Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why Romantic Fantasy?

by Nikki Watson

My two favorite genres to dabble in have always been romance and fantasy. Has anybody ever noticed how there isn't a great deal of believable fantasy set without the background of a castle and medieval guards? Or romantic overtones between a human and a creature of another kind? Laurell K. Hamilton offers us her vampire hunter books, set within the comfortable background of St. Louis, and there are also L. J. Smith's Night World series for younger readers, but for the larger adult community, what is there?

I've decided to come back into fantasy reading and writing lately, because I've come to realize that you don't necessarily need to create a world of 'fantasy' for your novel to be considered 'a fantasy novel'. Our world works quite fine. We have an unlimited number of vampires and witches and general beasties that can be brought in from the realms of Stoker and Shelley straight to our real world in order to make a fantastical story.

This seems to level the playing field, a little bit, between fantasy and romance. Suddenly, the world building is just a writing up the world that we ourselves already live in. Most of us have lived in this world all our lives; so how hard can that be? Now, instead of a jealous ex-wife getting in the way of the hero and heroine in the story, perhaps it is the secret of witch blood that the hero has tried to hide in his blood line.

I personally read a lot of both romance and fantasy, and due to my love of both, a story really grips me when both genres happen to be meshed together nicely. If anyone wants me to recommend a writer who I think does this really fantastically, I would point out that Anne Rice has definitely been known to blur the distinctions between erotica and fantasy over the course of her writing.

Still, this brings us back to the role of vampires in romantic fantasy fiction. What is it that we find so sexy about vampires sucking the gooey, sticky, clotted blood out of our soon to be dead bodies? In both Hamilton and Rice novels, the vampires are the key standing feature for the fantasy, with werewolves and witches coming in at the sidelines. Vampires are constantly being reinvented, which is great, as it keeps everything new, but eventually, all the different options for reincarnations of the same old vampires are all going to be taken, and the old school done to death beasties are going to just be old, old, old. We as writers should be challenged to create creatures, where the only restraints placed upon us are only our own imaginations, and readers should ache to see that done.

I'm not saying the genre blend between romance and fantasy is for everyone. The loudest complaint I've seen between readers of fantasy and romance is the different formulas. While a fantasy reader would have no problem in following several different love interests on their travels to the end of a series, a romance reader would be much more likely to have an interest only in the two key characters who are going to get through their trials to declare their undying love for one another at the end. Genre blending certainly isn't for everyone, but it is a gentle alternative for people who already like both of the genres involved, and there's a definite niche in romantic fantasy waiting to be filled.

About the author:
Myspace: www.myspace.com/nikkiwatsonauthor
Livejournal: http://unity-of-hours.livejournal.com/profile
Link for Spiral: http://www.aphroditesapples.com/spiral.htm

Disclaimer, cause we have to: The opinions of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mandy M Roth and Michelle M Pillow. (Want to be a guest blogger?)

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19 comment(s):

Thanks for coming by, Nikki! :)

I love multiple points of view in books--if the story supports it. I have the fantasy romance series, Realm Immortal, which is about 50/50 Romance/Fantasy. Each books tell the story from many POVs. I love getting into everyones head and seeing fights from different angles.

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 5:27 PM  

I love genre blending! It's the best way to get something of everything! lol, I love anything that involves a super being with human frailties. I want them to be out of this world and at the same time identify with basic human emotions. For example, the hero is basically indestructible, has limitless powers.....until the heroine arrives. Then he's powerless! hehehehe

By Blogger Missy Sue, at 8:31 AM  

I adore fantasy. I grew up on it starting with C. S. Lewis's Narnia tales. Later I latched onto Romance and the blending of the two is for me a well rounded read.

E-books offer a nice palette of fantasy with romantic elements or romance with fantasy elements. One of my favourite ebook authors is Ciar Cullen, who has written some stupendous stories in other worlds with some sensuous, hot romance.

