Posted On July 9, 2010 by Print This Post

Paranormal Romance – Hot? Not?

Many of our readers have faithfully followed the first half of our yearlong series of lectures on different romance fiction sub-genres.  Today, we’re excited to talk about a sub-genre that has seen an explosion of creativity in the past few years. Paranormal romance started out with vamps and shapeshifters, but has moved into different worlds, heavenly realms and age ranges (who can deny that Stephanie Meyer made the vampire cool/kewl with pre-teens, teens AND their mothers?).

We’ve snagged three wonderful visiting professors for today’s lecture. Please welcome New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox, best known for her Accidental Demon Slayer series, and debut author Erin Kellison! Dorchester editor Leah Hultenschmidt will also stop by throughout the day to respond to comments and questions. RU crew, you’re in for a treat!

Kelsey: Ladies, what’s your opinion of the state of paranormal romance today?

Angie: Paranormal romance is hot, hot, hot. I keep hearing that it will slow down, but I haven’t personally seen that yet. As a writer, I just sold a new paranormal romance series. As a reader, I’m having a great time finding new authors and keeping up with favorites I’ve been following for years. There are so many authors out there creating fantastic new worlds. You have your authors who write darker, like: JR Ward, Laurell K Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon. As well as those of us who pepper our stories with lighter moments and humor, like Charlaine Harris, Katie MacAlister and MaryJanice Davidson. My books are more in that vein as well.

The wonderful thing about paranormals is that there aren’t any limits as to the kinds of characters and worlds a writer wishes to create. As long as you make me believe, as a reader, that something is possible, I’m on board.

Erin: A stroll past the romance section at Wal-Mart will tell you paranormal romance is doing great. The genre is explosive. Why? Paranormals, to me, have it all. The subgenre allows for new world building limited only by the imagination, while tapping into and heightening basic human concerns and fantasies. Tone varies hugely as well, from light, comedic turns to dark fantasy, and everything in between. Even time period varies. Further, paranormals have a cross-genre appeal, even hopping the aisle at the book store. For example, my debut Shadow Bound is shelved in the Barnes and Noble fantasy and sci-fi section, while elsewhere it’s romance. Go figure. I don’t think demand is going to ebb any time soon. The main concern, I think, is how to stand out in a market where there is an abundance of fantastic authors.  

Kelsey: Why do you write paranormals, and do you write in other sub-genres?

Angie: I had someone ask me the other day if I ever planned to write about good ole humans and I had to think. Humans? Hmm…wait. There have to be a few humans in my books somewhere. The biker witches are human. They might count if you forget about their spell work. Seriously, though, I’m having too much fun with the paranormal right now. I love creating entire worlds where I get to make up the rules.

There are so many interesting things you can do. For example, when I sat down to write the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the first book, when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’

I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I had fun with it. Pirate can say and do things that Lizzie can’t. He’s such a kick to write. And that’s the beauty of a paranormal.

Erin: I love and have always loved fantasy and sci-fi.  I grew up on Tolkien and Star Trek. Then, in the sixth grade, I read my first gothic romance, Jane Eyre, and I was changed forever. Combine the two and I am in heaven. Right now I just write paranormals, but I can see myself doing romantic suspense because I love danger and have a murderous streak J. Eventually, I’d also like to try my hand at YA.

Kelsey: Angie, how do you think this sub-genre has changed in the last five years?

Angie: Paranormal romance has expanded with the imagination of its authors. I’m convinced vampires will never go out of style, no matter how much readers enjoy delving into other things. It seems like fresh, different takes on vampires will always sell well. In addition, authors are writing some great books about werewolves and other types of shifters, mermaids, Greek gods, witches and even fallen angels. I think the genre will continue to grow and change and become even more interesting.

Kelsey: Erin, we’re hearing that even paranormals are becoming a harder sell to editors. What do you think made your writing stand out and ultimately sell?

