I started out writing short stories in the SF/F genre (always with a romantic element) and I soon learned that the correct term for the ‘umbrella’ of the genre is ‘speculative fiction’. This encompasses fantasy (sword & sorcery, mythical & magical creatures, alternate worlds); science fiction, which can be ‘hard’ (as in spaceships, futuristic & advance technology), or ‘soft’ (like space opera); a blend of both (as in my upcoming novel BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS), and finally horror, (which can encompass contemporary suspense or all of the above genres). Paranormal itself essentially wasn’t a genre--it just meant ghosts.
I need to add that BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS was my very first manuscript, and was released in hardcover by Thomson-Gale, a small press who sold primarily to libraries. I mention ‘upcoming’ because Sourcebooks is re-releasing it this December in mass market paperback. And because I love, love, love the new cover I’ve included it in my post.
Imagine my confusion when I joined RWA, and learned that the romance industry calls anything within the fantasy genre ‘paranormal’. BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS didn’t have a single ghost in it. A magical world, yes, where people could ingest a root called ‘zabba’ and develop incredible powers (err, there’s the touch of the SF element as well. The world is another planet that humans have colonized, and adapted to fit to the environment). It abounded with fantastical creatures and magical abilities, and yes, a bit of swordplay…but no ghosts.
I don’t know how the term ‘paranormal’ developed in the romance industry, but since it basically means anything beyond what is natural or normal, it does make sense. At the time I published MOONS there wasn’t a plethora of paranormal romance books on the shelves, and I have a suspicion that it was Christine Feehan who introduced this new genre of shapeshifter, vampires, and other fantastical creatures to the romance world (there may be others, feel free to add a mention).
But since I started in the speculative fiction community, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit of a purist. Although my books are often labeled ‘paranormal’, they are fantasies.
A reader once made the cutest comment about one of my books, she said “I’m used to normal paranormal”, and I think by that she meant the books set in the real world with hidden societies of shapeshifters, vampires, etc. (Fortunately, she did enjoy my book, even if though it wasn’t what she was expecting.)
I develop alternate worlds (primarily historical) and imbue them with magic and sword fighting and fantastical creatures based on the world I’ve created. And I do recall that one book in my RELICS OF MERLIN series had ghosts in it. In my new THE ELVEN LORDS series, the fantastical beings are elven lords with magical powers enhanced by seven sacred scepters they stole from Elfhame when they opened the rift between our world and theirs. Any other fantastic creatures are created by the elven lords, or their half-breeds, humans who inherited some of their powers. And in MOONS, there’s a bit of the science fiction element that formed the basis of that world. I would put all of my books under the umbrella of ‘speculative romance fiction’, but gracious, I think that would be even more confusing to romance readers, so ‘fantasy romance’ is what I use in describing my books.
But truly, above and beyond all else, all of my books are primarily romances. And a sensual romance is exactly what I deliver.
I just hope not too many readers are surprised when they read one of my books and find it’s not a ‘normal’ paranormal. And with more books being released similar to mine with fantasy world building, I think ‘fantasy romance’ will become a more common term. And Sourcebooks has done a truly fabulous job in marketing my books for what they truly are.
And there’s that old saying, “A rose by any other name…”
Would you be surprised if you purchased a ‘paranormal romance’ and found it wasn’t similar to books you have read in that genre? Or do you not particularly care about categories, only the story blurb on the back of the book? I’d love to hear your opinion!
My Magical Best,
PS. Be sure to check out my contest to celebrate the upcoming release of BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS, with over $240 in prizes: http://www.kathrynekennedy.com/contest.html