Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Who Moved My Cheese? Are Paranormal Romances Due for a...

Last week I blogged about my frustration with the labeling of a certain paranormal book which was labeled a romance but did not have a very satisfactory ending. In reading more about paranormal romance from the perspective of primarily outsiders, it became increasingly clear that there is a push to broaden the meaning of romance or perhaps to reclaim the word “romance” and thus the genre definition to represent a more classical meaning. In an article written for The Internet of Science Review (registration required), author Cynthia Ward indicated that paranormal romance is booming but these different romances need not be bound by the ubiquitous HEA.

Like its horror parent, paranormal romance can be dark and disturbing, even terrifying. Paranormal romance can take place in an unfair or malevolent universe. And a paranormal romance novel or story can end unhappily.

The term, Paranormal Romance, has been bandied about by mainstream media and publishers outside of the genre. Stalwart romance genre readers recognize its misuse immediately when it categorizes authors like Laurell K Hamilton and Charlaine Harris as paranormal romance writers. Paranormal romance writers bring to mind Jayne Ann Krentz and her futuristics; Christine Feehan and her breakthrough Carpathians; or Susan Grant’s science fiction romance, Contact.

What I thought would be interesting is to poll some authors about what they believe they write and what they think of labels. I also solicited an opinion from May, Milady Insanity, as she reads many a romances and has often advocated a broadening of the genre definition. Finally, I sought out an academic response from Dr. Frantz, a literature professor at Fayetteville State University and blogger at Teach Me Tonight. The responses I received were really illuminating and I think serve to provide some thought provoking insight. I’ve learned a bit about romance, about paranormal, and it has helped me coalesce my own ideas.

* * *

  • Kelley Armstrong
  • Patricia Briggs
  • Kim Harrison
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch aka Kristine Grayson
  • Sharon Shinn
  • Meljean Brook
  • Christine Feehan
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Nora Roberts
  • Aspiring author May (Milady Insanity)
  • Dr. Sarah Frantz
  • * * *

    Kelley Armstrong | Index
    Bitten (Women of the Otherworld)I fell in love with Kelley Armstrong’s characters Clay and Elena in Bitten. It was the book that made werewolves sexy for me. My favorite line of all in that series is Clay’s “Clay grinned. ‘You forget, darling. I am the local psychopath.’” So true. While we readers waited the seemingly interminably year between books, Kelley Armstrong wrote novellas for FREE and allowed her readers insight into her Otherworld. We got to see how Elena came to be bitten from Clay’s point of view and how Clay and Jeremy became a family. Ms. Armstrong’s Stolen won the 2003 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Contemporary Paranormal. Her next book, No Humans Involved is due out in May in hardcover.

    BrokenDefine paranormal romance? Sure, I’ll bite. As for the paranormal part of the equation, anything otherworldly qualifies. For a book to be a romance, though, in my opinion, the main plot must revolve around the development of a romance. Other genres can come into play as subplots, but the point of the novel is the romance. There are secondary issues, like the happy ending, but there are plenty of examples of classic romances that don’t end happily-ever-after. As a reader, I don’t expect a 100% happy ’til death do us part’ ending, but I at least want a satisfying upbeat ending. Still, that’s secondary, and so long as a book fulfills the requirement of having the romantic relationship as the main plot, I’d say it’s a romance.

    As a writer, I love crossing genres. I can pull out all the story elements I enjoy, and put them into one book, without worrying that I’ll overstep the boundaries of my genre label. But that doesn’t mean classification isn’t an issue. Marketers want to know what sector to target, booksellers want to know where to shelve the novels, and readers like to know what they’re picking up before they plunk down their cash. I’ve been dealing with the classification issue from the beginning–my first book came out in hardcover with stylish “literary” art with no mention of werewolves on the cover, and was marketed as mainstream fiction! It’s much easier now, when I can just point to big cross-genre authors like LKH, Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison and say my books are “kinda like that.” That’s the easiest way to handle it. As I’ve learned, anytime I say my books fit into a certain genre, someone will tell me I’m wrong. Worse, though, is making the mistake of saying they don’t really fit into genre x, which can be seen as a slam against genre x! Better to leave classification to marketers, booksellers and readers, keep my mouth shut and write.

    Patricia Briggs | Index
    Blood BoundUSA Today Bestselling novelist, Patricia Briggs, broke into my world last year with her book, Moon Called. Since then I’ve read four other books of hers. The Hurog duology is a particular favorite of mine. It is told from the point of view of the hero, a man who played the dumb one to avoid being killed by his father. The duology has a sweet romance that starts at the end of the first entry and concludes with the end of the duology. Moon Called is a series surrounding mechanic and sometime coyote, Mercy Thompson. The next entry in this new and exciting series is due out in just a few weeks. I’ll be at the bookstore on January 30 buying Blood Bound.

    Dragon BonesI’ve complained, and heard a lot of other authors complain that genres are an artificial construct, imposed on books by publishers in order to attract an audience for a book. On the other hand, genres are undeniably useful in pairing up readers with the books they like to read. Writers, who want to eat — or just be read — generally decide what genre we want our book to be in, and write accordingly.

    Moon Called, like all my books, is a fantasy. The story could take place, largely unchanged (though not as interesting to me) without a romance, but without the magic there wouldn’t be a story. Labeling the book an urban fantasy, rather than a paranormal romance is useful because it tells the reader what to expect. Someone picking up Moon Called because they wanted to read a romance, would be very disappointed. There’s not enough romance — and the romance hasn’t come to a satisfactory conclusion by the end of the book. And there’s no sex. Sexual tension, yes — but no sex! It would be like taking a big swig of milk and discovering it was lemonade instead. That same romance reader, knowing that most urban fantasies have some romantic elements, might pick it up, and, warned that it is a little different from what they usually like to read, they can enjoy it for what it is.

    Genre labels can be very limiting. I have friends who only read fantasy — though I know they’d love, say, Bujold’s sf series about Miles Vorkosigan (and so would a lot of romance readers, too). But in the case of urban fantasy and its kissing cousin, the paranormal romance, there seems to be a lot of readers who are willing to cross the genre barrier which is one of the reasons why both genres are very healthy in the current market.

    As far as putting romantic elements in most of my books . . . absolutely. As a reader, a writer, and a human being, I am fascinated by people and what makes them tick — and how they relate to other people. Love, in all of its faces, is an integral part of why people act and feel the way they do — and how they connect to each other. From a writer’s viewpoint, love is both a wonderful motivator and source of conflict. When I am creating characters, part of that process is the question, who do they love? and the equally important who loves them? When I know that, I understand who they are and can put them in the story. Lastly, my stories tend to be set in worlds that are pretty dark, no happy little flitting fairies and fanciful unicorns in my books. As in real life, it is love (and a dash of humor) that keeps everyone’s chin up in the darkness — and makes the end satisfying.

    Kim Harrison | Index
    For a Few Demons MoreNew York Times Bestselling author, Kim Harrison, debuted with Dead Witch Walking in 2004, just three years ago. Dead Witch Walking and its other Spaghetti Western inspired titles in the series, have become romance favorites. DWW won Romantic Times’s Best Fantasy novel of 2004 and its sequel, The Good, The Bad, and the Undead won P.E.A.R.L.s Best Science Fiction for 2005. Her March 2007 release is Ms. Harrison’s move into the big time-her first hardcover.

