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We Want More.......
Mythological Romances!!!!

We queried the listers and here is what they had to say!
April 2001 Issu

PNR Q.: : Whether they be the gods and goddesses of Viking, Roman, or Greek legends, or the mystics and sorcerers of Camelot, these elements enjoy popularity among romance readers. What do you think is the appeal of these fabled characters?

Shelly: We know them and love their stories. The stories touch something basic in us otherwise they wouldn't still be around. There's something timeless about the myth of Psyche and Cupid, or the love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Those characters are archetypes to romantic characters of today.

Leslie T: Immortality and magical abilities both have their appeal. The idea of mortals being able to interact with and perhaps even be loved by such a being is equally enthralling. I agree with Dee that the stories have to be true to the main points of the tale. No one is going to be happy if you mess with the h/h of a legend, but I think that minor points can be altered, if you are writing a contemporary tale involving descendants and start with the premise, this is the tale as believed by… but they were wrong!

Dee: I think there is tremendous appeal here. I personally loved Greek Mythology and the Arthurian Legends (or are they?) But I do think it's important when using "real" characters to make sure they are true to their particular legends. In other words, Guinevere has to choose Lancelot (as much as I personally wish she'd chosen Arthur).

Chessie: I think that the appeal is Magic. Love itself is a very real form of magic, and I believe that people who want to believe in the true, and everlasting nature of love are also drawn to magic in it's other forms.

Karen: First of all they've become mythic characters precisely because they do appeal to something deep in the psyche of all people. And then there's a part of all of us that feels powerless, helpless much of the time and wants to experience, vicariously, the feeling of being more powerful and in control.

PNR Q.: There is a current trend to incorporate mythic figures into both historical and contemporary romances, set in the real world. Do you find the new twist refreshing, or do you prefer that plots involving such characters be relegated to fantasy? Do you enjoy both?

Shelly: I think the new twists are fun. I've read some of the early forms of Greek and Roman myths, and those gods and goddesses were bawdy, fun-loving, irresponsible troublemakers. In other words, I think they would love the fact that they're showing up and causing trouble everywhere. Summon the Keeper comes to mind, with all the gods in their senior citizen versions.

I like Gellis' take on the old myths too. I expect the characters to stay true to their mythical personae, but I don't care what the setting is.

Leslie T: Ever a lover of variety, I like both. I love the beefed up fantasies, in which you get a glimpse of the everyday life, or the even the "this is why it happened that way" type of tales. Roberta Gellis is great for that. I also think as I said before that we like to see them continue to interact with "real" people in more recent times, either historical or contemporary. I also like the new interpretations of some of the authors, explaining the "gods" as either an separate race of beings or even aliens with special gifts and human frailties. That works well in the contemporary settings, where the "mortals" are likely to be skeptical and hold vastly different religious beliefs. The new novels by Kathleen Nance and Julie Kenner illustrate how well this can be done.

Dee: I think the idea is refreshing.. and like the stories as both romance and as fantasy.

Chessie: I enjoy both personally. I think that Legends set in the contemporary world should have a big element of humor though to help suspend reality.

Karen: I don't care so much what genre(s) include these figures. I'm always more concerned with whether the storytelling is good. Almost anything can be made enjoyable if the author is in control of the material.

PNR Q.: Cupid seems to be widely accepted as a matchmaker in both historical and contemporary settings. Invariable the couples find their own way in spite of him. Do you find that matchmaking of a unearthly nature adds humor to the plots?

Shelly: A lot of times this results in the same comedy of errors. This gets to be old after a while, unless someone has a truly different take on the matter. I found Karen Harbaugh's Cupid trilogy to be unique. I especially enjoyed her use of Cupid in the second book, where he causes the hero to fall in love with an idealized image. It made for some good points about the nature of love and expectations in relationships.

Leslie T: Ah now if you leave the gods be gods in a contemporary setting then humor is a must. The gods of legend were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They were subject to both lust and jealousy, and often did things they later regretted. One of the perks of being a "god" is that you can fix your mistakes. In these types of books the "gods" are generally cast as matchmakers or breakers rather than the h/h which can lend itself to comedic situations. More often than not the couples are clearly already meant for each other, and the "help" merely muddies the water. J.M. Jeffries' Cupid series is a prime example of how humorous these scenarios can be.

Dee: I actually am not as fond of this device... only because I think it can add humor where it isn't actually intended.... In a humorous book, it could work quite well.

Chessie: I think that supernatural matchmakers are hysterical, especially when things don't work out the way that they intended. Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream is a good example of this. I think that they devalue the true love of a couple if the influence of the matchmaker is too powerful, or taken too seriously though.

Karen: It can, when handled well. OTOH, I've read some stories where I thought the humor of using Cupid, et al. fell flat and the antics of the gods just seemed too "cutsie" to be credible.