Erin: When I started Shadow Bound, I was looking for a mythological figure with the same kind of pathos so popular in vampires, but with opportunities for fresh world-building. I found it in a banshee, who became my heroine. (Banshees are heralds of death.) She let me have fun playing around with the concepts of life, death, and immortality. My best guess is that the premise resonated with what was already selling, yet offered a different take and a new world to explore.

I sold out of an RWA contest. I’ve heard people praise them and dismiss them. I’m in the first group. I received hugely varying scores for the exact same submission. In fact, the day I got The Call, I got some first-round scores back, too. One judge had given me a don’t-quit-your-day-job kind of score, so I understand the frustrations of contests. However, they are a viable way to get your work in front of and read by an agent or editor. I was fortunate enough to find myself on the desk of an editor at Dorchester.

Kelsey: Angie, what do readers tell you they love about your paranormals?

Angie: The characters. I write about a reluctant demon slayer, a gang of geriatric biker witches and a talking dog – and I let them do what they want.

Like in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers when Pirate the dog finds a dragon egg. The thing hatches and he decides he has a pet. I mean, how fun for a pet – to own a pet. Lizzie the demon slayer is not happy about that. She has enough going on and doesn’t think her dog needs to own a pet.

So she tells Pirate to find a new home for Flappy the dragon (Pirate named him, not Lizzie). So Lizzie is battling evil people and losing track of what Pirate is doing. He keeps promising to find a new home for the dragon, but instead Pirate is hiding the dragon, and loving the dragon and teaching him tricks. Every time Lizzie realizes the dragon is still there, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and, well, it’s just one more thing she can’t quite control.

Kelsey: What do you think it takes to be a NYT bestselling author of paranormal romances?

Angie: Make the story big. I had an agent tell me that if I wanted to sell, my characters had to take bigger chances, have more to risk and lose. It’s easy to say, but a hard thing for a writer to do. It’s a vulnerable, risky place to be. I knew my first book was big enough when instead of ending my writing sessions thinking, “I hope that’s good enough to impress an editor.” I ended them thinking, “No. I didn’t not just write that. I did not just make my character defend herself with a toilet brush and a can of Purple Prairie Clover air freshener.”

Also, you want to have a plan going in, but also be willing to let the story take you where it wants to go. When I began the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I started with a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers while on the run from a fifth level demon? And wouldn’t it be interesting if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

I started writing and let the story evolve based on the characters and that central issue of what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. And I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.

Kelsey: What advice do you have for writers who want to break into this sub-genre?

Angie: The key ingredients are: a love of books, a dedication to telling the best story possible and lots of determination and drive to keep writing, writing, writing.

I wrote three books that didn’t sell before I wrote The Accidental Demon Slayer. Those three books were rejected by everybody in town, with everything from written notes saying things like, “your death scenes are too funny,” to “not for us” rubber stamped on my original query. But if I’d have quit after any one of those three books, I never would have written my fourth book, which sold and ended up hitting the New York Times list.

Erin: Go for it. Trust your voice. Understand the basic elements of your subgenre and the industry. Write your heart out. Pursue every avenue to get your work on an agent or editor’s desk. When you finish one book, begin another. And most importantly, protect and nurture the joy of writing.

Kelsey: Angie, what are your predictions for paranormal romance in the next one to three years?

Angie: I think it will continue to grow. There are a lot of people writing paranormal romance right now, so the stories that sell will be the ones that are fresh and different. And that is great news for paranormal readers.

Kelsey: Erin, please feel free to share any other comments on paranormal romance or publishing in general.

Erin: I recommend to authors on the verge (who have a complete manuscript, are actively sending it out to agents/contests and pitching at conferences) to be already working on acquiring information on the business side of publishing. For example, I had begun a messy file of marketing tips. When I was putting together my marketing plan, I was so glad that I had amassed that information. Similarly, I had an idea about the process the manuscript would go through to publication and was basically familiar with each phase. There are so many firsts and so much to learn that having a little background is vital. 