    I don’t know if I’m really the person to help you as I’ve never considered myself writing paranormal romance. ;-) I’m feel like I’m in a more of a urban or dark fantasy genre. Even so, I’ve been amazed and gratified at the welcoming response from the romance readers, and I know they have a lot to do with how I got to where I am so quickly. It’s a testament that romance readers are open to any story that has a heart.

    Lois McMaster Bujold | Index
    Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Vol. 1)To name all the awards Ms. McMaster Bujold was been given would take us into next year. Suffice to say she is a multi-feted author whose Miles Vorkosigan/Naismith series is an oft recommended science fiction book for romance readers. Her newest book, Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Vol. 1) could easily have been shelved in the romance section. It was not only romantic but surprisingly sexual. I’m looking forward to the June release of its companion, The Sharing Knife Volume Two: Legacy (Sharing Knife).

    Some people just don’t like chocolate in their peanut butter; and you can’t argue taste. Well, you *can*, but it’s a mug’s game. And people who don’t recognize anything except physical violence as action, I can’t do much about either. My more alert readers are suitably uneasy by the end of Vol. 1; the rest, well, they’ll have their heads in just the right position for the proper effect when the bat swings around…

    That said, one of the covert mandates of both SF and fantasy is that the world be in effect another main character: the reader expects to be introduced to that character, explore it, perhaps bond with it, and fully understand its motivations by the end of the tale. “Show me the world!” is a demand the book must ultimately answer. It’s not just a stage, it’s a player in its own right, and has to be treated by the writer with equal attention. In romance, the world may be well lost for love; in F&SF, it had better not be.

    The principal problem with Beguilement as a fantasy novel is that it’s half a book; Legacy is its second half, not its sequel. Over the book as a whole, I think the elements are in balance, but as of the cut-off point for the first volume, we’re in a section where the relationship has been foregrounded for a time and the woes of the world have been, apparently, backgrounded. In the second volume, that will almost reverse. In retrospect, I suspect some (but not all) disgruntled fantasy readers may revise their first impressions of volume one, but I won’t find out till July, sigh. I hope the romance readers will still be satisfied.

    The actual sequel, another duology with the working title of The Wide Green World , is alas back to being a fantasy with romance subplots again, but that’s another tale with different thematic concerns, even though those concerns grow directly out of the first book. (Wrangling the massive backstory is proving a challenge, just at present, but that’s another writerly problem.)

    A Civil CampaignYour work has received positive response from the romance community in the past. Would you be willing to share whether you feel that you are writing in the paranormal romance genre or the fantasy genre?

    Fantasy. But I am happy to poach as many readers from the other side of the genre fence as I can.

    Do you think those labels are helpful or hurtful to readers?

    Genre is actually a recent invention, stemming from the period when there began to be too many books published for any one or even small group of people to read them all. There had to be some way of pre-sorting them. I find genre labels helpful when they guide readers to books, hurtful when they push them away. Genre is good as a door but bad as a wall, in other words — but since that wall really only exists in people’s minds, it never hurts to coax folks to be more adventurous.

    Do you think a new genre label would best suit your readers and other authors who have that “cross over” appeal as it is often termed?

    No, not really. That would tend to limit one’s audience to the intersection of the Venn diagram only, shrinking it to something publishers will be even less willing to pursue. It would be better for the readership to learn to be be less daunted by labels generally. As far as I know, word of mouth is the only power than can overcome that problem.

    Kristine Kathryn Rusch aka Kristine Grayson | Index

    Totally SpellboundMs. Rusch is one of those authors who crosses genres, literally. She writes science fiction as Kristine Kathryn Rusch, mysteries Kris Nelscott and romances as Kristine Grayson. Her 2006 mystery, Days of Rage, was chosen as one of the top ten books of 2006 by Kirkus. I think the main difference between a paranormal romance and traditional sf/f is that in paranormals, as in all romance, the key word is “romance.” If the romance isn't there, the story doesn't work. Romance readers are willing to live with a world that isn't as well explained as some sf/f fans would like if the romantic story is top-notch.

    Sharon Shinn | Index
    Mystic and Rider (Ace Fantasy Book)We like Sharon Shinn’s books so much that in October we devoted an entire week to her here at Dear Author. She is published as a fantasy writer but her books all contain central romantic relationships. In her interview here, she said that she writes happy endings “Because the world is an unhappy enough place as it is! If I had a chance to dispense happiness in the real world, I would certainly do it. I have that power in fiction.” Her books for adults are satsifyingly complex and sublimely romantic all at once. Her YA books are simpler but no less touching.

    For myself, I think I’m writing pretty firmly in the fantasy genre. I’ve heard people say you can tell if a book is fantasy/science fiction because if you take away the fantasy/sf elements, the book can’t exist. For the most part, that’s true of my books.

    However, I actually like it if people consider me a romance writer as well, and obviously all my books include romances! My feeling is that more romance readers would follow me into the sf/f shelves than sf/f readers would follow me to the romance shelves, so I’m happy to be categorized as I am. But, boy, I’d sure love all the crossover traffic I can get.

    Dark Moon Defender (A Novel of the Twelve Houses)I have heard the term “fantasy romance” used sometimes instead of “paranormal romance,” and I think that might be more accurate for what *I* do. To me, “paranormal” seems to have a sort of occult element — ghosts, vampires, werewolves, time travel — and often a more contemporary feel. What I write is more likely to be traditional medieval sword-and-sorcery fantasy, or alternate-world fantasy, as opposed to what I consider true “paranormal.” But I don’t mind being lumped in with the paranormal writers, when I am.

    Are labels good or bad? I think they can be helpful to the reader. I read a lot of books and see a lot of movies, and I confess I like to have a good idea of what I’m in for before I start. That doesn’t mean I won’t try something new from time to time, but, again, I like to have at least a fuzzy idea of what the parameters are before the book opens or the movie begins. Some days you want to read a mystery. Some days you want to read a romance. Some days you want to be surprised. Labels help us a little bit on our less adventurous days…but I do hope people feel adventurous now and then.

    Meljean Brook | Index
    Demon Angel (Berkley Sensation)Reading Meljean Brook’s blog, you get the sense she is a big science fiction/comic book geek girl. You would have thought it natural for her to write a paranormal or fantasy book suited for her obsession with Wonder Woman. Yet, her debut book,Demon Angel (Berkley Sensation), is romantic as they come.

    Though my first love is the romance genre, I often venture into genres where the HEA isn’t guaranteed by the story (or even an ending, happy or not: comics and many sf/f series have no end in sight — Batman is still a bachelor almost seventy years after his creation (I think he’d be a lot less broody if he hooked up with Wonder Woman) and Superman took fifty years to settle down with Lois, and god knows what Cyclops and Jean Grey will be doing in a decade). And although I seem to enjoy sf/f best when a romance is included within the story (such as Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels Trilogy), the fantastic and speculative elements are my primary draw to the sf/f (and horror) genres. So I think it inevitable that they show up in my writing as well.

