Monday, May 4, 2015

My Thought Monday #3 (So You've Decided to Write a Paranormal Romance?)

Hey readers! Welcome to another thrilling installment of My Thought Monday. A weekly post where I get to rant and/or rave about happenings in the book world. I have received lots of positive feedback from my previous posts and want to keep the momentum going. This week I'll be touching on another topic that's important to me: the paranormal romance genre. 

I'd like to offer up my thoughts for discussion among authors, bloggers, readers, and all members of the literary community. I understand that my views may be in the minority on some fronts and would love to hear your thoughts. Please note that while I would love to hear your thoughts, I will not tolerate this as a place of hate and negativity. If you so choose to put forward your thoughts via comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc, please do so professionally. I am fully aware that sometimes the bookish world is the last place you want to put your personal thoughts, but I, for one, am tired of being quiet. It's time for me to take a stand on issues that are important to me in this community. It is my belief that, only as a community, can we pull together and make real change in this bookish world we all know and love.

This week's topic:

So You've Decided to Write a Paranormal Romance?

So you've found out that your favorite romance author has decided to write a little outside her norm and is going to try writing from a paranormal perspective. Or maybe you (like me) are obsessed with all things paranormal and you see where a bestselling romance author is encroaching on your genre. What do you do? How do you handle it. Thankfully the literary world has answered this question, and many more, with the emergence of the 'Paranormal Romance' genre. But what is it all about? 

You guys know I have lots of strong thoughts when it comes to these kinds of topics so prepare for some ranting.

Before we get too far down to business, let's define some terms along the lines of genre distinction:

Paranormal: involve unusual experiences that lack a scientific explanation. Some popular subjects in paranormal books are supernatural creatures, ESP, clairvoyance, ghosts, UFOs, telepathy, and psychics.

Paranormal Romance: Romance novels in which the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal happenings are an integral part of the plot.

Romance: According to the Romance Writers of America, "Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending." Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Other definitions of a romance novel may be broader, including other plots and endings or more than two people, or narrower, restricting the types of romances or conflicts.

The above definitions all came directly from their respective Goodreads pages.

Note: for the purposes of this article, the 'paranormal' and 'supernatural' genres are going to be combined into one.

As you guys know, I am a huge supporter of the paranormal genre. In fact, it's probably my favorite. With so many new and incredible novels coming at me in the next few months, why should I have any reason to be irked? Well friends, I will tell you. It's a little thing called the Paranormal-Romance subgenre, and I'm here to set the story straight.

Paranormal and Romance are on two very separate sides of the genre spectrum, so how are they even becoming one? By combining them, of course. Why? The answer to this question has proven to be rather complex.

Let's go back and read those definitions clearly. Did anybody see the very first two words after "paranormal romance"? ROMANCE NOVELS. Let me make that perfectly clear for all of you who may be confused. Paranormal romance novels are ROMANCE NOVELS first and paranormal second (if at all). I urge all authors and readers to remember that.

Who Reads Romance?

This is a great question. Who reads romance? Easy answer: women. Not so easy answer: women (and a few men). "Oh Ethan that's not true, you're out of line." Stop. Seriously. Let's think about this for a moment. Now I completely understand that a vast majority of readers these days are women. I completely agree with that. What's one of the (if not the) most popular adult genres out there? Romance. Numbers talk people: sex sells. I'm being extremely blunt but why do you think romance novels top the NYT Bestsellers charts all the time? Romance is targeted towards women. Most all of it. Even m/m novels are targeted towards women. Someone explain that to me.

I have read and review several NA Romance novels on this blog. In complete honesty, I have loved most all of them that I have read. A huge part of that is knowing on some capacity what I am getting myself into. As a blogger who works closely with publishers, publicists, and the authors themselves, I know clearly what genre I am reading before I get into it. It is only by educating myself that I am able to make the decisions for the best reads to recommend to my readers.

But that being said, there are specific bloggers, readers, etc who will only read romance novels. There are some very hardcore readers out there who scoff at the idea of reading something aside from romance. I don't understand said readers. In fact, I don't understand how you can call yourself a true lover of the written word, yet only read from one genre. Always. Just my thinking.