Fantasy today, set in our world with all the fantastical elements is now called, I believe, Urban fantasy, which I also do enjoy. Lynne Connolly has got some good ones...that is another ebook author.

Great topic and if I don't stop I could go on and on and on!!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:55 AM  

Missy Sue--couldn't agree more. I love watching those tough, indestructible heroes meet their match.

Valerie--Feel free to go on, lol. I've only more recently gotten into reading Urban Fantasies. I definately like them dark though. :)

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 10:02 AM  

This is a great topic! I love blending genres too! Fantasy is one of my favs!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us, Nikki!

By Blogger mandymroth, at 10:03 AM  

I can be such a snob sometimes. I don't mean to, and I only realize it in hind-sight, but then as the saying goes...20/20 and all that. Well, I used to think that I was MUCH to good to read romance novels, I mean really, they are unintelligent and trashy! Why would I lower myself? When I'm wrong, I like to admit it, and boy was I wrong!

My favorite types of romance novels are from the Regency era, England. God I love this time period, at least the way it is painted in my books! And when you add the spice of fabtasy to it...well who every said that romance and magic are not one and the same?

What I love about them is that it transports me to a time and place where men were gentlemen and women were ladies. Now, I know both still live today, but not in the way it was. I wish I could explain how it makes me feel. It is such an intangable thing for me to discribe. I like the thought of being treated as something to treasure, to protect, to hold. I guess it's as simple as that.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is not the only thing I like about these books. I love the passion! It's not the one-night-stand kind of passion either. It's the deep down in your soul, if I don't get as close to this person as humanly possable in the next five seconds, I will parrish", kind of passion. The forever kind, the "I want to die in your arms" kind, the "I hurt when I can't see you or hear your voice" kind of passion.

Damn is that sexy!

By Blogger Kris, at 10:50 AM  

I'm a fan of romantic fantasy-- from the earliest inceptions by Mercedes Lackey and many others. For me, there's no set formula, though I know many die-hard romance fans find it a bit hard to traverse the distance from romance to romantic fantasy. For me, I love the differences and I enjoy the diversity of how to get to a HEA that romantic fantasy offers. It's strange, but I often find myself writing in that mode than any other out there.

By Blogger Cynnara, at 11:24 AM  

I love historicals! Mr Darcy is my absolute favorite. *sigh*

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 11:26 AM  

I agree. I love genre blends as it gives even more possibilities!

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 11:28 AM  

Mandy and Michelle, thanks so much for sponsoring this discussion and allowing me to toss in an opinion too. I really appreciate the great welcome I’ve received from the NCP gang. : ) Dani Harper

Why Fantasy - Romantic or Otherwise?

Dani Harper, Devourer of Books -- that should have been my title as a child. Between the ages of 4 and 14, I read my way through most of the titles in my small town's library. I was the darling of the librarian ladies --- and the terror of my teachers, who had to deal with the epic fantasies that I insisted on writing about, talking about and sometimes acting out, often in the middle of class.

While I feel marginally sorry for my teachers, who had no self-defense training against an imagination the size of a small country, I'm not a bit sorry for all the time I "wasted" in class or out. I fantasized whole worlds where anything was possible -- it kept my spirit from imploding in the real world, where very little seemed possible at the time.

I believe that human beings NEED fantasy, even -- or especially -- the ones who think they don't. A fantasy world provides a safe place to explore and vent feelings, struggle with issues and choices, try out relationships and beliefs, practice being both hero and villain -- and to have fun, that vital link between our adult selves and our inner child. We need fantasy in order to discover and then BE who we really are. And that includes romantic fantasy.

I wrote for newspapers and magazines for years and years. Things. As. They. Are. Now, in writing fiction, particularly romance-fantasy featuring the paranormal, I feel like I have a lot more elbow room in which to explore what it really means to be human. Even if I'm writing about a vampire or a werewolf. As an avid reader of such things, I find myself naturally intuiting the paranormal character's struggles and choices. Just like it's easier to perceive my friend's problems and what needs to be done to solve them than it is my own, it's often easier to see and understand the shapeshifter's problems than my own human problems --- in spite of the fact that on many levels they're pretty much the same! Remember Star Trek? It presented hefty issues in the guise of alien struggles -- and we all "got it", without even realizing the enormity of what we now understood.