    I don’t think I could ever be a writer who didn’t include a HEA. I’ve tried — I went through a “literary” period because the college writing courses I was taking frowned on genre (any genre) writing. I hated being forced into a writing style that didn’t feel natural. And when I was writing fanfiction, there were several stories that I tried to write to an un-HEA … and I couldn’t do it. I don’t know if it’s the Harlequins I read as a kid that got to me, all of the fairy tales, or just the way I’m wired. The first long story I wrote when I was thirteen or so was just like a Harlequin (only really bad), and almost every story since then has had a romance — not always at the center, but always there. So I don’t know if I ever *intended* to write paranormal romance … but I certainly seem destined to. It’s like my mate: without it, I’d either turn evil or die.

    Christine Feehan | Index
    Deadly GameChristine Feehan is one of those authors who sets trends. She began writing the Carpathian series in 1999 with Dark Prince and forever changed the paranormal landscape with her dark, brooding alpha heroes and their need to find their one true mate before madness sets in. The Carpathian formula has been copied and reformed dozens of times since Ms. Feehan first introduce them. She also was one of the first authors to do video shorts to advertise her books. Now, book trailers seem all the rage.

    The definition, to me, of a romance is a HEA whether it is paranormal or not. My readers can expect to have a happy ever after. That is one of the reasons I made it very clear that Dark Celebration was not a normal romance, but a reunion book. i didn’t want readers to be disappointed and to understand that they were getting one night in already existing characters lives, rather than a normal romance!

    Sherrilyn Kenyon | Index
    The Dream-Hunter (A Dream-Hunter Novel)Sherrilyn Kenyon has penned over 40 stories under the Kenyon nom de plume and under Kinley MacGregor. My first introduction to Kenyon was through her time traveling Highlander stories. Her career really took off after the sale of Fantasy Lover to Jennifer Enderlin. Kenyon is a frequent visitor to the NYT Bestseller list and may be best known for her Dark Hunter series where myth meets modern day life. Her newest series kicks off with the February release of Dream Hunter.

    I guess because I’ve read and written so much fantasy and science fiction, I don’t really see a difference between paranormal romance and the other two.
    Honestly, I don’t. There is plenty of romantic SF/F such as Lois McMaster Bujold, Catherine Asaro, Carole Nelson Douglas, Terry Brooks, Robert Frezza, Anne McCaffrey even Mike Resnick. The only real difference between those and the ones now labeled paranormal romance is that a relationship between two people is a requirement. But as I said, there have been plenty of SF/F written where the relationship between the characters was the backbone of the story. Even Harry Potter.

    As for the happy ending, no. I’ve had books that didn’t have the requisite HEA ending. Bittersweet is probably the only way to describe them and they have been among my most popular books. The only thing I think readers expect is that there is a relationship between the two major characters.

    Dark Side of the Moon (Dark Hunter Novels)I apologize for bothering you once again, but in reading your answer and rifling through my admittedly bad memory, I don’t recall which books of yours did not end with an HEA. Could you, perhaps, jog my memory so I can point to the correct books in your backlist to highlight for the readers?

    LOL sure, Danger died at the end of Dark Side of the Moon and then Seize the Night was extremely bittersweet.

    Nora Roberts | Index
    Innocent in Death (In Death (Hardcover))Surely, Ms. Roberts needs no introduction. She’s been writing futuristic police procedure romances since 1995 under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. However, many of her books have featured witches or paranormal ghosts. Most recently she released a New York Times Bestselling trilogy featuring vampires, time travelers, shape shifters and sorcerers called the Circle Trilogy. Ms. Roberts is also romance’s greatest supporter spreading the gospel of the good of romance literature from media sea to shining media sea. Her next JD Robb book, Innocent in Deathis due out in February.

    A Romance novel has to contain a love story between the two main characters that’s key to the book. The story simply couldn’t be told without it. This relationship must end happily. Happily doesn’t mean the book needs to end with a proposal, or that they’re surrounded by their bevy of adorable, rosy-cheeked children. It means they’re together (certainly alive), and the writer has convinced the reader that these two people belong together and are commited to making a future. While stories that have the hero or heroine dying for each other, a cause, for honor, or just bad luck can be wrenchingly romantic–or parting our lovers because they’ll always have Paris can tug our heart strings–these fall outside key genre expectations. These are love stories, not Romance novels.

    Morrigan's Cross (The Circle Trilogy, Book 1)If the book is Paranormal Romance, in addition to the above there must be paranormal/otherwordly elements also essential to the story. It’s a blend. Whatever the world-building, whatever the character types, it STILL must contain a central and essential love story between the two main characters that ends happily. These are basic, elemental and vital aspects of the genre, and the reader expectations of the genre. So if your werewolf hero gets offed by a silver bullet, or your vampire hunter heroine decides to go it on her own at the end, you don’t have Paranormal Romance, you have Paranormal Fiction. Same goes if the relationship between the h/h isn’t key to the story.

    This isn’t merely what my readers expect from me if I’m writing Paranormal Romance–though they certainly do, and I would never betray the reader–but what the vast majority of readers expects and certainly deserves from any book labeled and marketed as Romance.

    Why should Paranormal Romance, which has been a sub-set of the Romance genre for years be redefined? Those who don’t want to write or publish within the framework and expectations of the genre need only label and market their books for what they are. Paranormal Fiction. If they’re good, solid stories, Romance readers, like others, will find them, and enjoy them–without feeling betrayed or disappointed.

    Aspiring author May (Milady Insanity) | Index
    May is a reader from Singapore who always has interesting opinions. I think that she lives by the Mark Twain philosophy: Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.

    A definition…I’m not sure I have one.

    Hmmm… The paranormal part’s obvious, but I think if you want to tag romance behind it, then the protagonist should be forming a serious relationship with someone(s). Serious defined as “I could marry this guy.”

    I’d certainly include the couple as protagonists type of story under this definition as well–like Eileen Wilks’ Lupi or Eve and Roarke–because their characters and their romantic relationship deepen and change with each book.

    I’m not saying that all urban fantasy novels can be included in the paranormal romance subgenre. I wouldn’t include Patricia Briggs’s Mercy or Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse, for instance. Likewise, I have read books that I personally wouldn’t call a paranormal romance but were sold as paranormal romance, Jackie Kessler’s Hell’s Belles and Yasmine Galenorn’s Witchling being notable examples.

    It does get a bit fuzzy from here on out, because what I’m saying can be read as so long the protagonist’s lovelife is an important part of the book, it can be called a romance. Some would call this chick-lit. And what happens if they break up? Is the book still a romance (by my definition) in the interim?

    Something else to keep in mind is that urban fantasy, while it does overlap in subject matter with paranormal romance, it has a…different feel. Ask Jordan Summers–she asked on her blog and on PBW’s Friday 20 about how to get the feel right.

    Simon R. Green’s John Taylor series is usually my example, but you might want to check out Rob Thurman’s Night Life as well.

    Hell’s Belles isn’t a paranormal romance because of subject matter, and if you want to get really picky, Jezebel’s voice is too chick-lit as well.

