Monday, January 21, 2013

Paranormal Romance - Beyond Fang and Fur and Wings

KAREN: We have the talented Angela Quarles with us this morning. She admits to being a geek girl at heart and loves all things paranormal. Let's give her a warm welcome. Strap on your tin foil hats and sit back and enjoy a glimpse into the world beyond fangs, furs and wings....
Paranormal Romance - Beyond Fang and Fur and Wings by Angela Quarles

Thank you Karen for having me on your site. We both write paranormal romance that includes elements other than "creature" romance, so I thought I'd talk about what paranormal romance entails for me.
You might think I'm preaching to the choir on this blog, which is probably true, but I can't tell you the number of times my time travel romance was dinged by a contest judge for "not being a paranormal romance". To give a background, my time travel romance, MUST LOVE BREECHES, entered a bunch of RWA chapter contests last year and I always entered it in the paranormal category, and it finaled thirteen times. If someone hurtling through time is not "beyond the range of scientific explanation [Wikipedia]", I don't know what is, LOL. And these are judges who must've felt knowledgeable enough about the genre to judge paranormal entries. And many times, their own chapter category definitions had "time travel" listed as belonging in the paranormal category. Hrmpf. Anyway, enough ranting. This is my anecdotal explanation for the impetus behind this post.
There seems to be a prevailing belief that paranormal romance is purely a romance involving some kind of supernatural creature, be it vampire, were, angel, demon, or what-have-you. And the sheer numbers of these stories out there help reinforce this conclusion. Many of them are wonderful explorations into what it means to be different, or human, and synthesizing or creating complex myths and worlds.
But there are other types of paranormal romance out there. As one fellow paranormal romance writer said to me at a convention recently, she thinks the creature element of paranormal romance might be saturated and the time is ripe for the other kinds of paranormal romance to come to the fore. Boy, I hope she's right!
So what are some other kinds of paranormal romance? The now defunct P.E.A.R.L. awards had the following categories, which I think sum it up pretty well:

  • Fantasy/Magical: Story takes place in the natural world but featuring beings [mythical or real] with unnatural abilities. Stories may include visits to other realms. This category also includes ghosts and psychics.
  • Futuristic: Stories in this category require the main plot to be set in a time far enough into the future for there to be significant developments (changes) in culture as we know it, or the introduction of an otherworldly culture which affects the contemporary world - plot involves two romantically linked central characters.
  • Shapeshifter: Books in this category include beings that have the ability to take on different forms one of which must be human. Werewolves, Selkies, and others.
  • Time Travel: Stories in which main character[s] travel to a time period other than their own. Can be historical, contemporary, or futuristic in setting.
  • Vampire: Darker and generally more sensual, these stories feature preternatural beings who subsist on human and/or animal blood, or life force (in the case of psychic vampires) often having magical powers and the ability to transform.
  • Romantic Fantasy: This category includes traditional Fantasy which is set in wholly imaginary landscapes, and alternate history (a.k.a. historical fantasy). Stories draw imaginatively on speculation in the plot and setting.
  • Science Fiction: Stories involve speculations based on current or future science or technology as the plot focus or involve a futuristic setting which is significantly different from the world as we know it.
  • Romantic Urban Fantasy: Fantasy in which supernatural elements are introduced into contemporary, real-world, urban settings.

I think this is more inclusive than the definition given here by Prof. Sarah S.G. Frantz:

paranormal romance is a novel focusing on a close relationship in which the primary mundane vs. paranormal tension is explored 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, by my definition, 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." If you think of most of Nora Roberts' paranormals (I haven't read the Morrigan's Cross series, so I can't speak for those) and Linda Howard's paranormals, each and every relationship has to get over the "I don't believe you are a ______/I don't believe you can do ________" stage. That's what makes them paranormal, in my opinion.

Which precludes a lot of what was defined by the P.E.A.R.L. Time travel would not be considered paranormal by her, then.

What's not in the P.E.A.R.L. categories is 'steampunk' which I would argue is a subset of paranormal romance, since an alternate history is definitely 'other-worldly'. Also, it's seemingly acknowledged that reincarnation romances are paranormal, but where would that fit in the P.E.A.R.L. categories?

Perhaps that's why I really like the name of the RWA special interest chapter "Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal" (FF&P), and a few RWA chapter contests are changing the Paranormal Category to FF&P, so that it can include sci-fi romance and fantasy romance, and the like.

What do you think? Feel like hashing it out? Do you see paranormal romance in the strict sense like Frantz or more inclusive? Do you consider time travel romance a sub-genre of paranormal romance like I do?

Angela's new release, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, features a match-making djinn:

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It's granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they're surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.

About the Author: 
Angela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL, with her two matched gray cats, Darcy and Bingley. When she's not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She's had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum.

She's an admitted geek and is proud to be among the few but mighty Browncoats who watched 
Firefly the first night it aired. She was introduced to the wonderful world of science fiction by her father, by way of watching reruns of the original Star Trek in her tweens and later giving her a copy of Walter M. Miller Jr's A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager. She hasn't looked back since. 

She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She was an exchange student to Finland in high school and studied abroad in Vienna one summer in college. She recently found representation with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Assoc.

Find Angela here: Website


Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you so much for being a guest here today. What an interesting topic you've chosen today. I love time travel novels. As you can see I've written a few, too. :)

Do you consider time travel romance a sub-genre of paranormal romance like you do? Yep, I do.

No one really understands how time works, we take time for granted... until something unexplainable happens that challenges everything we know about reality. Time Travel would definitely fall into the category of Paranormal Phenomena. How could it not?

Any phenomenon that exceeds the limits of what we deem physically possible or rather scientifically impossible is paranormal. The actual word is derived from Latin. The prefix 'para' means "outside or beyond" what is considered normal.

Well since none of us have a 'time machine' parked in our driveways, and we don't have the ability to conjure up worm holes to travel through time... I'd say time travel is definitely paranormal. :) said... Best Blogger Tips

How very insightful, Angela. As always, you're spot-on, and I couldn't agree more that we're saturated with creature PNRs. It's past time for other types (hmm, say good, old-fashioned ghost stories?) to step forward again. :)

Cathy said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm new to the paranormal scene. Before I read, Karen's books, I pretty much read only historical romances. So after reading Time Travel romances, I would say they were paranormal tales. And the time travels I read didn't have vampires or werewolves. :) Interesting post.

Sarah J. McNeal said... Best Blogger Tips

As a writer of time travel/paranormal stories I do have to agree. If it isn't normal, it's paranormal and, as far as the scentific community is concerned, time travel is not normal. Because of the confusion, I always divide the words time travel and paranormal with a slash.
A very provocative blog, Angela.

angelaquarles said... Best Blogger Tips

@Karen Michelle Nutt Thank you for having me on here! I agree, if time travel isn't out of the ordinary, what is??

angelaquarles said... Best Blogger Tips I know, right? Here's hoping a certain Southern Civil War era ghost catches on! said... Best Blogger Tips

@Cathy Thanks Cathy! Glad she helped initiate you to the wonderful world of time travel novels! said... Best Blogger Tips

@Sarah J. McNealThanks Sarah, and good idea with the separator