Fantasy and romance? A natural fit that provides an even greater opportunity to explore and challenge our own feelings. And to have even MORE fun!

In Heart of the Winter Wolf, I’ve combined romance with the paranormal and set it in an everyday background (well, as everyday as the northern Canadian wilderness can get). I’m hoping that when the e-book comes out (just signed the contract), the reader will relate to the main characters, both human and non-human.

A few paranormal favorites: Greywalker by Kat Richardson, The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts, Sunshine by Robin McKinley, and the Dead Until Dark series by Charlaine Harris.

By Blogger Dani Harper, at 2:41 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Dani Harper, at 2:42 PM  

I'm not sure what you would call my writing. Romance, certainly, but paranormal or fantasy is open to question.
I enjoy writing romance because I enjoy it personally and have now written three books around a single idea (fantasy?) of a dying 107 year-old veteran creating the world of his dreams and finding it flawed by the underlying logic of its creation. Thus, an evironmentally sustainable world without war becomes one controlled by immortal mind creatures called, the Blood. As creator, his powers are that of an author, he can read minds, translocate, observe several locations at once, and change things (although the latter brings into play all the underlying logic of the change and often has unforseen results)

In the first book, he sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually free both races. In the second, his son explores the past and his grandson frees a world. The third follows the woman the grandson loves through an adventure in her past to the fulfilment of her dreams with him on Feodar's World.

All three stories come from the initial premise of the dying veteran and are therefore limited by his knowledge and understanding and all are strong romances, sensual but not erotic (my comfort zone).

I'll let you decide whenther they are fantasy or paranormal.

By Blogger Amy Gallow, at 3:31 PM  

Dani, Welcome to NCP :) And thanks for stopping by. You're welcome anytime.

I'd personally find it hard to write full time on current events. I like making stuff up too much, lol

Amy, I love watching/reading people fall in love. *insert girly romantic sigh here*

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 3:51 PM  

Wow, thank you everyone! I didn't expect to get such an overwhelmingly positive response. Glad to see that I'm not the only one who sees genre blending as a good thing. I'm really sorry that I didn't get a chance to come in here earlier and read through what everyone said! I have now though, and you all bring up such wonderful replies to my humble little post. :D

As Valerie said, I could go on and on about this topic forever, but I thought swift and concise would be the way to do this. *grins* Hopefully the lovely ladies here will be happy to let me talk at the NCP gang again sometime soon.

And you're very welcome, Mandy and Michelle. Thanks so much for having me here!

By Blogger Nikki, at 6:13 PM  

Thanks for blogging with us Nikki :)

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 6:18 PM  

Nikki, you make several fine points indeed. The trick to gross-genre buying does seem to lie in the reader, and whether s/he comes from a fantasy or a romance background. For myself, I poo'ed romance in my youth, and read poetry and sci-fi/fantasy epics, so I have a great deal of tolerance for involved world building, plotlines and multiple character arcs. In fact, I quite prefer them as a reader, and my ideal stories blend speculative fiction's best elements with some hot lovin'. :D

By Blogger H.S. Kinn, at 5:31 AM  

HI HS :)

Stopped by your profile. Wow, you must keep busy with blogs ;)

I love research and world building. I think it's better than actually writing the book, lol.

By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 6:24 AM  

I love to read historical romance, romance/fantasy, etc. Love it if they cross over into each other. LKH is one of my favorite authors with her anita blake series. I also love to read Amanda Ashley. There's just something so sensual and enticing about the vamps.

By Blogger glenna day, at 12:07 PM  

HI Glenna,

What books do you recommend from Ashley?


By Blogger Michelle Pillow, at 12:32 PM  

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