April 28, 2011

Romance novels feature paranormal twist

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Relationships, Women at 12:10 am by dinaheng

The invitation to Avon’s Paranormal Party at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Los Angeles conjured up images of fun costumes, sci-fi fantasy talk, and some good food, so my sister Linda (a huge romance novel fan) and I decided to go.

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel ballroom was packed with convention-goers, some in fun costumes, but the talk didn’t take place around the food. Instead, fans stood in lines around the room to meet their favorite paranormal romance authors who were autographing books given away by the publisher.

Linda quickly chose a line, leaving me to fend for myself, so I grabbed a few of the authors to learn more about the popular genre. Glancing at the book covers, it’s clear that the supernatural has captured the imagination of readers ranging from teens to adults.

“Science fiction has been used as a metaphor for talking about things we’re not comfortable talking about directly,” says Melissa Marr, author of the Wicked Lovely young adult faery series. “My book ‘Ink Exchange’ is a story about addiction, using fantasy to talk about addiction.

“All my books are based in folklore that have been popular for centuries. I come from an Irish and Scottish family, and grew up hearing about faeries, ghosts, vampires and things that go bump in the night.”

Another popular aspect of the paranormal romance genre can be categorized as urban fantasy. Merrie Destefano likes to write a combination of fantasy, romance, mystery, and science fiction. Her second novel, “Feast: Harvest of Dreams” debuts June  28, is a story with new monsters.

The characters in the book are a cross between faeries and vampires, and harvest people’s dreams.  The idea came to Destefano one night when she was unable to sleep.

“I thought, okay, I can’t sleep… what if there were other creatures who can’t sleep?” Destefano says. “What would they be doing? The main character’s in the midst of the hunt. She’s slightly enchanted, and not horrified, by what she sees. She’s a survivor. I like strong women, and women are allowed to have roles in which they win in urban fantasy.”

One of the biggest reason fans love romance novels is the escapism.  My sister Linda reminds me that I was the one who gave her her first romance novel when she was 13, a book by Emilie Loring, a prolific romance novelist who had died in 1951, before either of us was born. Today, Linda’s the one who recommends romance authors for me to read.

“I started reading Harlequin Presents and Barbara Cartland, who wrote historical romances, then the writers and styles changed,” Linda remembers. “Romance started merging with science fiction, and you see a lot more paranormal themes. My favorites now are about dragons, vampires, and shapeshifters.”

In one of her series, author Pamela Palmer has created a world in which there are nine shapeshifter warriors who turn into different animals. In each book of the Feral Warrior series, the warrior meets his life mate, and they work together to keep the demons from rising.

“In society, we want our men to be kind and civilized, but in fantasy, it’s fun to think of a man who’s not civilized and can be tamed by love,” Palmer says. “I used to be an IBM engineer, so I’ve got a very logical, analytical mind that can think through the story. But I’ve always had an imagination and story to tell.”

As the party ends, Linda and I head out, arms full of new paranormal romance novels to read. It was great fun meeting some of the authors, and I know we’ll enjoy the party favors. After all, there’s one thing every romance novel reader knows…

Romance novels always have a happy ending.


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