Being a writer is satisfying, frustrating, hard work, crazy-making—pick the adjective that fits on any given day. But some projects are touched with fairy dust. For me, that was never more true than for the Faery Magic anthology. It was one of five romances designated as Notable Books by Library Journal in 1998, when the book was first published. (This may be the only time an anthology has been so chosen.) Now it’s being reissued and should be arriving in your bookstores any day now. (THis is the new cover. It scans very badly but is quite pretty in real time.)
The real magic came in the creation. Three of the authors—the Wenches’ own Jo Beverley, Barbara Samuel, and Karen Harbaugh—were part of a dynamic online community based on the old Genie server. They decided that it would be fun to write an anthology of romances involving fairies, but they needed a fourth author. Jo and I were old friends, and she and I shared a taste for science fiction and fantasy. So they asked if I’d like to join them.
I still remember getting Jo’s e-mail where she described the project. I was crazy busy at the time, but even so, I looked at that e-mail and thought “FUN.” Irresistible!
Most anthologies are developed by publishers. They come up with a concept, decide who they would like to have in it, and issue invitations. It’s much rarer to have authors generate a project because that means several people must come up with a concept, write a proposal that explains what the stories will be, then find an editor who wants to buy the package. Add in the fact that there are likely to be different agents involve (three in this case), and a certain amount of politics, and the business end can get complicated.
But the creative end—now that was indeed fun! We really burned up the pixels as we developed the rules for our particular faery world. We worked out the laws of magic that would bind our faeries. The land of Faerie would touch the world we know in different places, and since faeries are nature spirits, they would be increasingly under siege in an England becoming industrialized.
These would not be cute little sugar plum faeries. They would dangerous, edgy powers to be reckoned with. Bad boy faeries. (As an aside, Virginia Kantra wrote a wonderful, Rita-nominated contemporary novella where the bad boy fairies rode big honkin’ motorcycles. Great stuff! But I digress. <g>)
Barbara and Karen decided on Georgian settings while Jo and I chose Regency. We had little touches between stories—a passing reference to the Love Talker, a brief glimpse of a character from another story who has unnaturally green eyes.
And it was all possible because of the magic of cyberspace. In the introduction to the volume, we quoted a few bits of our conversations: Imagine, if you will, fey whisperings of—
"Let’s use faery (Faery), not fairy. It’s more mysterious."
"What about faeries mating with humans? My group is against it."
"Mine think it’s essential for survival."
"My heroine is half faery—and wouldn’t her mother be surprised to know!"
"Faeries are creatures of nature and must have greenery to live. How will she survive in London?"
"She could live in Hyde Park."
"Or under a parlor aspidistra!"
"It’s reasonable for the humans to be scared. It’s not wise to try to fool or foil the Queen of Faerie!"
It’s been ten years since we wrote the stories in Faery Magic. (I was still on dial-up!) I came late to the online world, unlike my three faery sisters, who were all early adaptors. I clung to my old Leading Edge computer as long as possible since I had a dark suspicion that going on line would be a huge time sink. Boy, was I right! E-mail addiction is not a pretty sight, and like most attractive nuisances, one doesn’t want to kick the habit.
But the benefits are great, most especially when in comes to building community. It’s a fantastic tool for collaborating on writing projects, too. All four of us in Faery Magic had a love for fantasy, and this was a wonderful first opportunity to indulge that taste.
But a taste was not enough. These days Karen and I both write paranormal historicals and Jo has written a goodly number of short works in both fantasy and science fiction. (Jo and I were both in the Irresistible Forces anthology, too.) Since the desire to write fantasy hasn’t abated, a couple of years ago we four decided to do another anthology. Dragon Lovers will be out early next year from NAL.
I think that when Faery Magic was published, we were a little ahead of the paranormal curve. Now there are fantasy elements all over romance, from vampires and werewolves to demon hunting soccer moms. My personal preference is for magic, and I’ve been happily weaving it into all my most recent work. Some readers just don’t Get It, while others love it.
What do you as readers enjoy? Do you hate paranormal elements? Tolerate them if you like the writer’s style? Or do you love them and find that they give freshness to classic stories? (My June book, The Marriage Spell, was a classic Regency marriage of convenience story, but with magic added.)
Tell us how you feel about the many varieties of paranormal and fantasy stories that are out there!