Historical and Paranormal: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Historical and  Paranormal:  Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

by Victoria Janssen

For my December 2009 erotic novel for Harlequin Spice, Moonlight Mistress, I combined a historical novel with paranormal elements.  The book is set during the early days of World War One, and begins with a romance between Lucilla, an English chemist and nurse, and Pascal, a French scientist.  They’re trapped in Germany when war is declared and must escape together.  I could have proceeded from there to write a perfectly straightforward wartime adventure novel, but I love science fiction as well as romance, so it turns out the reason Pascal is in Germany in the first place is because he’s investigating rumors of a werewolf held captive by an amoral scientist.  Soon, two werewolf characters are introduced, one a soldier and the other a spy, and their role in the war and their relationship is woven into the novel’s main plot.

I love historical romance, but even more I love historical science fiction and fantasy with romance, or romantic elements.  There’s something about the mix of flavors that draws me in; I get an extra buzz from the story when more than one genre element is present.  I loved Colleen Gleason’s Regency vampire-slayer novels (The Gardella Chronicles) and the time travel aspect of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.  Susan Krinard’s werewolf romances do a wonderful job of fitting paranormal creatures into nineteenth century history.  From the fantasy side, Judith Tarr’s novels such as Pride of Kings and Caroline Stevermer’s When the King Comes Home mix magic and romantic elements into history. 

I think the main reason I love combined flavors is that mixing genres is a way to avoid the same-old, same-old of historical romance.  The plot usually runs like this:  hero and heroine meet, family/money/status/scandalous past/amnesia keep them apart, then they are brought together once more.  For me, those plot complications become more compelling if the family issue is that a werewolf needs to marry another werewolf or he can’t have werewolf children, or if the scandalous past is only because the heroine isn’t human and doesn’t have human standards of behavior.  I don’t know what to expect, and the reading experience becomes more exciting as a result.

Moonlight Mistress cover

From a marketing standpoint, cross-genre books can be a problem–how do you market the book?  Is it a romance/erotic novel, or is it a paranormal?  Should there be a clench on the cover, or a man turning into a wolf?  Will the book be shelved in Romance on Science Fiction and Fantasy?  Do the readers of the two genres have differing expectations, so in trying to please both, you please neither?  For Moonlight Mistress, at least, this was less of an issue.  As an “erotic novel” rather than a straightforward romance, I had a little more freedom in how the plot and relationships progressed.  Though there are several romances in the novel, they proceed in different ways, and end at different stages:  one clearly Happily Ever After, one on the brink of a marriage that’s clearly only the beginning of the relationship, and a third, a ménage, still in the formative stages.  Adding werewolves merely added a new flavor to the blend.

9 Responses to Historical and Paranormal: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

  1. Amy

    Moonlight Mistress sounds like a great book. I love historical romance and any other genres that filter in, are welcomed!

  2. Guestauthor

    Thanks! I can’t wait until it comes out.

  3. Armenia F

    I enjoyed your article, and it was very enlightening for me. I was not aware that there are so many complicated issues to cross-genre books. But as a reader, I just dive right in if the story grabs me.

  4. Victoria Janssen

    Marketing is something I find myself worrying about while writing, even though it really doesn’t do me much good…it’s the publisher and the bookstores who are the experts at putting a book where it can be found by people who want it.

    You sound like the best kind of reader!

  5. Jeannie Lin

    It seems historical paranormals are on the upswing. What do you think?

    I really love seeing so many cross-genre novels, especially in romance. It seems romance readers are very willing to stretch the boundaries a bit in the name of love. 🙂

  6. Victoria Janssen

    I am HOPING that historical paranormals are on the upswing…but so far, I haven’t seen so many that I can’t keep up with them.

    Maybe they’ll stay a niche market. Would be lovely if they took off, though.

  7. Emily Bryan

    I’ve toyed with the idea of adding some paranormal elements to my historicals. There are lots of terrific authors out there blending these genres: Elizabeth Boyle, Shana Abe, Kathryn Kennedy, to name a few.

    But the story that needs them hasn’t popped into my head yet and if the paranormal element isn’t intrinsic to the characters and the story, tucking them in as an add on will ring false. So for now, I’ll stick with historicals.

    We have been having a silly ride on the Lolly loop (Ladies of Leisure–Dorchester author’s group) about something Chris Keeslar, senior editor, said at the Dorchester Spotlight. He mentioned something about were-creatures and said he hadn’t seen a were-unicorn story yet. Then he threw his hands up and begged the assembled writers not to deluge him with were-unicorn stories.

    We Lollies didn’t think it was a workable premise anyway. Those horns fall off, you know!

    Emily

  8. paranormal

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  9. Darrin Bantay

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