There's a huge demographic of people who are reading Romance. There is no shortage of romance readers and I don't imagine there ever will be.

Who Reads Paranormal?

This answer is a bit more complicated. In essence, I think everyone has read from the paranormal genre at some point. Be it Harry Potter or Narnia, tales of high fantasy or science fiction. Paranormal reads are all around us. Paranormal is one of the widest genres and includes a plethora of subgenres that divide it up farther and farther into ones own preferences.

Unlike romance, the paranormal genre is a lot more accepting of readers. There are men, women, young and old, paranormal knows no boundaries. This is probably why I enjoy it as much as I do. Paranormal is nothing held back, because at the end of the day, it isn't even real. I have massive amounts of respect for all authors, but how consider, if you will, the vastly different styles of writing that go into creating a romance work versus a paranormal work. The world building, the setting, and even the characters are vastly different. How could you not respect paranormal authors for all the work they do?

So to answer the question, pretty much everyone else.

This being said, there are tons of people who do read both paranormal and romance, but as a rule there are people who refuse one or the other.

Why Paranormal Romance?

Paranormal Romance is the perfect 'gateway' genre for those who are branching over. Romance readers often complain that they cannot handle how unrealistic paranormal novels are, while paranormal readers will often remark that they want that fantastical setting to help remove them from reality.

For a romance reader, a novel about a forbidden werewolf-mortal romance may be the perfect read for you to get your feet wet. You get to stay within the realm of comfort, but you can broaden your horizons a bit.

Paranormal readers? I've got nothing. Maybe you'll get to read some interesting mythical creature erotica. It's out there... and let's just say it's interesting. (By this I mean like vampire/fairy sex, not dinosaur-human sex).

My point here is that there is an audience for paranormal romance. For sure.

Now. This being said, just because your novel has romance in it, does NOT make it a romance novel. Harry Potter had multiple romances in it. Is it a romance novel? No. There are ways to add a love story to your novel without it being branded as a romance. In fact, most novels do have some form of romance, and that's fantastic.

A couple of great recent examples of paranormal novels with a romantic element that work well include Julie Wetzels Kindling Flames series and Ranae Glass' Dark of Night series.

The Best of Both Worlds.

While this topic could probably be debated until the cows come home, I really think their are multiple differences between these genres that really place them as more contrasting that meets the eye. So why is it appealing to readers? Easy answer? You really do get the best of both worlds!

A romance novel is usually characterized by high emotions and extensive character development. The characters are generally the focus. A paranormal novel is usually characterized by plot and setting. The more intricate the setting, the more involved the plot. While characters are important, the overarching story is generally more important.

So who wouldn't want to read a novel with an awesome setting/universe alongside some incredibly written characters and some real feels?

Unfortunately more times than not, this doesn't happen, but when it does it's great. I love a good paranormal romance, however, I just haven't found that many.


This is the part that makes me the absolute angriest. I'm not sure if it's the fault of the author or the publisher, but marketing these novels correctly is extremely important. Some paranormal readers are offended by the idea of reading a romance. Same with romance authors and paranormal reads. While the marketing gods like to place the novel into dual genres, I think all that does is confuse readers. If you have a distinction for paranormal romance, let's use that. Stop using "Romance" AND "Paranormal" for your categorizations, as they are extremely different things. Let's look at an example.

A very popular romance author released their first 'paranormal' novel recently. I read said 'paranormal' novel as was absolutely disgusted that the author was even considering calling it such a thing. Aside from a very minute detail and plot element that had no bearing on the plotline, the novel was STRICTLY a romance. Even worse? Her marketing team is promoting this novel as a paranormal. Not a romance. Who does this help? It definitely helps sales when the paranormal readers pick it up, but check out the reviews. Said novel has horrible ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads all citing this exact reason. I didn't even feel the need to review it I was so angry.

It's not just the part of the reader to inform themselves what they are reading. The industry needs to step up and say "hey, here is what you're getting yourself into" before readers take the plunge down the rabbit hole. Don't be a douche authors. Be real with your fans. You know full well you've written a romance. Don't lie to me. Just don't.

Authors Who've Pulled it off Successfully.