PNR Q.: Wizards and other beings of magical nature have also been introduced to romances that would otherwise not be considered fantasy. How do you feel about their incorporation into "real" scenarios.

Shelly: If the writer does it well, she can incorporate whatever she wants. For instance, Laura Kinsale brings the Fae into the end of one of her novels to explain the heroine's past. It was nicely done and logical and fit, so that was good. But if Nora Roberts were to write another Irish book, have Bigfoot pop up and save the heroine, then disappear for the rest of the book I'd have a problem with it.

Leslie T: I recently read Abandon by Jillian Hunter for review. It is in essence a historical romance, but one in which the heroine has a legacy of being gifted. The islanders believe that she is descended from Morgan le Fay. She believes deeply in Arthurian legend but the hero is a skeptic. The heroine herself is never visited by these "mythical" beings because she doesn't need to see them to believe, but the hero who doesn't have faith, is besieged by evidence that he doesn't wish to see. I thought the devise worked rather well.

Dee: I think it's almost more fun when they are introduced in "real" scenarios. It makes it more of an adventure for the reader. A combination of two worlds.

Chessie: Once again, I'm all for magic in our everyday lives. I think that it can be an extremely fun and entertaining tool for the writer that tackles it.

Karen: Again, it all comes down to the skill of the author. When done badly, it comes off as unbelievable, a hodgepodge, or a total disaster. In the hands of a skilled author it can be wonderful. Kay Hooper's Wizard of Seattle (I'm sorry I can't remember the exact title right now) is a wonderful
example of what a talented author can do with a wizard in a contemporary setting.

PNR Q.: Let's move on to gods and goddesses. Do you prefer them in the roles of matchmakers or mischief makers? Should their manipulations be accomplished with human contact or without?

Shelly: I prefer the mischief makers. One of my favorite mythological characters is Coyote. He loves humans but is always willing to trick them for a good laugh. The story is that much more sweet if the h/h can trick him into doing them a good turn. Because of that I prefer interaction with the h/h as well. I love the fish out of water scenario, and all the comedy that can come from it.

Leslie T: Both can be fun. The Viking trickster Loki was integral in send the hero of Judy DiCanio's Beloved Warrior to another world. Without his mischief he would never have met the heroine. This was such a fun tale, I truly wish it had become a series. Though he doesn't appear in any physical way, Sandra Hill's Vikings are quick to blame Loki for their misfortunes. Kathleen Nance's hero in the Trickster was a descendant of Hermes, the legendary Greek Trickster, hence his legacy as a magician. Hermes appears in Roberta Gellis' tales as well. While not historical designated a trickster, Dionysus appears in Nance's upcoming novel to balance the matchmaking efforts of Zeus and Hera.

Dee: Either has the potential to work. The key is to set up the parameters for the reader so that they are able to suspend their disbelief.

Chessie: I've got to go with the mischief makers. It makes a great obstacle for the character's love to overcome. You know that your love is true when you have somehow subverted a deity's plot against it. It can be very humorous, and lead to a sense that this couple's love can last through all things.

Karen: Mischief makers for me, although I'm wary of using gods and goddesses at all as deus ex machinas. The problem is that they are *gods*, beings who, according to myths and legends, can turn people into trees or stars or whatever. If one of those guys decided to do some matchmaking, it
seems to me, the individuals involved might as well just give in, because it's a done deal. Mischief, OTOH, allows for an enormous variation and leaves open the possibilities of finding ways around it or to undo it. Any author working with mythic gods has to deal with creating realistic limitations to the gods' power, or there isn't going to be any story at all.

PNR Q.: How do you feel about them in the role of hero or heroine? Does it make a difference whether or not a mortal is their soul mate?

Shelly: Like the immortal witch question of last month, they must be either both immortal or both not at the end of the book for a HEA.

Leslie T: I agree with Shelly on the point that the h/h have to be both at the stories end for a HEA, however at the beginning I really prefer one character to be mortal as it poses quite an obstacle to overcome, thereby making the love between them more poignant. I liked Gellis' Bull God a lot because the heroine was a mortal girl, and though she loved the "god" Dionysus, she had much to think about before she accepted his offer to join him on Olympus. It helped that the "god" himself had frailties and imperfections of his own.

Dee: Again, not if it's set up properly, and if it doesn't fly into the face of legend as it already exists...

Example... no one minds a story about Robin Hood's daughter, but if he were to wind up with someone besides Marian...there'd be an uproar.

Chessie: I don't think so as long as you are careful with who you match them up with. Also unless you deal with the fact that one is immortal and the other is not, the reality of death and loss shadows the relationship.

Karen: It can work for them to be hero or heroine, but it again requires careful handling and some deft decisions on the part of the author about what their limitations are. I have a hard time seeing them with a mortal soul mate, unless they're willing to make a decision to become mortal, too.

PNR Q.: Do you like these characters to adhere to traditional roles, or do you enjoy the modern portrayals of them as a separate race, long-lived but still mortal, with special abilities, this would include recent portrayals as alien beings, or super heroes?

