Write Byte

I Don't Read That!

(May 21, 2001)

Author Kathleen Nance has managed to impress several of our review staff in the past couple of years with her humorous paranormal romances. Our own Linda Hurst caught up with her recently and asked her about writing paranormals. Her comments may surprise you.

ďI never read....Ē

Itís a common phrase. Weíve all heard it, with the blank filled in by a variety of responses: romances, horror, historicals set in the French Revolution, tales of cotton-tailed bunnies, whatever genre you have in your hand at the moment. As a writer of paranormal romances, I generally hear when paranormals arenít the speakerís reading matter of choice. Sometimes itís said with a touch of scorn, sometimes with determination, sometimes with no context, simply a statement of nonjudgmental fact. With that single line, however, all paranormals are lumped together, treated as a single, homogenous entity. Yet, if paranormal readers are asked what kind of paranormal they prefer to read or what they like about these books with ďsomething different,Ē youíll get answers as varied as the readers.

Each reader brings her or his own expectations, beliefs, likes and dislikes to the stories, yet each finds something to treasure. Writers, too, vary as to why weíre drawn to the paranormal genre. So far Iíve written books that incorporate myth or magic, two subjects I find fascinating. I also enjoy writing the paranormal because I like including that element of story beyond and enhancing the romance. (Itís the same reason I enjoy romantic suspense). I adore the fascinating characters who inhabit the paranormal worlds, the look into alternative lives and societies, and the unique surprises delving into the paranormal provides. Yet, first and foremost, we are drawn to the romance genre.

Paranormal romances are at their heart, romances, with all the emotion and heroic character and life-affirmation that defines the genre. ďI donít believe in those weird things,Ē you may say. In my other life, I fulfill roles that are decidedly practical: mother of teenagers, pharmacist. Yet when I write, magic and myth are as much a part of my reality as figuring out what to have for dinner each night, trying to get water out of the basement, and talking to fifteen-year-old boys who are positive I lost all intelligence a decade ago.

All reading demands a suspension of belief. It involves the skill of a writer to paint a picture with words, a picture of a different time, or place, or character. If the writer is skillful enough, if the reader is open, she is transported to the unique world of the novel. The paranormal writer uses those very same words, only her world is also filled with telekinesis or selkies or space ship captains or ghosts.

We all have distinct preferences in reading. The other day, I heard myself saying, ďI havenít read the Oprah-pick books; theyíre too depressing.Ē Then, I caught myself, realizing Iíd never read one, didnít even know what some of them were about. How can I truly say that unless Iím willing to give them a try? So, if paranormal romance is filled in your blank, consider trying one. Werewolves or djinn or angels. Time travel or science fiction romance or sheer fantasy. Psychic connections or healing powers or magic. Dark and brooding or laughter-soaked. A light touch of ESP or an invented society.

The paranormal genre is as diverse as its creators and its readers. If you donít know where to start, try an author youíve heard speak or write in another forum like this one, ask a friend or librarian, read a review, peruse the postings on a loop, browse a bookstore. Try a paranormal. And, I swear Iíll read one of Oprahís picks. Any suggestions?

-- Kathleen Nance

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