Janine "scorpion men" Ashbless

Vincent Copsey said...

Paranormals, oh yeah. Madelynne's excuse for years of live role-playing. It's research I tell yer...

Megan Kerr said...

And unlike the usual erotica covers, there are rafts of men; most gratifying. Mostly very delectable, although the man on Love on the dark side worries me a little. Something suggests he might not actually fancy women at all. Or that if he opened his mouth, it wouldn't be advanced metaphysics coming out. But your stubbly wildwood man is delicious, Janine! And Maya - your tattoed tyrant is a winner...

Things I love reading but never write: vampires and werewolves. (That looked set to test the human-head theory, but it turned out the wolf-form werewolves were more likely to rip your throat out than give you good seeing-to. Cf. men who face a daily struggle not to kill you.)

Megan Kerr said...

P.S. Ev - YES, Laurell K Hamilton is great for vamps and werewolves! Even if her heroines do wear Outfits with a capital O ;-)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Educational, eloquent, and entertaining, Olivia!

Question: Do the BL guidelines expressly prohibit things that go bumpitty-bumpitty-bump in the daytime? What if the author tells the editor that the elves said so? (That argument usually trumps house policy, right?)

Janine Ashbless said...

When I worked as an assistant arboricultural officer in local govt, someone circulated a list of explanations to give citizens as to why, no, we're not going to cut that tree down just because you want us to.

Reason No.10 was "Because the tree-god will be angry."

Anonymous said...

I love paranormals and there is something so inherently sexy about male vampires. Well the ones in books or portrayed on my TV screen. Don't know about the real ones, however!!

Speaking of vampires on TV I've deserted Angel and am now just a tad fixated on Mick St John from Moonlight. I really love that programme. It is a pity it has been cancelled.

Think I'll have to put a picture of him up as a Lust Bite one Saturday very soon.

Madeline Moore said...

Very nice, Olivia. I may have to use your post as a template for the 'Contemporary' overview coming next week.

I'd have to say my favourites otherworldly type is Dracula himself.
It took me forever to actually write a paranormal story, but I'm happy to say the story will appear in the upcoming anthology 'Lust at First Bite'. I doubt I could do a whole book, though. Still a contemporary girl...

That said, I've learned a lot about paranormals as a member of LB. Who knew, for example, that fairies could be hot? OK,YOU knew but I didn't. Do now, though.

Write on, you mad scientist/genius/writers of paranormals!

Portia Da Costa said...

I often think my paranormals are actually really contemporaries with paranormal ingredients. I don't think world building and plotting are my strong points, so I just concentrate on the emotions and relationships more than anything...

Unknown said...

The covers look great all lined up together like that! So cool in trade format as well.
I love to read urban fantasy and paranormals-I'm a big fan of L K Hamilton and J R Ward.
The ones I've read with the Lusties in, have been fabulous!

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I'm in the minority in that it takes a really awesome book for me to want to read about vampires. I don't have anything against's just that the market seems overloaded with them and so many of the stories and characters are just clichés. Give me something fresh and new, or some really awesome writing, and you've got me, though.

(And I say this even as I'm planning a vampire erotic romance. When the hit me full-force, I was mortified...but I think it's fresh and new, so I might as well go for it!)

I also have no interest in books wherein the characters are "mates" or otherwise destined to be together. Where's the conflict? Where's free will?

But I love paranormals. I love magic and witches and psychics, and ghosts and the Fae and strange old houses and portals to other realities...

Megan Kerr said...

You're right about the mates thing, Dayle - it's something that has to be gradually revealed (in traditional mystery fashion) or - like classic tragedy - doomed. But I've also seen it well done where everything else is driving them apart, masses of internal and external conflicts, so although you know they're destined to be together you can't see how on earth it's going to happen. (Which is also, I suppose, the case with any well-written story in the Happy Ever After format - the publisher's logo has already told you this is going to end well, and the author must pit their entire force against that secret knowledge.)

Portia - yes, your lovely fairy story in Magic and Desire was exactly that, the fey entering the realm of the real, which is exquisite. In sci-fi they call it "mundane", I think, which is much more exciting than the name suggests and often much more challenging: to write something set squarely in contemporary reality and still suspend the reader's belief enough for magical things to happen. In The Ten Visions, I desperately tried to find a way to make my main character fly in modern-day Oxford, but although floating felt realistic, flying was just a step too far. It takes more courage, really, to twist the real world!

And Jeremy, yes, our editor is firmly in sway to the elves and doesn't dare to go against them, or the tree-god for that matter, so it's always a clinching argument. You'd be surprised, though, how often the little buggers side with him...

Bev(QB) said...

You know, I seldom read contemps that feature a Navy Seal/Army ranger/Special Ops/MI5 hero in them because all that chest thumping. overbearing, alpha asshole behavior ends up pissing me off.

Yet, give that same character fangs or fur and that same alpha behavior becomes protective, possessive, and HOT!

Go figure.

Megan Kerr said...

Trying to figure...

Various hypotheses: Alpha males become attractive if...
a) it's offset by the fluffiness of fur
b) they don't drink beer, only blood, and no-one can watch football with a pint of blood
c) they don't actually exist
d) they're in some way tortured by the contradictions of their existence

My bets on d) but I'm a psychopathic author and enjoy nothing more than torturing my characters.

I can recommend the very literally alpha male of Mathilde Madden's werewolf trilogy, btw. He's not called "Alfie" for nothing.

Portia Da Costa said...

Thanks, Olivia! It means a lot that you like Ill Met By Moonlight...

It might be something I read in fan fiction, but there may also be an episode where it happens, but I think in BtVS, Spike does drink blood from a mug or glass whilst watching television, possibly the footie.

Kristina Lloyd said...

Great post, Olivia! And the covers look so lovely.

Agreed, Dark Side man does look a bit of a chump, bless him. But I'd rather have that than this horror, horror, horror! It's the new cover for the German translation of Asking for Trouble. It's so crass it could almost be an ironic commentary on the objectification of women. But it ain't. It's just crass and misogynistic. Not sure how the title translates but I'm told it might mean Sock It To Me.

So if you could all weep for me, that'd be lovely! Thanks.

Do you think the bloke on the cover of Bright Fire is available for hire? Maybe for a threeway with Blake from Silver Werewolves?

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh bloody hell Kristina - I'll never complain about a Black Lace cover again!
I'm taking a wild guess that in Germany our books are not marketed at a female/romance audience.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, hello and all that. Olivia, great post on this wonderfully wrongfooting pocket of erotica. What I like best about writing paranormal erotica is the chance to pull the reality rug from under a few readers' rock steady expectations.

Like Dayle, I do find myself steering away from some areas like vampire lore and werewolves simply because its so much harder to find something new to add to the wealth out there. Having said that, my first book for Black Lace (and my first ever full novel) was a tale about a heroine with a tail!! (And claws, naturally!) called The Pride

I'm also with Portia in that I see my novels more as contempories with supernatural elements - Of course I'm still extremely new - only just had my second novel published for Black Lace which is essentially a murder mystery. But on a Train with it's own "Spirit", travelling through the haunted areas of the Deep South. I like to use folklore and superstitions as a jumping off point to add an element of plausibility to the storyline, even after I've veered completely away from the accepted stuff to take things in my own direction.

Anyway, feel free to check out Southern Spirits and I'm hoping to contribute a bit more to the site in the next few months.

Fondest - Edie B