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Witches, Vampires, Mermaids, Werewolves, Ghosts, OH MY!

by Deb Werksman

It's almost Halloween so I think I have to talk about the paranormal romance subgenre and my current thinking.

What I'm hearing is that Vampires are here to stay. However, I'm also seeing that it's absolutely necessary to do something different/interesting/fresh with them and their world. For some really interesting thoughts about why vampires are sexy, I recommend Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan of SmartBitches.

We at Sourcebooks are having great success with Linda Wisdom's light paranormal Hex series, and we're launching a werewolf trilogy by Lydia Dare that I think is going to be fabulous (the werewolves get crankier and crankier as the moon waxes, then they turn into a wolf, then they're calm again for a few weeks--does this sound at all familiar?).

Terry Spear's werewolf series continues to win awards and exceed sales expectations, and her readers love the real-life wolf connection that shapes how her werewolves behave. Ashlyn Chase's first in a new series is Strange Neighbors, in which an entire apartment building is filled with paranormal creatures with hilarious results. And, of course, Judi Fennell's Mer series (mermaids, mermen--Mers!) is also going strong.

And next season we'll have fantasy romances coming from Kathryne Kennedy, featuring gorgeous warlike elves and their progeny.

Time travel and genetic memory also seem to work well--readers love to take that trip into a different time and link it up somehow with the present day.

It seems to be a tough time, however, for ghosts and psychics. I have a theory about this (did you think I wouldn't?). I think ghosts and psychics often function as deus ex machina plot devices and then the credibility isn't as strong. Particularly when they're incorporated into a romantic suspense, where the coincidences seem to abound. Of course, if you have something unbelievably compelling going on, you can get away with many things that you might not otherwise.

We're continuing to add new paranormal romance authors to our list, but if you write historicals, romantic suspense or another subgenre, don't despair! My theory is that if you have a great "hook" you can sell in ANY subgenre, even if that subgenre is on the down cycle. That's because I think readers are out there, but they're following proven favorites unless you give them a compelling reason to buy your book.

Here's what I'm looking for:
  • single title romance fiction in all subgenres (paranormal, historical, contemporary, romantic comedy, time travel, erotic romance, romantic suspense)
  • 90,000 words or thereabouts (80K is ok, 75K (except for erotic romance which tends to be a little shorter) is not, ok? 120K is ok, 140K is not (except for Jane Austen related fiction which tends to be a little longer))--if in doubt, ask me
  • a heroine the reader can relate to
  • a hero she can fall in love with
  • a world gets created
  • there's a hook that allows me to sell the book in 2-3 sentences
  • the author has a demonstrable career arc
Happy HALLOWEEN, everybody!


  1. Woohoo, let's hear it for the paranormal! Since I was a kid reading fantasies, ghostly stories, and tales from around the world, the Greek mythologies, Native American stories and others--I fell in love with my first shapeshifter romance "East of the Moon and West of the Sun," a Norwegian tale of a prince cursed to be a white bear who marries a fair maid. Later, I fell in love with Dracula at a college play--he was sooo sexy! And that was it. My first love of a guy who was a little darker than my usual type. :) Werewolves were strictly bad guys in the stories I'd read. So I had to make some likable ones. :) And today, I'm wearing a medieval costume for work to participate in the fun! So let the party begin!

  2. We certainly have some amazing things in the line up, Deb! I've noticed the same thing throughout the industry with adding a paranormal element to books--it has to be REALLY well done. Readers want to BELIEVE in the unbelievable, and the excuse of "well, it's my world and I can make anything happen just because" is no longer valid.

    Lucky for Sourcebooks Casa, we have incredibly savvy and creative authors (and not just in paranormal) that bring us into worlds that are 100% convincing and interesting.

  3. Deb,

    You have very good taste in reading, and lucky for me, very diverse tastes!


  4. I love this new Genre of reading. I recently became a huge fan of these Paranormal Stories.
    And I love me some likeable Werewolves, Vamps, Fairies, Meremen, witches.
    Happy Haunting everyone.

  5. Thanks for the mention, Deb!

    And the fun part with paranormal is the worlds we can create and all the choices out there.


  6. Thanks for joining us today, Deb! It is always great to have you aboard. :)

    I really love how diverse Sourcebooks is. It truly is a home publishing house for anyone, as I frequently tell hopeful writers I meet.

    I am learning to really appreciate the paranormals. They have that fantasy edge that I have long adored mixed in with the romance. What's not to love?

    Keep them coming, ladies!

  7. Happy Halloween! Thanks for the mention, Deb. And let's not forget genies! :)

    Having gone to the Authors After Dark conference last weekend for readers of paranormal romance, I can attest, at least according to these folks, that paranormal romance interest is incredibly high and the readers incredibly loyal. And next year, they're opening it up to other subgenres of romance - definitely something to consider attending!


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