    If you want urban fantasy with a female protagonist, Laura Anne Gilman’s Retriever’s series, Richelle Mead’s Succubus Blues and Justine Musk’s Bloodangel (I loooooove this book) are other books you can look at.

    Tor’s Paranormal romance line tends to have para romances with a more urban fantasy feel too, like Jeanie London’s Retrieval.

    Dr. Sarah S.G. Frantz | Index

    Dr. Frantz is an Associate Professor of Literature and English at Fayetteville State University. She is a regular contributor at Teach Me Tonight and is contributing to a book to be published entitled: Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Romance Writers. Dr. Frantz is emminently suited to discuss this matter as she teaches a course Introduction to Literature: Vampires and Desire. Where was Dr. Frantz when I was going to college? I would have taken that than study the Dweebs (Dead White EEnglish Boys aka Socrates and the like).I think the RWA’s definition of romance as containing both a central love story, and also an emotionally satisfying AND optimistic ending have to hold true for any romance, no matter the sub-genre. (Which is why the recent blogosphere speculation–yours in particular–on marketing problems and redefinitions have piqued my interest so much.) So, as much as Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series may be all about the relationships she has (with SOOOO many men/males ;), the central focus of each story is *not* on that *one* relationship (even if it’s a threesome) that can be resolved with a HEA, so the books don’t count as romances per se (although I certainly think their success can be attributed to romance readers’ interest in the story *because* of the focus on relationships).

    So, if we’re going to discuss paranormal *romance*, I’d stress that the romance is still vital to that combination.

    The paranormal part, of course, is what you were really asking about. Paranormal, of course, means “beyond” normal, or anything that cannot be explained by science. I would personally add “in our world,” meaning that a totally different world, with magic and everything, is not paranormal by my definition. For example, then, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake world is paranormal, because it’s an alternate expression of our world with paranormal elements. Her Merry Gentry series is not paranormal, for me, but rather fantasy, because although it starts in “our” world, most of the action takes place in a totally other world, like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series. “The Lord of the Rings” is not paranormal, even though it has magic, because it’s a different world. Matthew Haldeman-Time’s serial m/m erotica, “In This Land” (found on his website–sorry, had to do the plug because it’s too incredible not to) is not paranormal, because it’s a different world/planet. Other-world novels, then, are Science Fiction or Fantasy, depending on the novel–and I am by no means an expert on that designation. I tend to avoid SF/F.

    So, if it’s set in any version of our world, in recognizable cities or towns or countries, but has “beyond science” elements, it’s paranormal. There’s different levels to paranormal. There’s the choice of paranormal elements: stuff that humans can do (telekinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, magic, etc.) and/or paranormal “monsters” (were-animals, zombies, ghosts, ghouls, fairies/faeries, vampires (oh, the vampires!!), etc.). There’s also the choice of level of paranormality: alternative histories, where everyone knows and accepts the paranormal elements (a la Hamilton) vs. stories where paranormal elements are something only a few people possess (a la most of Nora Roberts’ and Linda Howard’s paranormal stories).

    I think, however, that my reason for the distinction between of-this-world stories being paranormal and not-of-this-world stories being sf/f is that a *primary* theme of all paranormal novels is the interaction between the normal of our world and the paranormal, between the mundane and the unexplainable. How does the normal woman respond when she finds out her lover is a vampire/werewolf/witch? How does a normal man respond when he finds out he’s not normal but comes into his previously latent powers or is turned? That’s the distinction between paranormal and SF/F, for me. If that tension doesn’t exist, it’s not a paranormal novel, even if it is set in our world. If it were an alternative history of our world where EVERYONE were paranormal, that would still be fantasy because the tension between mundane and paranormal would not exist. If you think of Nora Roberts’ paranormals (I haven’t read the Morrigan’s Cross series, so I can’t speak for those), each and every relationship has to get over the “I don’t believe you” stage. Ditto Linda Howard’s paranormal romantic mysteries. That’s what makes them paranormal.

    Time travel novels, then, would seem to straddle this divide. The primary tension is in the clash between cultures separated by time, rather than by mundane/paranormal elements. So both the time traveler and the non-time traveler are mundane, but their meeting is brought about by paranormal elements. I don’t consider that true paranormal. But that might just be me. I think they’re a very different genre from paranormal.

    My favorite paranormal series at the moment is J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books–and I’m obviously not alone there. ;) While the stories take place mostly in the “world” of the Brotherhood, that world is still hidden from the “normal” world and one of the tensions is how to keep it hidden. And all the relationships so far (and the future relationships that we know of) have had the tension of normal meets paranormal. In “Dark Lover,” Beth might be vampire, but she doesn’t know it until she makes the change. The heroines in “Lover Eternal” and “Lover Awakened” and the hero in “Lover Revealed” are all human and that is a tension in the novels.

    Putting these two elements together, then, a paranormal *romance* is a novel focusing on a close relationship in which the primary mundane vs. paranormal tension needs to lie *between* the partners in the relationship. So while a story in which both characters know of, understand, and believe in the paranormal elements of the world would technically be “paranormal,” it might not be a paranormal *romance* because why have a romance with paranormal elements if the mundane/paranormal tension does not effect the relationship? In a paranormal romance, then, at least one character must believe they are mundane (whether or not they are) and have to struggle *within* the relationship with the tension between mundane and paranormal. This definition can be represented in any number of ways, but that’s what I come to when I actually try to parse out my personal understanding of the combination phrase “paranormal romance.”

    I have no idea if this definition matches any that you’ve been researching in the sf/f community–these are just my quick thoughts from the romance perspective. And again, I stress the romance part. Gotta have that happy ending! :)

    * * *
    What these opinions say to me is that the genre expectations of a romance reader are pretty well known and that romance readers are more likely to cross the line into s/f/f than s/f/f readers into romance. Shelving the fantasy/science fiction books that are marketed to appeal to female readers and lovers of the romance genre in romance can be problematic. As evidenced by the above referenced s/f/f authors who, to varying degrees, have captured the hearts of romance readers, being shelved in s/f/f isn’t a downfall but it does require the elusive word of mouth to drag readers over the invisible line. What the publishers and authors want to capture is the browsing crowd. I’ve ventured across the line to pick up a book but I have never browsed there.

    What I would love to see, if s/f/f/ is indeed more than just a trend, is a new section entitled Romantic Paranormal Fantasy with the labels on the spines in that section having labels saying paranormal fiction, fantasy fiction, paranormal romance, fantasy romance. I want to read the types of novels that Juno Press is releasing along with Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Shinn and I want to find them easily. But I don’t want them labeled romance. Anyone else have ideas? thoughts? input? couldn’t make it to the end of the longest blog post ever?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

32 Comments

  1. Carrie
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 05:33:10

    After reading Sherrilyn Kenyon’s response, something struck me. Maybe one of the problems is that HEA itself isn’t strictly defined. It’s been a long time since I read Dark Side of the Moon (so correct me if this is wrong), but Danger isn’t the hero of the story.

    As a reader, I’ve never taken the concept of HEA to mean everything has to be hunky-dory at the end of the book. To me it means the hero and heroine wind up together. Death and mayhem may surround them, but they’re together to deal with it. Period. It can be bittersweet. It can be downright sad. Everything else could have fallen apart. But again, to me, HEA= the hero and heroine end the story committed to each other.

