Friday, January 25, 2013

Ain't It (Not So) Romantic?, the Anti-Romance

Karen: J.P. Sloan pens science fiction tales, urban fantasy, and horror stories. He's here today to share a sneak peek at his newest release: The Curse Merchant. Sit back, and enjoy! **Popcorn and soda optional.

Ain't It (Not So) Romantic?, the Anti-Romance by J.P. Sloan

     I'm not a Romance author. I say that because I want to immediately contradict myself, and I’m odd like that. I believe that every story should possess a romantic element of some kind. Granted, the term "romantic element" is purposely vague, but a protagonist should be driven by love of someone or something. In the more traditional sense, that protagonist is motivated by another character. But it could also be something less tangible… a nation, an ideal, even revenge can be a kind of love. A sick, twisted kind of love, but the thin line between love and hate is a widely celebrated conceit. 
     Which is what brings me to the Anti-Romance. In my latest release, The Curse Merchant, the protagonist Dorian Lake tries to save the soul of his ex-lover. On the surface, this is his motivation. But dig deeper, and his real goal is to win back her affections. Here's what makes it interesting. She hates his guts. Plus, she drives him more than a little bit crazy. The reader navigates their first scene together like a holiday visitor standing awkwardly in the corner as the hosts have a blow-out shouting match. There's no affection here… just lots and lots of spite.
     Ain't it romantic? Well, yes it is once you realize what kind of history there is between the two characters. You want to know more, you dig through the jabs and upper cuts to delve into the unresolved tension. Memorable characters tap-dance over the line between love and hate regularly, and the reader gets to choose sides. The results are rarely predictable, and aren't always positive. That's the fun of the Anti-Romance. The stakes are higher. We as readers are given no assurances of a resolution. It's a roller-coaster ride that we're not sure won't end in our plunging to our deaths.

     The Anti-Romance can be applied to nebulous concepts as well. A slave may be forced to defend his master's property during the Civil War. A prisoner of war may develop a deeper understanding of the enemy while incarcerated. In fact, I'd make the argument that any revenge plot is, at its core, an Anti-Romance. Any thorough investment of hatred is just a twisted kind of love. After all, the opposite of love isn't hate. It's apathy.

    So, if we play fast-and-loose with the definitions, I find that I am, in fact, a Romance author. Though I wouldn't mislead the average Romance reader by billing myself as such. I think the important thing to remember is that any interesting story has a protagonist who is "in love" with something, even if it's being in love with hating someone. Avid readers can't abide an uninvested character, and once an author identifies what the character's love is, whether it be romantic or anti-romantic, the story can't help but to move forward.

Title: The Curse Merchant
Series: The Dark Choir #1
Author: J.P. Sloan
Genre: Urban Fantasy Noir
Publisher: Self-published
Format: Ebook
Words: 83,000


Book Description:

Dorian Lake has spent years cornering the Baltimore hex-crafting market, using his skills at the hermetic arts to exact karmic justice for those whom the system has failed. He keeps his magic clean and free of soul-corrupting Netherwork, thus avoiding both the karmic blow-back of his practice and the notice of the Presidium, a powerful cabal of practitioners that polices the esoteric arts in America. However, when an unscrupulous Netherworker interferes with both his business and his personal life, Dorian's disarming charisma and hermetic savvy may not be enough to keep his soul out of jeopardy.

His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn't be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian's captivating ex-lover. After two years' absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen's affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of Baltimore’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation... with the Presidium watching, waiting for him to cross the line.
About the Author:

I am a storyteller, eager to transport the reader to strange yet familiar worlds. My writing is dark, fantastical, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, and other times hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed. I write science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, and several shades in between.

I am a husband and a father, living in the “wine country” of central Maryland. I’m surrounded by grapevines and cows. During the day I commute to Baltimore, and somehow manage to escape each afternoon with only minor scrapes and bruises. I am also a homebrewer and a certified beer judge. My avocations dovetail nicely!

Website/Blog | Twitter: @J_P_Sloan | Facebook |


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi J.P.!

When I think of noire, I think of femme fatales, and that's the way I felt about Carmen. I never really thought she would get back together with Dorian -- the whole thing had the taste of her using him. I just never knew for sure, or how badly if she was, of course, until the end. Nor did I think that was the point -- she was the impetus, not really the core of the story. Even though it was all her fault, the bitch. ;)


Sandra Dailey said... Best Blogger Tips

I think you said it all when you said, "An avid reader can't abide an uninvested character". In romance or 'anti-romance' you have to have passion to keep the reader's interest. THE CURSE MERCHANT certainly has my attention.

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

J.P., Your story has me intrigued. Thanks so much for being guest here at KMN Books. I wish you the best of luck with your new release!

Cathy said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi J.P.
As a reader, I'm more interested in the story rather than the romance. Your books sounds interesting. :) I enjoyed your post.

J.P. Sloan said... Best Blogger Tips


Indeed, Carmen was very specifically written to be the femme fatale "type," but with an ambiguous sense of how her throughline would end up.

J.P. Sloan said... Best Blogger Tips

@Sandra Dailey

I'm glad to hear it! Often I find characters in books that appear to be there for the purpose of "being there." I suppose my theater classes in college drilled a sense of purpose into every character.

J.P. Sloan said... Best Blogger Tips

@Karen Michelle Nutt

Thank you so much for having me!

J.P. Sloan said... Best Blogger Tips


Thanks! I'm a big believer that the purpose of storytelling is... well, telling a story.