Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reading up on paranormal romance novels


Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve noticed the explosion of the genre of paranormal romance, be it the Twilight series, the Sookie Stackhouse Novels - now the hit television show True Blood - or the many other "dark fantasy" books and television shows that infuse the sensuality and erotic flavor of a classic romance novel with the mystery and darkness of the supernatural.

Readers who want their dose of the craze on a monthly basis should check out Harlequin, which publishes two new paranormal romances every month. The publishing company, which has several lines of romance novels, has one dedicated to paranormal stories, known as Harlequin Nocturne (formerly Silhouette Nocturne). The line was created after Harlequin noticed the rising popularity of paranormal romance and experienced positive reader feedback after releasing some paranormal-themed stories.

“So to better service our readers, which we are always looking for, we decided it was time to launch a series that featured darkly atmospheric, sensual paranormal romances,” said Harlequin Nocturne editor Tara Gavin.

Nocturne novels feature a wide variety of magical creatures, such as demons, angels, shape shifters, zombies and people with psychic powers, although the most predominant supernatural beings are vampires and werewolves. Harlequin also features two paranormal e-books a month, known as Nocturne Bites.

Because the genre lends itself to creating entire worlds more than realistic fiction, Nocturne has found success with multi-book series that feature a continuing storyline.

“With Nocturne, we [have] found that miniseries are very, very popular,” says Gavin, who also said Nocturne readers tend to skew a bit younger than readers of other Harlequin lines. “Writers who build worlds and communities - readers really react to that very strongly, which is the same in our other series lines as well, but in Nocturne we do feature probably more of that.”

Recent Nocturne miniseries have included Immortal Sheiks by Nina Burns, which follows the stories of three sisters and is interwoven with Ancient Egyptian folklore, and Time Raiders, a time travel saga which takes readers to seventh-century China, the Persian Empire and Ancient Greece, and the Druid times of long-ago Briton. New York Times bestselling authors such as Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones, Heather Graham and Beverly Barton have also written for Nocturne.

Harlequin is particularly excited about a four-book series being published later this year called the Royal House of Shadows, Gavin said. Set in the mythical kingdom of Eldon, a realm similar to Camelot, the ruling king and queen have four children, each possessing their own magical gift.

“Unfortunately their kingdom is overthrown by an evil monarch called Blood Sorcerer,” said Gavin. “The king and queen hold hands as they’re being killed and throw their progeny to al different realms, so that the Blood Sorcerer can’t find them. And the king fills them with a need for vengeance, and the queen fills them with a need more or less to survive. And so they do survive, and in each book you hear each child’s story.” Also on the docket this is a three- book vampire series by author Rachel Lee coming out in early 2012.

Samhain Publishing - named for the fact that the company was launched on November 1, 2006 - also carries a wide variety paranormal romances. Although some question if stories about vampires and werewolves can continue to sell, Samhain believes they can.

“People keep thinking, ‘Twilight’s been out a few years, people are going to get sick of this kind of stuff, they’re going to want something new and different besides werewolves and vampires,” said Samhain editorial director Heather Osborn.

“I keep telling authors, ‘Don’t listen to the hype. We’ve still got a lot of interest.”

Although Samhain publishes books featuring all kinds of magical creatures such as fairies, angels, demons and witches, shape shifters and vampires tend to be the most popular.

New releases from Samhain include Maximum Witch by Jodi Bedford, Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai - a novella inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades - and the urban fantasy romance Legacy by Denise Tompkins. Samhain also recently launched a horror line.

Osborn also predicts that paranormal romance will continue to be popular.

“It’s constantly changing and evolving,” she said. “There’s enough people writing and enough people reading it now that it’s really going to sustain its popularity. When you look at the YA section of the bookstore, they have a whole separate section for paranormal romance now ... these are the readers that are going to grow up and move into reading adult fiction, and where are they going to gravitate to? Paranormal romance, of course.”

Romance author Caden Leigh’s interest in writing about the paranormal was sparked when as a child she began to read a series about a girl being sent away to a boarding school that was being taken over by alien werewolves. To her great disappointment, the driver of the county bookmobile, where she had found the series, couldn’t find the ending books. So Leigh decided to write her own ending.

Although Leigh loves all paranormal creatures, in the future she is interested in writing a YA book about an army of brownies, which are household elves, fighting against an evil Cailleach Bheur, the mythical blue hag of Scotland.

“As legend tells, brownies can create mischief, but for the most part they dwell in human homes lending a helping hand,” said Leigh. “If the Hag were to wage war against the humans, I am pretty sure brownies would be the first to kick some butt.”

As for the recent upward swing in the popularity of paranormal romance, Leigh believes this is simply a continuation of our innate human fascination for the mysterious and unknown.

 “The enchantment has always been there, really,” said Leigh. “It is just more accepted now, I think. I mean, all cultures throughout the ages have fables of women falling in love with or being seduced by gods, angels and whatnot. Like Beauty and the Beast, it’s a tale as old as time.”