    So maybe the romantic relationship has to have an HEA, but any subplots do not.

    ReplyReply

  2. Saskia Walker
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 06:59:31

    I want to read the types of novels that Juno Press is releasing along with Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Shinn and I want to find them easily. But I don’t want them labeled romance.

    Juno novels are NOT being labelled romance, as I said in the first comment last time around, they are being shelved in Fantasy! The only book that has romance on it is the anthology.

    ReplyReply

  3. Laura Florand
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 08:25:03

    I don’t know how to solve the labeling issue. I just scan the “New Fantasy” shelves every couple of weeks and try new authors, and that’s one of the things I like to find–a good romantic element in the story. Word of mouth usually alerts me to any authors I’ve missed.

    So for word of mouth–given the other fantasy authors popular on this site (Bujold, Shinn), I give my highest recommendation to Martha Wells. Superb world- and character-building with always a good romance as part of the story. (With a happy ending.) Element of Fire is my very favorite, but I also love Wheel of the Infinite, as well as her latest three books. But Element of Fire and Wheel of the Infinite are stand-alones. I would try one of those first before investing in a trilogy.

    ReplyReply

  4. Shiloh
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 10:33:34

    What I would love to see, if s/f/f/ is indeed more than just a trend, is a new section entitled Romantic Paranormal Fantasy with the labels on the spines in that section having labels saying paranormal fiction, fantasy fiction, paranormal romance, fantasy romance.

    I think this is a wonderful idea. I love romance. But I also love sci fi and fantasy. Sometimes I want a mix of the two, sometimes I want one or the other, although I really really love a good romantic sci fi or fantasy. Shinn is an excellent example of that kind of book. So is SL Viehl with her Stardoc series.

    But if I picked up a book thinking it was a paranormal romance, and it ended up being a paranormal or urban fantasy type thing with romantic undertones, I’d be disappointed. I may still love the book. I tend to have ‘reading’ moods, meaning I’m in the mood for a certain kind of book and if I sit down with a book that’s labeled paranormal romance, that’s what I want. If I sit down with a sci fi, that’s what want.

    When I read my romances, I want a HEA. It doesn’t have to be sweet, it doesn’t have to end undying declarations of love, but I do want that promise. That means the H/H have to be together at the end of the book.

    ReplyReply

  5. Keishon
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 11:10:58

    Whew. I made it.

    Now to quote you:

    that romance readers are more likely to cross the line into s/f/f than s/f/f readers into romance.

    True for me there. Simply because the romances in other genres tend to not have rules or restrictions like the romance genre so I had to branch out. That’s a bit off-tangent but still. I would like to think that it’s unpopular to kill off major characters in books. Even in Hollywood, most movies that have a unhappy ending don’t do well. Everything is relative. Example (sorry to go off point) being the horror movie, Jeepes Creepers (I was forced to watch it) where this kid was running from this creature the entire film and in the end, the monster gets the kid after all and kills him. What was the freaking point? Just like with the paranormal romances you read, why introduce a character, nurture him, develop him/her only to kill them later? Makes no sense. Other than that, I depend on labels. Labels have expectations. They are very important to me. Ok, this is end of my long ass post.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jane
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 11:15:32

    [quote comment="20372"]W

    that romance readers are more likely to cross the line into s/f/f than s/f/f readers into romance.

    True for me there. [/quote]

    I think there should be a rule against long ass comments and posts ;). I thought of you, Keishon, as I was writing this because you do read so much outside of the genre. You ,and our mutual manga reading friend, are responsible for me reading outside the genre, to a large extent. I read Karen Slaughter and Paullina Simmons because of your constant harping recommendations. Have you read Juliett Marillier?

    I just finished her Sevenwaters Trilogy and thought it was terribly romantic. DH read it too and said it was some of the best fantasy he’d read in a long time. I cried buckets in book 2.

    ReplyReply

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 11:23:42

    Well far be it for me to muscle in on such august company, but – sigh – here I go again.

    For me, a romance has a love story at its heart. These days it can be hetero, homo, menage, alien or paranormal being – as long as the participants are sentient, that’s fine.
    It has to end either with a happy ever after, or a happy for now, but it mustn’t end with one of the central participants dying or permanent separation.
    Which is probably why some time-travel romances don’t do it for me. Falling in love with the descendant of the man who has been the hero for most of the story doesn’t work for me.

    But that’s just the main characters, the ones involved in the central love story. All the rest is up for grabs. Which is one reason secondary characters are such fun. You can kill them if you want to!

    Whatever the genre, the central love story has to be there, and the rest of the story elements subservient to it. That was one of the many mistakes I made when I was starting out, I thought that if a book had a love story, then it was a romance. it’s not. It’s a story with a romantic element, but it could be an SF book with romantic elements, paranormal with romantic elements, etc.

    ReplyReply

  8. Keishon
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 12:17:02

    Speaking of our mutual manga reading friend I need to email her. I’ve decided that I will try Juliett Marillier and hope you will er read Sarah Monette sometime in your reading future ;-) No rush, truly. Ok, I’m off. I need to finish up Meljean’s book so I can write up the review tonight. Later.

    ReplyReply

  9. Kristie(J)
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 12:26:50

    Again – very interesting topic! And I appreciate all the research that went into it and the cooperation from everyone you contacted!

    What I would love to see, if s/f/f/ is indeed more than just a trend, is a new section entitled Romantic Paranormal Fantasy with the labels on the spines in that section having labels saying paranormal fiction, fantasy fiction, paranormal romance, fantasy romance

    That’s what I would love to see too – a whole other shelf – close to romance would be fine – just not mixed in with romance. It’s been years since I’ve read Fantasy/SH but it’s a genre I loved at the time I read it and could really see me giving it another try. From what I remember – the Shannara Series by Terry Brooks is the one I remember best but I also remember Anne McCaffery, Ursala LeGuian to name a couple (and my deepest apologies if I got any of these names wrong – it has been a while) they weren’t romance like the romance I read today, but there was very strong romantic elements in some of them. And it wasn’t always a HEA – but since I wasn’t reading it as a romance, I was fine with that.
    I see many romance readers crossing over to this genre and as long as they are clear that there isn’t necessarily a HEA – I think they(we) would be fine with it.

    ReplyReply

  10. Janine
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 12:41:35

    My favorite paranormal series at the moment is J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books-and I’m obviously not alone there. While the stories take place mostly in the “world" of the Brotherhood, that world is still hidden from the “normal" world and one of the tensions is how to keep it hidden. And all the relationships so far (and the future relationships that we know of) have had the tension of normal meets paranormal. In “Dark Lover," Beth might be vampire, but she doesn’t know it until she makes the change. The heroines in “Lover Eternal" and “Lover Awakened" and the hero in “Lover Revealed" are all human and that is a tension in the novels.

    Bella in Lover Awakened is a vampire. Zsadist is a vampire too. So neither of them is mundane. But Zsadist is a member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood which is shrouded in mystery, even to vampires. I think that creates some of the tension between the normal and paranormal that Dr. Frantz talks about. Bella isn’t normal or human, but the case could be made that she’s closer to being normal than Zsadist is.