Shelly: Both are fun if done well.

Leslie T: I enjoy the traditional but I love surprises even more. Ann Lawrence's "Virtual Heaven" knocked my socks off, and as you can probably guess I really love the recent contemporaries by Julie Kenner and Kathleen Nance that have the descendants of this special beings living in the real world with regular people.

Dee: I think it's amazingly inventive to do so, and loads of fun to read.

Chessie: I say anything goes. It really depends on the plot of the book. I could go for either, as long as the rules of the universe were set up by the author.

Karen: More recent portrayals.

PNR Q.: Do you find that these new portrayals make the characters more believable or acceptable in a contemporary romance setting?

Shelly: Not really. One is fantasy, the other space opera type SF. Neither
is real, and both require a healthy suspension of disbelief.

Leslie T: Well it is still fantasy of course, but I think it is great fun to think, what if my neighbor or friend was a superhero, wouldn't that be cool. I think it takes a really inventive writer to make these characters believable in a contemporary setting. I like the concept that time has marched on. After all the legends have "gods" mingling with mortals. and mortals bearing their children. Why shouldn't their descendants crop up in a contemporary romance, and hey if the original "gods" are still around to watch over for them, so much the better.

Dee: It's just a new twist on an old story.

Chessie: I believe that character is important, and that it is essentially the
character that speaks to us. It doesn't matter what your character is, where or when s/he is living, as long as the character has real emotions, and speaks to us, it really doesn't matter.

Karen: More credible--not really. Acceptable, yes.

PNR Q.: Mythology is peopled with beings who are part human and part animal. Do you enjoy such characters in a fantasy romance? Would you like to see such a character in the a lead role if such a scenario could be written feasibly? (An example would be as a shape shifter.)

Shelly: I don't think I would enjoy reading a romance in which a centaur was
the hero. Maybe erotica. The sex would just be too weird. If they're part animal I think they would have to be completely human at one point in the cycle. As much as I like, for example, Taura in the Vorkosigan books I always think yeck when she has a romantic interlude.

Leslie T: Well I have to say that Elizabeth Rose (Kyros' Secret) showed that an inventive author can make anything work. We paranormal enthusiasts are used to shape shifters, were-beings of all kinds have already gained acceptance as heroic figures. So putting the characters in a mythological fantasy setting in which centaurs are real creatures is not such a leap. The hero of course is a shape shifter who by a curse placed upon him, takes both his own human form and that of a centaur. The heroine comes to love both sides of him, but there is no need for "kinky" sex. It does give the hero a unique perspective, with regard to both races who are having difficulty living together. And in some ways although I think it bridges the gap, as the hero is still part man at all times, he can talk and interact in much the same way he can as a complete man.

Dee: I'm not a huge fan of shape shifting, and a hero or heroine who is half animal would probably not work as well for me... But there are people who love this sort of thing, so I think given the audience, it could be quite successful.

Chessie: I love shape shifters, any way I can get them. I think that part of passion is an inherent animal instinct that we all possess, and shape shifting stories are more an exploration of our own animal nature than anything else. They are usually very intense passionate stories. I also love animals, and I enjoy the focus on animals that shape shifting books allow.

Karen: It would be extremely challenging, but it could be done. It's already been done at least once, by Andre Norton in her "Gryphon" trilogy.

PNR Q.: Would you like to see other mythical beings such as unicorns or winged-horses find their way into more traditional (non-fantasy) type romances? Does fantasy have a place in "real" setting romances?

Shelly: Charles deLint, Emma Bull, Jonathan Carroll, Pamela Dean, Guy Gavriel Kay, along with all the magic realists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez have shown that fantasy has very real place in literature. It makes it possible to say things in so many more ways. I would love to see fantasy move into romances the way it has into other forms of literature in the past couple decades. That doesn't necessarily mean having unicorns pop up everywhere, but maybe only a sense of mysticism, dreams, ghosts, and the idea that the world is greater than the sum of its parts.

Leslie T: Yes, without a doubt, again I loved the dragon in Judy DiCanio's "Beloved Warrior" and hoped to see more stories like that. If any paranormal authors out there are reading this, go for it!

Dee: I think it would be cool... Think of all the magical things in CS Lewis or Madeline L'engle... Children's books granted, but amazingly sophisticated. And with the success of Harry Potter, we're already seeing an influx of books (romance included) that are a result of readers attraction to Harry and his magical friends and writers attempts to capitalize on it...

Chessie: Sure, why not. It depends on how it is handled.

Karen: Yes, I think fantasy elements have a place in "real" setting romances. When done well they can be a wonderful enhancement. Unfortunately, too often they're done badly, which is why they've gone out of favor.

BARBARA SHERIDAN - Paraphernalia Feature Columnist
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor ~ Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity ~ Cy Korte: Reviews Editor

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