Also, paranormals often sell as a series. I recommend having a good plan for the scope of any following books, with blurbs and/or outlines prepared. One of the first questions asked by my agent and editor was, Do you see this as a series? Do you have plans for subsequent books? My agent requested blurbs on the next two books immediately. It was a tremendous relief to go into this situation at least somewhat prepared and with a basic working knowledge of what to expect.

Strong plots are a necessary part of a good novel, but I think it is the characters and the fun things we discover with them that keep readers coming back.

***

RU Crew, now it’s your chance to ask questions about paranormal romance or anything else the strikes your fancy. Erin and Angie will pop in to chat. Also – don’t forget to grill Leah Hultenschmidt from Dorchester!

Come back on Monday when writer Sally Bayless will continue her series on Confessions of a new writer.

Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of the Accidental Demon Slayer series. She claims that researching her books can be just as much fun as writing them. In the name of fact-finding, Angie has ridden with Harley biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover Dam and found an interesting recipe for Mamma Coalpot’s Southern Skunk Surprise (she’s still trying to get her courage up to try it).

Angie earned a Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She worked in television news and then in advertising before beginning her career as an author.

Visit Angie at www.angiefox.com. You’ll find freebies galore and answers to burning questions, like What is Your Biker Witch name?

Erin Kellison is the author of the Shadow Series, which includes Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall.  Stories have always been a central part of Erin Kellison’s life. She attempted her first book in sixth grade, a dark fantasy adventure, and still has those early hand-written chapters. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English Language and Literature, and went on for a masters in Cultural Anthropology, focusing on oral storytelling. When she had children, nothing scared her anymore, so her focus shifted to writing fiction. She lives in Arizona with her two beautiful daughters and husband, and she will have a dog (breed undetermined) when her youngest turns five.

You can contact Erin though her website, www.ErinKellison.com, where you can also sign up to receive her newsletter.

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47 Responses to “Paranormal Romance – Hot? Not?”

  1. Morning Angie, Erin and Leah!

    Great to have you all here! Angie, your books sound like fun! I’ll have to add them to my Amazon shopping list…=) And if you need a skunk for Mamma Coalpot’s Southern Skunk Surprise – let me know – I had two in the mudroom last night! yeek!

    Erin and Angie…do you have a specific process for world building? Charts, spread sheets, pie graphs?

    Leah….have you noticed in slumping in sales of paranormals? Or is it just going gangbusters!

    Thanks for being here ladies – great post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 9, 2010, 8:16 am
    • Hi Carrie,

      Nope no graphs or pie charts. I do a lot of pre-writing, so when I start I have a good idea of the setting, feel, and rules that I’m working under. Actually, the prologue to Shadow Bound was a pre-writing exercise. I could not imagine how my heroine came to be, so I wrote it… and it stuck. I think readers of the book would agree that the prologue informs a lot of the world-building in the story. Also, as I am writing I am open to new ideas, or deepening established ones. And now and again I hit up against a brick wall that I’ve built for myself and have to think of a creative write-around. For me, it’s an ever evolving process.

      Posted by Erin Kellison | July 9, 2010, 9:08 am
  2. Good morning, ladies! Welcome to RU (welcome back for Leah :)).

    Leah – where has Dorchester acquired their newest paranormal authors-through the slushpile, agents, contests? Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Angie – so many paranormals are dark and angsty. Obviously, your lighter, funnier stories have done well in the marketplace. What other successful paranormal authors write along the “light side?”

    Erin – I can’t wait to get my hands on your books! Will there be more in the series or do you have something else in mind after the second book in this series?

    Thanks so much!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 8:29 am
    • Hi Kelsey!

      Yay! I hope you enjoy the books! Shadow Bound just came out. Shadow Fall will be out July 27. They are already printed and I am dying to get my hands on a copy!!! And right now I am finishing up a third in the series, Shadowman.

      Posted by Erin Kellison | July 9, 2010, 9:12 am
    • Come to the light side…we have cookies! Seriously, though, there are a lot of authors making a go of lighter, character-driven paranormals. Think MaryJanice Davidson, Katie MacAlister, Michele Bardsley, Charlaine Harris, Lynsay Sands, Kerrelyn Sparks, Michelle Rowen, Kathy Love, Molly Harper.

      And it’s not all light. There are a lot of dark, dramatic moments. And personally, I think this contrast makes helps the reader feel those darker moments even more intensely.

      Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 12:58 pm
      • Angie -

        Thanks for some new names to add to my TBR pile – LOL. Good point about the contrast in light and dark moments making the book more powerful. Just curious since you write some off-the-wall bits (defense by aerosol :))…have you ever had a contest judge or someone else tell you that you write “over the top?” I’ve had that comment a few times and you know how misery loves company!

        K-

        Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 3:35 pm
        • You know, I did get that comment on a few earlier, unsold books. I think the difference lies in character motivation. If you give the reader a solid build up, then we’re almost rooting for the heroine to do something drastic in order to reach her goal.

          Or another way to look at it, if you take the TV show Frasier (and this isn’t the best example, but it’s on my mind because I was watching it last night!) Frasier and Niles get into all kinds of situations on that show, yet the characters are motivated and playing it totally straight, so we buy into it. That’s the difference between “oh my gosh I can’t believe they just did that” and over-the-top, I don’t buy it. Does that make sense?

          Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 3:55 pm
  3. I find it interesting to note that both Angie and Erin sold to Dorchester through contest reads. It certainly can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Though, Kelsey, to answer your question, some of my newest acquisitions have actually been straight from the slush pile.

    Carrie, paranormal continues to be one of our strongest sellers and still probably the best genre for breaking out new talent.

    Posted by Leah Hultenschmidt | July 9, 2010, 8:58 am
  4. Hi, Leah, Angie and Erin and thank you for being here.

    Leah, could you share with us how many queries you receive in a month and what percentage of those queries make it to the next step?

    Angie and Erin, I’m not a big paranormal reader (Kelsey’s paranormals are really the only ones I read.), but I think you have made a believer out of me so I’m going to pick up your books.

    Thank you for a great interview!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | July 9, 2010, 10:01 am
    • We get hundreds of submissions every month. Usually we’re looking for more than a query, though–either the full ms and synopis via email or the first there chapters and synop through snail mail. So that gives us a sense of the author’s writing style. And of those, I’d guess maybe 1% are bought. Maybe a little less. It’s a tough one to answer. Sometimes I’ll go months without reading anything I like, and then recently I’ve picked up three great projects by new authors within the last 6 weeks or so.

      Posted by Leah Hultenschmidt | July 9, 2010, 10:40 am
    • Thanks Adrienne! Hope you enjoy the books!

      Erin

      Posted by Erin Kellison | July 9, 2010, 10:50 am
  5. Woot, Angie and Erin! Hi Leah. So fun to have all of you here!

    I find it fascinating to read how you both examined what was popular in paranormal romance–boiling it down to the core elements which make them so compelling for many of us–and made your own little twists to make your stories unique.

    Angie, can you give us the dirt on your new series? Please say there will be some sassy geriatric characters too. There’s just something about smack-talking old people that I totally love.

    Erin, can’t wait to see what you do with the story world in Shadow Fall–especially given what happened at the very end of SB! Even though it’s got an urban fantasy feel, I loved how you changed it up and told the story in third person. Just that little twist on the norm made it stand out.

    ~Laurie

    Posted by Laurie London | July 9, 2010, 12:33 pm
    • Thanks Laurie, I can’t wait to hear what you think! I wish I could give you some spoilers now but you’ll just have to wait :) At least it’s only a few weeks away.