    ReplyReply

  11. Janine
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 12:54:18

    [quote comment="20373"] Have you read Juliett Marillier?

    I just finished her Sevenwaters Trilogy and thought it was terribly romantic. DH read it too and said it was some of the best fantasy he’d read in a long time. I cried buckets in book 2.[/quote]

    Note to self: Must read that sometime. Sharon Shinn recommended it when I interviewed her last October. And so have a couple of friends.

    Speaking of crying buckets, Jane, where would you shelve a book like Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife? How would you label it? IIRC, it was published as mainstream / literary fiction but contains elements of SF/F. It also fits Dr. Frantz’s definition of paranormal. There is tons of tension between the normal and the not normal. And the love story is very romantic.

    ReplyReply

  12. Jane
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 12:56:33

    I would probably shelve it in the new category of Romantic P/F (which, you know, is code for s/f/f for women). It’s too tragic, though, to be a romance even though the story is very romantic.

    ReplyReply

  13. Tara Marie
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 13:04:16

    This was a great idea. I posted a link to Dragon Pages.

    What I would love to see, if s/f/f/ is indeed more than just a trend, is a new section entitled Romantic Paranormal Fantasy with the labels on the spines in that section having labels saying paranormal fiction, fantasy fiction, paranormal romance, fantasy romance.

    I imagine this would keep readers of romance and sf/f quite happy.

    Which is probably why some time-travel romances don’t do it for me. Falling in love with the descendant of the man who has been the hero for most of the story doesn’t work for me.

    I can only think of one book that had this type of ending Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armor, it started the time-travel craze, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance that had this same ending. Are there others out there?

    ReplyReply

  14. Janine
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 13:05:45

    [quote comment="20354"]As a reader, I’ve never taken the concept of HEA to mean everything has to be hunky-dory at the end of the book. To me it means the hero and heroine wind up together. Death and mayhem may surround them, but they’re together to deal with it. Period. It can be bittersweet. It can be downright sad. Everything else could have fallen apart. But again, to me, HEA= the hero and heroine end the story committed to each other.

    So maybe the romantic relationship has to have an HEA, but any subplots do not.[/quote]

    I agree, Carrie. I also don’t require marriage and children at the end of a book, just an emotional commitment.

    ReplyReply

  15. Janine
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 13:13:29

    [quote comment="20387"]I would probably shelve it in the new category of Romantic P/F (which, you know, is code for s/f/f for women). It’s too tragic, though, to be a romance even though the story is very romantic.[/quote]

    What label would you put on the spine? I ask because a lot of readers found the book including many who usually don’t read paranormal fiction. It was marketed very well as literary or mainstream fiction and it ended up on the bestseller lists. Which goes to show that sometimes genre labels can help readers find books, but sometimes they can hinder them.

    ReplyReply

  16. Sarah S. G. Frantz
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 13:46:31

    Janine,

    Bella in Dark Lover is indeed a vampire, but she didn’t know it until she met Wrath and then went through her transition. So while she is technically paranormal, her outlook is mundane and it is actually through her that we as readers learn about the BDB and about vampires. So we experience her struggle to accept not only a man in her life, but a completely new life as a vampire.

    ReplyReply

  17. Eva Gale
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 14:07:27

    I hate these posts. My TBR invariably grows by leaps and bounds. The trauma of it all.

    Fiesty asked me the other day what I would shelve The Bronze Horseman under. (I mistakenly said romance) If I’d read it when it came out I’d say -thanks to Ms. Nora- a love story. But now, having flipped to the back of Tatiana and Alexander, I’d say a romance. One long assed, tear inducing romance. Of which if I had the emotional fortitude, I’d read again, right now.

    I would call TTW a paranormal love story. He had the problem as a medical condition and there is no HEA although it is wrenchingly romantic.

    ReplyReply

  18. Janine
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 14:07:44

    [quote comment="20392"]Janine,

    Bella in Dark Lover is indeed a vampire, but she didn’t know it until she met Wrath and then went through her transition. So while she is technically paranormal, her outlook is mundane and it is actually through her that we as readers learn about the BDB and about vampires. So we experience her struggle to accept not only a man in her life, but a completely new life as a vampire.[/quote]

    SPOILERS for J.R. Ward’s books below:

    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R
    S

    I think you are referring to Beth in Dark Lover (Wrath and Beth’s book, book #1), Sarah. I am referring to Bella in Lover Awakened (Zsadist’s and Bella’s book, book #3). Bella isn’t in Dark Lover at all. She first appears in Lover Eternal (Rhage and Mary’s book, book #2). She is a friend of Mary’s who happens to be a vampire (but Mary doesn’t know it). Bella figures out that John Matthew is a pre-transition vampire who has the Brotherhood’s markings and she takes him to see the Brotherhood. There she meets Zsadist and is attracted to him. Later she is kidnapped by the lessers and in Lover Awakened (book #3) Zsadist rescues her and falls in love with her (his brother Phury does too, but that’s a subplot). Bella is the heroine of Lover Awakened and she is a vampire from her first apperance in Lover Eternal.

    Sorry to rehash all this! There are a lot of plots and subplots in Ward’s books so it’s easy to get confused, so I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t confusing anyone further.

    ReplyReply

  19. Sarah S. G. Frantz
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 14:57:00

    Janine–Right. I’m an idiot. So much for looking erudite. I just saw the “B—” and thought Beth.

    You’re absolutely right, of course. BELLA *is* vampire, but her discovery of the “hidden” world of the BDB is where the tension of the book is located. She’s still more normal than Z. I guess I’d say that Lover Awakened is the least paranormal of Ward’s books, if we go with my definition, because most of Z’s issues are almost purely human, although stretched out over centuries, rather than decades.

    I’m waiting with fascinated anticipation Payne’s book. No indication yet when it’ll be published or even what order it will be in the books, but she’s a female Warrior. Can’t wait to see if she’ll have a warrior mate or a human mate or a “normal” vampire mate.

    ReplyReply

  20. racy li
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 16:20:25

    I blogged about this today too, and just to sum it up, I think this is a case where both sides are right, but both because they are right, will be in a lose/lose situation if there’s a failure of understanding. Publishers have have every right to change and push back the definition of “romance” to a non-HEA because classic romances like Romeo & Juliet don’t have a happy ending. But just because they have a right doesn’t mean it’s going to make dedicated readers happy, as many of the commenters on your previous post demonstrated. Who cares if everyone is right. if the reader isn’t happy? As I’ve been so often told and reminded, book publishing is a business that depends on retail consumption. Stop listening to your core audience and you’ll lose readership, something that no one wants.

    ReplyReply

  21. Janine
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 16:47:00

    Sarah — you are very far from being an idiot. I’m very interested in what you said about this tension between the normal and the paranormal. Have you read Kresley Cole’s paranormal series? The heroine of the first book (A Hunger Like No Other) is a half-Valkyrie, half-vampire and the hero is a werewolf. However, the heroine is much closer to normal than the hero and so I think the book fits your definition. I haven’t read the second book (No Rest for the Wicked), which has a Valkyrie heroine and a vampire hero, and I wonder if that one fits your defintion or not.

