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Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Cindy Spencer Pape

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

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/cindyspencerpape

Newsletter Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cspapenewsgroup/

Blog: http://cindyspencerpape.blogspot.com/

24 comments:

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Thanks so much for having me this week! I'm very excited about it!

Desiree Holt said...

Cindy, what a totally great article. But then I would expect no less than that from a writer who weaves such magical tales and brings us fantasies we've only begun to dream about. and you must fall more than a little in love with your heroes because you make the reader fall complettely in love with them. Good job, lady!

anny cook said...

Wonderful post! Your work truly covers the gamut from the unusual to the unique!

And thank you so much for the mention!

Regina Carlysle said...

You've hit on exactly WHY paranormal romance is so popular! It's all about the fantasy after all so why NOT take it to the next lever. All the way! What I really love in your work is the way you mix up the species. That makes it ever FUNNER. So often we see vamp against shifter and so forth but you continually push the envelope!

Amber Skyze said...

Wow great article, Cindy. I love that you go after the unique. I'm sure that's what makes readers love your books.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Des, Anny, Reg, and Amber, thank you SO much for you constant support! Love you guys!

Teri Thackston said...

Cindy,
You do such a great job of bringing paranormal and fantasy characters to life...and making them seem real. After reading one of your books, I can almost believe there could be a were person living just down the street.
Teri

Molly Daniels said...

Wonderful post Cindy:) Looking forward to reading more of your books:)

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Wonderful interview. I'm a sucker for happy endings, too. :)

Take Care

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Thanks, Teri, Molly, and Karen!

Mary Ricksen said...

Great blog Cindy, interesting and informative. Gosh I love storytellers!

lindseye said...

I love how I can read 6 vampire stories and have each be distinct with a different world view from each author. Enjoyed learning about your influences.

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Hi Cindy. Mixing things up is what gets people published. Great post!

Fran Lee said...

I adore your shifters, gargoyles, vamps and assorted creatures! I was seriously giving consideration to having a Chipmunk shifter fall in love with a Chihuahua shifter...but it just didn't work out. Couldn't figure out how to get a 6'4" male to compact down to the size of a semi-rodent...mmm...

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Thanks Mary, lindseye, and Cheryl! Fran, if anyone could pull that off, it would be you!

AbbyAllwynn said...

That's what I love about you - you let your freak flag fly, not afraid of trying new things!

Sorta like Star Trek - the Vulcan phylosphy of I.D.I.C. (infinate deversity, Infinate combinations), and it is so cool to see you employ this as a writer...

That is why your romance fiction is so popular - it gives us hope that, if odd things mix in the paranormal world (and it ends in a happily ever after), perhaps there is hope for us in this world - that deversity can over come bigotry and racism with positive results...

(Didn't know your novels carried that hidden 'subliminal message ' did you?)

Dawn.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Actually, Dawn, I didn't mention that, but yeah, I think somewhere in the back of my head, I knew that.
(Wink)

booklover0226 said...

This was a great post; I enjoyed reading it.

Thanks,
Tracey D

Debra St. John said...

Great post. My favorite paranormals revolve around vampires. They come in all shapes and sizes these days. I love the personal twists that each author applies to them.

Stephani Hecht said...

Great blog, Cindy. I have always loved how you add you own twist to the paranormal world.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Tracey, Stephani, Debra, thanks so much for coming by.

Debra, I love seeing the different takes on vampires, too, which is possibly why I held off writing one until very recently when I finally found a take that was more my own.

Steph, coming from you, that compliment is huge!

Cindy Spencer Pape said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Cory said...

Great spotlight Cindy :) I'm thrilled as punch to know you and think you're a total sweetheart *hugs*

Ann Cory

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Right back at you, Ann!