Mixing your Mythos
I’m one of those people who has trouble playing by the rules. I always want to stretch the boundaries, try new combinations, mix things together to see what happens. Yes, I was a terror with a chemistry set as a child. And now? Now I get to play with dragons and demons and werewolves, oh my. In my new career as an author of erotic and paranormal romance, I can honestly say that I love my job.
Paranormal romance is one of the most popular, fastest growing segments of the fiction market. We love it for a lot of reasons: the lure of the forbidden, the element of danger, and maybe most of all for the fact that when you’re talking about immortal creatures, happily ever after can really mean happily-EVER-after. That has a huge appeal to us die-hard romantics. You can also do things in a paranormal that most of us can’t do in real life: make love while flying, for example, or form a telepathic connection that makes for literally mind-blowing sex. When you add the element of the supernatural, anything goes takes on a whole new meaning.
One of the hardest parts about writing paranormal romance, particularly erotic paranormal romance, though, is choosing your characters. Vampires, werewolves, and even dragons are very popular, but eventually you’re going to feel the need to branch out into other realms of the supernatural. And then things get interesting.
Some authors choose to create their own worlds, their own races. If you’ve never met the blue people of Anny Cook’s marvelous Mystic Valley series, you’re missing out. Or check out Kaenar Langford’s futuristic bounty hunters. Lost worlds, outer space, and fantasy worlds give us the liberty of creating our own combinations. For an author, there’s little more liberating than having a blank slate to create a whole universe, and if it’s well done, we as readers have the change to visit a realm where anything can happen.
There is a wealth of mythology handed down to us from almost every culture that has ever existed. Do you choose an Egyptian mythos? Babylonian? The relatively modern Greek, Roman, or Viking lore? How about Native American or ancient Chinese mysticism? Any of these are going to require some heavy-duty research. That’s the work part of the writing business. There’s nothing the readers like less than inaccurate references. But then there’s the fact that you have to take whatever you’ve learned and put your own, unique spin on it. Face it. Even vampires, the classic example of paranormal romance, vary from book to book. So how do you stay true to the lore, yet create a world and characters that are uniquely your own? That is the big challenge of writing romantic fantasy.
It never ceases to amaze me how many different takes there are on the classic vampire and werewolf legends. Would Bram Stoker roll over in his grave to see Twilight, or would he be delighted to know his work has become so much a part of our consciousness that we continuously want more, want to tweak and fiddle with it for our own enjoyment? As a writer, I’m inclined to believe the latter. I can’t imagine anything more thrilling than to know that the creations of my imagination have not only lasted for centuries, but inspired entire genres of fiction. I’d like to think Mr. Stoker, Ms. Shelley, and Mr. Verne would feel the same. Werewolves are another staple. Desiree Holt and Regina Carlysle have done some wonderful work on these, and even though their wolves have different rules, you can fully believe each of them in the context of that author’s storylines. I’ve played with the furry guys, too, and enjoyed it. You can see my take in Exploring Ari, out this summer from Ellora’s Cave. It’s also my first vampire story. Yep. Vampire meets werewolf. Pretty common, right? But I like to think my take offers a few twists nobody else has quite covered. For example, my vampire is shy and sheltered. It takes a big, furry alpha male to bring her out of her shell.
When it all comes down to it, though, one of my favorite ways to address the idea of making a legend my own is to mix things up. This is where I dig in and really have some fun, letting my imagination, the same overactive one that got me into trouble as a kid, run wild. In one of my books, you’ll rarely find the hero and heroine of the same species. Well, aside from human. I’ve done a couple (relatively few) of those. And if they are both human, then you’re certainly going to find them interacting with something that isn’t. More often than not, there’s even going to be a mix of elements from different mythologies. Getting two different creatures together may take a bit of creativity, but getting there can sure be interesting!
Mixing it up. When you play it that way, the possibilities are literally endless. Djinnis falling for computer programmers. Gargoyles and selkies. Irish sorcerers and Greek sirens. Demons and elves, oh my! What’s next? Who knows? I’ve got an idea about a vampire and a couple of hunky demons…
And that brings me to my final point. As I explained to a fellow writer who was just beginning to dabble in the romance genre, there are three things a romance needs to work. One: the ending has to be happy. I’m a total stickler for that. I may break every other rule on the books, but never, never that one. Two: the reader (if female) has to identify a little with the heroine of the book. Yep, even if she’s a vampire, or a pixie, or a half-dragon. There has to be something in her character that we can latch onto and empathize with. Otherwise, we just don’t get pulled into the story. And finally, we have to fall a little in love with the hero(es). So whether he’s a gargoyle, a ghost, or a demon, he has to, at heart, be a man. He has to be strong, and sexy, and loyal and most of all, he has to be flawed. Perfect people are perfectly annoying. Even a six-hundred-year-old vampire has to have his quirks, or we’re not going to root for him to get the heroine. Because no matter how much fun you have mixing it up, the most important thing is that they have to fall in love.
So take a walk on the wild side: catch a couple of my newest mixed-mythos releases, out this summer from Ellora’s Cave and Total-E-Bound. You can click on the covers below for more information. And please be sure to visit me at the links below. There’s NOTHING I love more than hearing from readers.
~~~Cindy Spencer Pape has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, though she swears she got better. She still does volunteer work in environmental education, when she can fit it in around writing. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two teenage sons, a dog, and a lizard. Her website is http://www.cindyspencerpape.com
Newsletter Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cspapenewsgroup/