    Also have you read Shana Abe’s The Smoke Thief? Both hero and heroine have paranormal abilities in that one, so I would be interested in your thoughts on it as well.

    Yes, Payne’s book should be fascinating, especially given the rather conservative gender politics of Ward’s books.

    ReplyReply

  22. Patricia Rice
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 17:49:28

    Labeling genre fiction is an old argument we started back when romance ran into women’s fiction and vice versa. Authors argued that we needed to shelve books in more than one area, but it’s impossible, because bookstore clerks merely read the spine and shove the book in.

    I think you’ve presented a fairly comprehensive overview of the problem. Whether or not shoving “love stories” with unhappy endings into the romance shelves will make or break the genre remains to be seen. Maybe it will break the shelving system instead.

    The only other semi-reliable method of determining if you’re buying what you want to read is to know the author or read the reviews. Which pretty much leaves out the impulse buyer who has supported the industry lo these many years.

    ReplyReply

  23. Kathleen O'Neil
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 20:33:04

    I’ve not contributed before but I’ve been lurking for a while- and I wanted to put my 2 cents worth into this conversation.

    I’m not a genre reader – I’ll read almost anything that comes my way that looks interesting but I read a tremendous number of Regency romances(I don’t read what I think of as modern romance), “paranormal"/urban romances, all kinds of science fiction and fantasy, and mysteries. But I must admit that I have been on a primarily science fiction/fantasy/fantasy & SF romance kick for the last 6 months or so.

    Being retired voracious just begins to describe my reading habits. But I’d been running out of reading material. A few months ago it seemed that I had caught up to most (if not all) of my old favorites and was wondering where I should go for new books. Then a friend of mine turned me on to some authors I’d never heard of – beginning with Steve Miller & Sharon Lee, Linnea Sinclair and Robin Owens. That started me looking! I scanned the shelves at the local Borders, started actively following the links and listmania suggestions on Amazon, and surfing through web sites (like this one) for authors that others were suggesting.

    It’s been wonderful! I’ve met so many new authors! And followed trails I never even knew were open. It never even occurred to me to look in the romance section for fantasy or SF based romance! And it’s truly amazing the number of SF/F authors I’ve never looked at before. I’ve been stuck in a rut which I’m breaking out of. For example, J.D. Robb’s In Death series came to my attention a few weeks ago and I love them!

    Readers shouldn’t be restricted by the genera assigned to a book. I’ve been searching the romance and mystery sections for SF/F romance/mysteries and finding them. I’ve also found romance and mysteries in the SF/F section. So I’ve taken to perusing the general fiction, mystery, romance AND SF/F sections! And finding treasures in all of them.

    It’s not really important which genera the book ends up in if it has the right kind of word of mouth push. I belong to a large Yahoo group that discovered Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and the entire group ran through the three books with glee.

    Readers need to search and be open to searching in slightly unexpected places! Like this web site-

    Kathleen

    ReplyReply

  24. CindyS
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 21:22:41

    All I know is I want a romance in all it’s wonderous HEAs if the publisher puts ‘anything’ romance on the spine of the book.

    Instead of putting paranormal romance on the spine whynot put romantic paranormal – I think this puts the emphasis on the strong part of the book. If your story is not going to end HEA then there are those who would argue it’s romantic (not me!) Therefore romantic paranormal to me means that there are elements of romance in a paranormal book.

    I see paranormal romance and I think that the paranormal is just a ‘part’ of the romance and thus a HEA is something I as a reader expect.

    Just saying

    CindyS

    ReplyReply

  25. illyria
    Jan 16, 2007 @ 21:42:52

    … god knows what Cyclops and Jean Grey will be doing in a decade – Meljean Brook

    They’ll be fighting over Logan, of course ;-) . (Loving Whedon/Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men. Highly recommend, even if, like me, one doesn’t know very much about that universe or read comics on a regular basis.)

    I think Dr. Frantz’s defintions of paranormal and fantasy/SF make the most sense to me – I’m not very good with genre distinctions anyway; I want to lump all of them under fantasy and be done with it. Unless the book feels more like a romance to me – such as Shana Abe’s The Smoke Thief – then I consider those romances, but I don’t really have a clear definition for it, other than some books, to me, seem to follow the romance “formula” more closely than others (not that Abe’s book is formulaic, but it reads more like a romance than, say, Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor or Sharon Shinn’s Archangel (I loved all three books, btw) … though I haven’t thought it out or figured out why yet). In any case, I don’t let genre get in the way of a good book, and I’ll read pretty much anything – except, I thought, horror, but then it turns out that Kim Harrison, Robin McKinley and once in a while Kelley Armstrong are shelved in that section.

    I like how Ms. Bujold put it: “I find genre labels helpful when they guide readers to books, hurtful when they push them away.” It’s pretty much been my experience when recommending books. I wonder if creating more (sub?)genres will make it easier or more difficult for people who wouldn’t usually try other books to pick up a book outside their genre(s).

    Still don’t know what women’s fiction is, or how it’s different from romance or chicklit. I don’t think I’ve seen a section for it in the bookstore, but maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the way the books are shelved. Perhaps they should be shelved like Robin McKinley’s books are – some in children’s, some in YA, a few in SF/F and one in horror (Sunshine). I wonder if it hurts or helps her sales that she’s in so many different areas of the bookstore, at least the ones I’ve been to.

    My TBR invariably grows by leaps and bounds. The trauma of it all.

    Heh. Same here.

    ReplyReply

  26. Jane
    Jan 17, 2007 @ 10:41:54

    Janine – I guess I think the fiction label is fine. I don’t know if you have read Connie Willis Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog which is a time travel and has a very sweet romance in it, but it, like TTW explores some philosophical discussions regarding time travel. It is a completely different tone (ie not tragic) but maybe within the same genre. It is labeled science fiction, I believe.

    I tend to think that a book like TWW would have gotten serious word of mouth regardless of where it was shelved. Look at the Temeraire series. Everyone and their cousin was posting about it and Novik is clearly a fantasy author.

    As for multiple shelvings – I don’t know that I like that idea. What type of labels would be put on there? I think that it goes beyond labeling to encompass marketing and packaging. I was in BN the other day and there were some James Patterson and some other male author in the romance section. It seemed weird to me so even if there is some multiple shelving going on, I don’t know how successful the sell would be unless the overall look and feel of the book catered to women.

    I agree with CindyS – that when I see the word romance on the spine and the book looks like a romance, then I am expecting a romance with a central love story and an HEA.

    ReplyReply

  27. Bev (BB)
    Jan 17, 2007 @ 11:44:30

    [quote comment="20483"]As for multiple shelvings – I don’t know that I like that idea. What type of labels would be put on there? I think that it goes beyond labeling to encompass marketing and packaging. [/quote]

    When you get right down to it, what we really want as readers is a gigantic database that cross-references the books for us on the spot. I suppose that’s the Internet nowadays. ;p

    Seems to me that I’m not hearing a lot of romance readers have problems finding non-romances with romances in them nowadays. At least online, romance readers are very vocal about telling each other about romantic finds outside the genre. It’s almost at the level of a mass treasure hunt.