I never call authors out when I write these posts because I don't want people to think I'm prompted to write these posts due to the actions of a particular author, but I did want to call out a few authors today. While I have read a lot of romance, paranormal, and paranormal romance novels, there are only three authors who really stand out in the genre and have succeed in writing a true paranormal romance. Note that these are just from authors that I have read. 

  1. Jennifer L. Armentrout. If you don't know who this woman is, go do yourself a favor and hit Google. No, go on ahead. I'll wait........ Finished? JLA is one of the biggest deals in YA fiction these days. With nearly three dozen novels in her arsenal, every one has fallen into either the romance, paranormal, or paranormal romance genre. The greatest part about her writing is the distinct differences that she puts into the series. Example? Covenant is a YA Paranormal series with romantic influence. Take out the love story and you still have an incredibly well-written paranormal story. Look at her Dark Elements series (one of my all time favorites) and you'll find a YA Paranormal Romance novel in its' truest form. The novel is chock full of paranormal awesomeness, but also packs a huge punch in terms of romance. Will Layla go for Roth or Zayne? Even with all the paranormal crazy that's happening, the romance theme is still prevalent within the story. This series is the perfect example of how paranormal romance novels should work.
  2. Becca Vincenza. Becca is an indie author with a handful of novels under her belt. Her New Adult Rebirth series is another perfect example of a paranormal romance. While heavily influenced by the paranormal factors present, her characters must deal with their personal and romantic issues in order to find the balance within their paranormal worlds. Every one of her novels has been a grand slam, in my honest opinion. If you are looking for an NA example. Look no farther. 
  3. Stephenie Meyer. No, this is not a joke. I have read Twilight and I'll be honest with you all, I didn't hate it. At all. In fact, I read the novels numerous times when I was younger. I'm not saying the writing is perfect, but the story line is awesome. Now I'm talking about the books here. Those movies can fall down a well. Anyway. Meyer created an incredible paranormal world full of vampires and werewolves, complete with an expansive history and impressive literary universe. But in the grand scheme of things, why does it matter? Without Edward and Bella's relationship, it doesn't. Without their relationship there is: no breaking of the treaty and thus no Vamps vs Wolfs, no hiding the mortal from the Volturi, and no creating of an 'immortal child'. So without the Cullen-Swan relationship, is there a story to be told? Absolutely not. Nope. And still no. That's the beauty of it though, it's the perfect combination of romance and paranormal that creates a timeless story that has captivated millions of readers. Twilight is most definitely a romance, but do you guys all see where I'm coming from?
So yeah, check out those three authors if you are looking for how paranormal romance should be handled. 

So to wrap this up, what am I hoping you got out of it? To be honest, I'm not sure. I just know that not much more aggravates me than picking up a novel by a favorite author of mine upon hearing that it's 'paranormal' and yet the novel has little-to-nothing paranormal about it. Does that make sense? What do you think, dear reader? Does the paranormal romance genre both you too? Are we just going to start making genres to please everyone? I personally am anxiously awaiting the Historic-Erotica-Horror genre. You know? The genre in which Young impressionable women in ancient Egypt get down and dirty with the mummies of their ancestors. Yeah, you know what's up. No forreal people. Let's just stop while we're ahead -_-.

So this post is to you, reader. Are you getting ready to read a paranormal romance or are you getting ready to write a paranormal romance? Either way, I hope you now find yourself a little better acquainted with the genre!

Got some more hints/tips for readers and authors? Add them in the comments below and I'll add them to this post!

I'd like to also reiterate that all thoughts expressed above are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any authors, bloggers, publicity/publishing, companies that I may work alongside. If your thoughts are different, please sound off in the comments or via Facebook, Twitter, or email. All of my contact links can be found above. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Until next time, Happy Reading!


1 comment:

  1. I do think I understand people who only read within one genre though. Maybe because it is what works for them and them alone, and therefore it's what they stick safe to. I know I am not someone like that - I read a little bit of everything. Romance seems to be in a little bit of everything though, so I guess we all simply read romance at times xD

    As for why m/m books (I don't read them at all, much) are targeted at women. Good question there ;)

    I like the idea of these discussion posts. :)