Today’s Fantasy Romance: Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile
1. There hasn’t been a lot of epic fantasy + romance. What made you conceive that this was a natural marriage? I.e., What do you think fantasy brings to romance genre and romance brings to the fantasy genre?
ANSWER: Well, I would argue that fantasy and romance have been going together since before Cinderella asked her fairy godmother to help her go to the ball!
LOL, okay, I do agree that, historically speaking, epic fantasy usually focused on the quest aspects rather than the emotional/love aspect of the plot. And most of those quests involved war and danger and adventure – pursuits in which even fictional women were largely excluded from participation (excepting rare occasions like Tolkien’s Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan). Think about it – Odysseus had all the fun for 20 years, while Penelope got to do–what? Yep, sit at home and wait!
Times have changed. If Homer were writing the Odyssey today, I would expect to see Penelope strap on a breastplate, gather a private little army, and go rescue her man (and when she found him lollygagging around with Circe, being turned into a pig would be the least of his worries, I can assure you!!).
Women want adventure, too–and books are changing to reflect that. Most of my favorite epic fantasy feature strong women and strong romantic subplots – some, quite integral to the story: Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, Jennifer Roberson’s Sword Dancer series, Jennifer Roberson’s Cheysuli series, Sharon Shinn’s Archangel series, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and Anne Bishop’s Blood Jewels trilogy, just to name a few. Some of the most popular recent fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal movies and TV shows have also featured strong, powerful women, going head to head with baddies and winning, while not losing their femininity or desire for love and romance: Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Princess Leia Organa in the original Star Wars, Trinity in the Matrix, Hermione Grainger in Harry Potter. I could go on and on.
In my opinion, this is the perfect time for epic fantasy to meet and fall in love with romance. Fantasy – in particular epic fantasy – brings high stakes and a sense of drama that can be hard to recreate in a contemporary novel. And it also brings the wonder and excitement of pure, limitless imagination to life. And romance drives those stakes even higher on a very intimate and emotionally intense level, all while making the story very personal and accessible to the readers.
In my opinion, that makes a blending of romance and fantasy the perfect vehicle through which to tell a grand and unforgettable tale of epic proportions.
2. The type of fantasy that you are writing is more middle earth or Tolkien -like versus urban fantasy. What are the advantages/disadvantages of writing that type of fantasy?
ANSWER: The disadvantage of a Tolkien/Middle-Earth type setting is the amount of world-building you have to do — and include in the book without boring your reader to tears or leaving her hopelessly lost! When you write in a contemporary setting, there are certain aspects of the world-building that are already familiar to readers: J.R. Ward doesn’t have to spend page space explaining what a car is or what jeans look like. She can employ modern slang without researching it. Essentially, she can focus instead on the unique aspects of her world, while allowing readers’ familiarity with the modern world to “fill in the blanks” without sacrificing any of the richness of her world.
Where a pure fantasy world has the advantage is in freedom. You can literally create a world in which anything is possible so long as you build it properly. (Plus, it’s a lot easier to decapitate bad guys without having your hero getting sued for wrongful death or locked up as a rampaging psychopath!)
3. I understand that this was one big book that was split into two volumes. Did you have to do anything different to accommodate the publishing mechanism? Do you think that volume 1 is still a romance?
ANSWER: Splitting the book in two was the hardest part of the entire process, but I had a terrific editor, Alicia Condon, who brainstormed ideas with me, and several incredible friends and family members who helped read and crit the revised versions. Essentially, I had to take a scene that was a midpoint of the book and revise it to make it a climactic moment. And in volume 2, I had to start in mid-stream of several plotlines and reintroduce who the characters are and what’s at stake. So far, I’ve received very positive feedback from folks who’ve read both revised books, so I hope I succeeded!
I most definitely think LORD OF THE FADING LANDS is still a romance. And even though it doesn’t end with all issues resolved and questions answered, Rain and Ellie do still get a well-deserved HFN (Happy For Now) moment *G*.
4. Do you think that there are things that you can do with characters within the fantasy construct that you can’t do in the romance construct? Or asked differently, do you find one genre more limiting?
ANSWER: That’s the beauty of paranormal romance – imagination is king. There truly are no limits. What the fantasy (in particular the epic fantasy) gives me, as a writer, is greater scope. Because the books are longer – you have more time to develop main and secondary characters, deal with subplots that keep the story exciting, and generally enjoy submersing yourself in your fantasy world.
I also write contemporary romance (not yet published) and historical romance (with a hint of a paranormal twist) and I’m enjoy writing them.
Contemporary romance comes more quickly to me – I don’t have to do as much world-building, and dialogue is easier to write because I’m using modern terms and cadences – but contemporary romance also comes with technology and governmental processes you have to explain away or find ways to get around.
It’s unlikely your hero and heroine can raise and army and go to war to fight the minions of Darkness without rousing suspicion from local law enforcement, for instance.
For a good fantasy romance novel (or paranormal romance novel of any type), however, the one thing you cannot do is just take a romance story, sprinkle some magic on it, and call it done. The fantasy element has to be so integral to the plot and to the romance, that the story can’t possibly work without it. And the more tightly you can weave the fantasy world, the quest, and the romance together, the stronger and richer your story will be.