    These discussions have highlighted that readers outside of romance might need some help in the other direction, however. Either because they don’t want to search/touch romance shelves or because they have no idea what they’re looking for there in the first place. (Which could be the same problem worded differently, I guess.) Except that doesn’t quite ring true either. Not completely. I spent some time last week surfing several SF/F review sites and ran across many paranormal/futuristic/sf/f romance reviews on a couple of them. They were quite favorable to the romance aspect of the stories, too. So, I can’t help thinking somebody is crossing the divide. They’re finding the books. All on their own.

    And several of these were male reviewers.

    ReplyReply

  28. Sarah S. G. Frantz
    Jan 17, 2007 @ 12:19:18

    Bev (BB), you say, “At least online, romance readers are very vocal about telling each other about romantic finds outside the genre.” I think the issue is that most sales apparently AREN’T made to internet users. Apparently by far the largest portion of sales are made to impulse browsers in bricks and mortar stores. It’ll be interesting to see how long this is true, but for now it is. And most browsers stick to their section. I’ll admit that I very rarely enter SF/F. I go to the Romance section and then leave, browsing maybe the new releases as well, but I certainly don’t venture into horror or SF/F. So if something is mislabeled, it can have a huge impact on sales.

    ReplyReply

  29. Bev (BB)
    Jan 17, 2007 @ 12:31:42

    [quote comment="20487"]Bev (BB), you say, “At least online, romance readers are very vocal about telling each other about romantic finds outside the genre.” I think the issue is that most sales apparently AREN’T made to internet users. Apparently by far the largest portion of sales are made to impulse browsers in bricks and mortar stores. It’ll be interesting to see how long this is true, but for now it is. And most browsers stick to their section. I’ll admit that I very rarely enter SF/F. I go to the Romance section and then leave, browsing maybe the new releases as well, but I certainly don’t venture into horror or SF/F. So if something is mislabeled, it can have a huge impact on sales.[/quote]

    Sarah, you’re absolutely right but I think we’ve already established that on the whole romance readers have no problem reading outside the genre. I seriously doubt that only holds true to online readers. So, if off-line romance readers browse other genres and hunt for “hidden treasures” just as much as we do then . . . ?

    Conversely, I have a difficult time imagining that the very genres that orginally gave rise to the print fan magazines – namely science fiction and fantasy, not to mention mystery – don’t have some ways to share news and tidbits about hot, interesting books when they want and need to. The key is getting them interested and thinking the books are hot. I mean sure there is going to be the lone reader out there isolated from everyone but when you get right down to it what do readers do better than anything? They read. And when they need a reading fix, they will find a way to get it.

    Don’t we? Ahem. ;p

    ReplyReply

  30. Read for Pleasure
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 01:03:48

    Paula Guran: Best New Paranormal Romance

    While some of these stories are excellent, none of them resembles what I’ve previously read as “paranormal romance”. Some are romantic; very few are paranormal. I’d call the collection a cross-section of supernatural and straight-up sci fi/fantasy, generally involving significant romantic relationships. I’ll review the stories first, then talk about the collection as a whole and Guran’s definition of paranormal romance…

    Guran sets out to explore both the “happily ever after” variety of genre romance and a realm of romance that doesn’t guarantee the “HEA”. I applaud the idea, but the execution is lacking. In particular, while I’m not a staunch defender of the HEA, it can work beautifully when done well. Unfortunately, the stories with the strongest HEAs are the weakest in the volume, laden with old-school conventions from past generations of both sci-fi and romance. I have to wonder whether Guran is trying to show weaknesses in the “happily ever after” convention, or whether she’s not up to date on what is considered romance these days…

    My feeling is that Guran has recycled a number of sci fi and fantasy ideas under a different name. As some of the DearAuthor commenters said, it could be a misguided grab to get the romance market reading sf/f. But my sense is more that Guran truly believes that this is a reasonable fit. I disagree.

  31. Diane D.
    Nov 07, 2008 @ 09:19:50

    I agree that mixing non-HEA love stories into the main romance shelves will turn off many readers (incl. me), defining HEA as the formation (i.e., at least a satisfying *beginning*) of a committed relationship, NOT necessarily a butterflies-&-puppy-dogs external-plot resolution. Also, lust/erotica tales like LKH’s are NOT “romance”; I certainly don’t only read chaste old-fashioned Regencies and such when I’m in the mood for a romance, but the characters have to at least end up with more going for them than sexual attraction: trust, humor, communication… LOVE!

    My main topic, however, and I’m sorry if this gets long, is re. the labeling issue, where I *don’t* really have an answer. As somebody said, you mustn’t create so many sub-genres the reading audience gets splintered, confused, and eventually lost, but I do like the idea of “ROMANTIC + primary-genre noun” rather than “genre adj. + ROMANCE” on the spine for non-HEA stories.

    However, the default term “paranormal” to me suggests “unexplained phenomena”, a possible non-fiction subject. Surely books with (e.g.) immortal vampires and/or efficacious potions s/b called “fantastic”, or at least “supernatural” (although that can have a metaphysical connotation), and aren’t *alien* beings and worlds by definition science fiction? (I’ve become leery of any book termed “futuristic”, which seems all too often to be some romance writer’s poorly conceived attempt at expanding to an sf/f audience. — Fantasy fans, remember Margaret Ball’s satire of this in _Mathemagics_?!) And I won’t even get into the question of time-travel here!

    One reader may call a given book “fantastic romance” (hmm, maybe part of the problem is that “fantastic” can sound like simply a rave review!) while another (esp. a guy) would call the same story at most “romantic fantasy”. I love LMcMB’s _Sharing Knife_ series, but I’ve been pleasantly *surprised* at how widely it’s been well-received. And are “urban fantasies” always contemporary? (I can’t think of an sf/f example offhand, but in mystery, Lindsey Davis’s Falco lives in an ancient Rome that’s as urban as NYC!)

    Lines may be hard to draw between ESP/telekinesis (human psi potential?), vs. afterlife or wicca (religio-spiritual), vs. magic ([high] fantasy), vs. future-tech (speculation), and cryptozoology vs. werewolves (pure myth), but to me it’s about the level of suspension of disbelief required. Any of the above plot/setting elements can be combined with romantic themes. Brick-&-mortar stores have long had trouble knowing where to shelve cross-genre books such as romantic suspense (even with no para/f/sf), especially when a popular and prolific author has some titles that are more romance/sexual while others are more thriller/mystery, and not all are HEA. The only answer may be to create a
    section for “cross-genre romantic authors” – What d’you think?

    ReplyReply

  32. Rebecca Hamilton Paranormal Fantasy Writer
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 21:21:30

    Laurell K Hamilton and Charlaine Harris as paranormal romance?I know there are romantic (maybe even erotic) moments in those novels, but I didn’t know they were considered paranormal romance. I think a lot of genres are just starting to blend together. I think the reason for this is because publishers have very few genre titles to work with, so sometimes they have to pigeon hole a book, or they just say it crosses genres (when really, it BLENDS genres–not the same thing, IMHO). Maybe there needs to be some other distinctions, or another way of handling it. Not really sure. But it’d probably help readers find what they are looking for easier if they could know if a book really was the genre they were looking for or not.

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: