What a thrill it is to be invited to blog with some of my favorite wenches! Patricia Rice and I have known each other for…well…way longer than I care to admit. (If my memory hasn’t failed me, I think we were both wearing powdered wigs and corsets at our first meeting. Which took place around 1762.) When Pat first asked me to blog this week, my first thought was, "Oh I can’t! I’m already sick of myself!" That’s what happens when you hit the internet circuit to promote a new book. Ever since THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME was released at the first of the month, I’ve been reviewed, interviewed, and guested on so many blogs that even I (an only child who normally adores talking about herself) can’t think of anything else clever to confess about me or my writing process.
Which is why I’m incredibly grateful to revmelinda and susannac in alabama for coming up with two questions that stirred up the fairy dust of my imagination. Revmelinda asks: "Many romance authors write (or are trying their hand at) fantasy/magic/paranormal romance. Why do you think this is? Is there a reason besides "they’re fun and ripping great stories"? I suppose my own thought on the subject is that it’s a "safe" (ie non-religious) way to explore spirituality and that sense of Connection to a power greater than ourselves. (Or is that just a nonsensical piece of wishful thinking on my part?)"
I found this to be a fascinating question because writing a vampire romance caused me to do some soul-searching of my own. In AFTER MIDNIGHT, the prequel to THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME, my hero was a vampire hunter, not a vampire. But in THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME, Julian was a bonafide bloodsucking creature of the night. I struggled in the beginning because I was truly concerned that this theme would conflict with my own spiritual values. Until I realized that it was probably the most overtly spiritual story I’d ever told. Early in my career, an editor told me that "redemption" was the theme that ran through all of my books. In almost all of my books, somebody needed saving–usually my hero. In VAMPIRE, Julian is literally a man who has lost his soul and "all hope of heaven." (In my vampire universe, a vampire is "turned" when another vampire sucks the soul out of him at the exact moment of his death.)
As I was writing, my subconscious provided plenty of opportunities to explore this theme. When Julian realizes that Portia is in terrible danger, he whispers, "Dear God", invoking "a name he no longer had any right to use." After they make love for the first time, Julian has a dream where he stands in a church "no longer banished from the presence of God" and sees Portia coming to him as his bride. Once I realized I hadn’t gone over to the dark side and inadvertantly bartered my own soul to write this book, the words began to flow like a river of blessings. Sometimes I fear that we’ve become so gun-shy about publicly talking about our own faith that we forget that our historical characters would have had deeply spiritual concerns of their own.
And susannac in alabama writes: How is writing an undead hero different from writing a mortal one? Does "happily ever after" take on a different tone?
First of all, I had to keep in mind that Julian wasn’t dead. He was undead. And there had to be a distinction in my own mind. I didn’t give him creepy cold flesh either. Instead, whenever Portia was nearby, his flesh "burned with a supernatural fever", which was actually pretty sexy. Since he was turned into a vampire at a relatively young age, I mentioned him being "frozen forever in the first potent flush of manhood." (Not THAT kind of manhood. Get your minds out of the gutter! ;)) But the most fun part of writing a supernatural hero was letting Julian mock his own condition. During his appearances in AFTER MIDNIGHT, he quotes Byron’s vampire poetry, although he loathes Byron for being such a melodramatic sot and he tells someone, "When you women are all swooning over the romance of the vampire, you never stop to think about the little inconveniences like blood breath, do you?" Julian may have lost his soul but he never lost his sense of humor!
I have a theory about the current popularity of paranormals, which is that readers were getting a little tired of books where there was nothing at stake. We missed those sweeping "I’d die without you!" historicals of the 80’s and 90’s. With paranormals, something is always at risk, whether it’s a human life or the fate of the universe or a man’s (or woman’s) eternal soul. And because the risks are so much greater, the payoff can be that much greater, giving your "happily ever after" moment even more impact.
So how about you? As a reader, is it possible for you to warm up to a paranormal hero? If he’s a werewolf, can you suspend disbelief long enough to overlook the fleas and the hairy back? If he’s a vampire, can you overlook his prominent canine teeth as long as he vows to love you for all eternity?