      I’m glad you found the story to be something new – that’s what I was going for :)

      Posted by Erin Kellison | July 9, 2010, 5:25 pm
  6. Thanks, Laurie. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the biker witches. But be careful, I think they said something about dropping by your office later to try out some new spells.

    The new series will be a dark comedy as well. It’s about a paranormal MASH unit. These surgeons work on vampires, werewolves, demi-gods and the like. The first book is called The Monster MASH. This one is with St. Martin’s Press. They haven’t set a release date, but when they do, I’ll let you know.

    Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 12:44 pm
  7. Skunks in the mudroom, Carrie? Are you sure you’re not in one of my books already?

    As far as my process for world building, I begin with the idea. In the case of The Accidental Demon Slayer, I wondered exactly what would happen if a straight-laced preschool teacher learns she’s a demon slayer. Or in the case of The Monster MASH, I took a look at what would happen if all of these paranormal creatures *don’t* just heal. Where do they go? To a paranormal MASH unit, of course. And just who would be drafted into a paranormal MASH unit?

    I create the characters that I think would live in such a place, give them an epic problem and let them go from there. So many times, the things that happen in the midst of a story are much more interesting than the things I would have thought of before I thrust these characters into extraordinary situations.

    Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 12:52 pm
    • Angie -

      I SO want to pick your brain. I’m one of those writers who invisions little snippets of action, characters, scenarios rather than some full-blown plot. It sounds like you may create the plot problem after you create a scenario. How do you jump from that one small question to devising the epic problem for your character?

      Thanks so much!
      K-

      Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 3:30 pm
      • That’s how I am to an extent. I know what tone I want for a book, and the main story problem that the characters will have. Then I think of what these poor characters would most like to avoid and (of course) thrust them into those types of situations.

        Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 4:02 pm
        • And another clarification point – because you might be like this too – it’s actually detrimental for me to have the plot completely devised before starting a book.

          For me, the ideas that come out of a logical plot planning session are not the best ideas for the book. They’re too predictable. Or they don’t leave room for a character to surprise you. When I’m in the moment, writing, I think of all kinds of great ways for the story to go. And when I’m excited about a new direction, I figure my readers will be as well. It’s about capturing that energy and translating it onto the page.

          Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 4:05 pm
          • Angie -

            I’ve definitely been struggling with my plotting process lately, trying to make sure I have a “big enough” plot, especially since I’ve written several ST contemporaries. I will definitely be re-reading your comments here because I may be killing some of the off-the-cuff aspects of my writing.

            K-

            Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 10:14 pm
  8. Leah, can you tell us the process Dorchester goes through in designing covers? Both Angie’s and Erin’s covers are so wonderful and eye-catching on the store shelves that they practically jump into your hands. Also, I love the cover for Tsunami Blue (another recent Dorchester paranormal release) and am curious about the process.

    Posted by Laurie London | July 9, 2010, 12:58 pm
  9. Leah,

    Do you reply to everything you read in a slush pile or just the one’s you’re interested in?

    Which do you think is easiest to sell – light or dark paranormal?

    Posted by Melisa | July 9, 2010, 1:38 pm
  10. I had no intention of writing a paranormal until the vampire showed up. I entered a contest and got great marks from two judges. The third dropped twenty points off, wrote no comments, and said ‘Good luck with your writing.’ When I thanked the good judges, both encouraged me to submit my manuscript. They even suggested publishers. After three months, I got the e-mail and All Hours Trading was published in April.

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | July 9, 2010, 2:00 pm
    • Congratulations Mary Jo! That’s great news!

      carrie

      Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 9, 2010, 2:10 pm
    • Oh, Mary Jo -

      That’s a great story. (And very heartening for those of us who’ve gotten those 20+ point spreads from judges).

      Congratulations!
      Kelsey

      Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 3:27 pm
      • Kelsey,

        I had the same exact experience as Angie. I either had judges who loved my submission or hated it, and only the odd one or two in the middle ground. In fact, the same day I got The Call, I also got some scores back for the exact same thing. One of the scores was high. One of the scores was l-o-w, and accompanied by not so great comments. You can’t please everyone. The thing with contests is that first round judges are gate keepers to agent/editor desk. You just have keep trying.

        Posted by Erin Kellison | July 9, 2010, 4:46 pm
        • Erin –

          I absolutely enter contests based on final judge. I have great CPs, so although I read and think about what my first round judges have to say, I’m ultimately in it for the final round payoff! Sometimes my strategy works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think my biggest point spread so far is around 60 points – LOL.

          K-

          Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 5:41 pm
    • Congratulations. And personally, I think it’s great news when someone hates a book. I mean really despises it.

      I remember entering The Accidental Demon Slayer into a contest where it received a 100, a 98 and a 32. The judge who tanked it had nothing good to say other than that she loved my voice. But she though everything else was too different from what she was used to reading. That is fantastic, though. That’s the best news you can get.

      I didn’t want to write a book where everybody went, “Oh yes. That’s nice.” and then they forget about it ten minutes later. If you’re going to be different, some people aren’t going to like that. But being disliked by some means you’re standing apart from the crowd. And if the book is truly good, it will find an audience of people who love it just as strongly. My readers are amazingly supportive and I think it’s because I give them something new.

      Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 4:12 pm
  11. What a fun interview with Erin and Angie. I glad you both stuck it out and kept writing. I think its important for aspiring writers to understand that most first books aren’t published, and maybe not the second and third.

    Leah, do you feel the same way as Angie – that it’s the characters that pull you into the story or is it the plot that grabs you? I know you need both, but which is the deal breaker for you?

    Dawn Chartier
    http://www.dawnchartier.com

    Posted by Dawn Chartier | July 9, 2010, 2:10 pm
  12. Angie & Erin,
    This was so much fun to read. Your both now on my must read list. Great to hear your thoughts on the market and what processes you follow in creating as well as what you recommend in promotion.
    Thank you for sharing your adventure!
    Holly

    Posted by Holly | July 9, 2010, 4:14 pm
  13. Welcome Leah, Erin and Angie! Sorry to be so late.

    Angie–
    On June 17, Jeannie Ruesch did a blog on branding do’s and don’ts. She sent us to your site to see what our “biker bitch name” would be. Some folks got “STEEL BROW,” but I got HOG WILD HARRIET UNIBROW. UNIBROW? I want my money back! LOL

    Erin–
    Super congrats on your debut. I adore your cover.

    Angie and Erin–
    Do you think you’ll try writing something outside the paranormal sub-genre?

    Leah,
    So nice to see you again! What kind of demand is there for historical paranormals?

    Thanks!
    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | July 9, 2010, 8:08 pm
    • Hmm…yes. You don’t seem to have a unibrow. Perhaps the test is flawed. I’ll get the computer engineering witch to work on it. Well, as soon as I can get her to stop doing wheelies in the parking lot.

      I saw that branding article and I had to chuckle because she said Biker Bitch. The quiz is actually “What’s Your Biker Witch Name?” but Bitch is probably more accurate. I wish I had enough of a potty mouth to have used that version. ;)

      If anybody wants to check out that quiz, it’s on my website. http://www.angiefox.com

      Posted by Angie Fox | July 9, 2010, 10:11 pm
  14. Leah, Angie & Erin -

    I hope we have a few more folks drop by and comment tonight, but I wanted to pop in one last time to say thank you so much for taking the time to chat with the RU crew!

    Best,
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | July 9, 2010, 10:16 pm
  15. Great advice, ladies. Never, ever give up!

    What a fun chat! :)

    Congrats on your new sale, Angie.

    Posted by Saranna DeWylde | July 14, 2010, 10:31 am

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