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presents

We Want More.......
Fantasy Romances!!!

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

PNR Q.: All paranormal romances contain fantasy elements whether they be shape-shifting, time or space travel, magic, or fictional realms. What more is required in order to categorize a paranormal as a Fantasy Romance per se?



Shelly R:
I think of a fantasy paranormal as one containing elements of high fantasy (like elves or the fae), or of historical fantasy (likes myths and fairy tales).

Leslie T: Major elements would be fictional setting, unique beings that have a major impact on the story, an entire race of beings with special abilities which are taken for granted.

Chessie: For me, I consider a Fantasy Romance a romance where the characters are interacting on a world that is not earth, but similar to earth. Magic takes the place of technology, and any number of fantastic beings roam around in the plot. I consider a Science Fiction Romance, one where technology is the driving force of the world. Fantasy tends to have a historical feel, while Science Fiction has a futuristic one, but the appeal for both types is the same. Anything can happen because the story is taking place outside the confines of earth's reality.

Karen M.: Well, to me, space travel says SF Romance, and a lot of time travels are really just Historicals. Most people consider magic in some form a sine qua non for fantasy. My own personal understanding of fantasy is that in it, some sort of non-standard power or technology (we can call it magic for short) has to be essentially important in the characters' lives.

Keri A.: For me, a fantasy romance involves 'high' fantasy creatures such as elves, gnomes, fairy. Paranormal is more vampire, shapeshifter, psi abilities and witches.

PNR Q.: Which scenario would be your preference in a fantasy romance: Everyday characters in a fantasy setting, or fantasy characters in an everyday setting? Why?


Shelly R: Hmm, I like both. If the writer is very good at bringing a new world to life through creativity and description, I love to lose myself in it. However, it's also a great fantasy to believe that there are places and people just around the corner in our own world that aren't quite what they seem, and that contain some magic.

Leslie T: Well I guess I like everyday characters and fantasy characters together interacting in the world as we know it, have known it, or one that is similar. I think we all like to think that those fantasy beings are out there just waiting for us to discover them. Although putting everyday characters in fantastic settings can be fun as well.

Chessie: I would rather have everyday characters in a fantasy setting, because the fun of a fantasy is the setting. A good fantasy has a world that is well developed and interesting because it is strange to us. However the
setting should not eclipse the heart of the romance.


Karen M.: Either, neither, both or all. The scenario can be amusing either way you play it. I also like fantasies where you have fantasy characters completely within a fantasy setting (oddly enough, I've written a couple of those <g>). The skill of the author in delineating characters and/or world is the most important factor in my enjoyment.

Keri A.: I like both if they're well done, but I do have a leaning towards fantasy characters in a everyday setting. I think it's easier to lose yourself in the story if the setting is an everyday one, and you don't have to stop and remember what the heck 'klah' is.

Ann L.: I like everyday characters in fantasy setting personally (gee...I think that's what I write) more because I like the test of extraordinary things happening to regular people. This also goes for my love of suspense novels, mystery, whatever. I relate to the regular person who is tested by circumstances, the world they find themselves in, the dilemma the world
throws at them...

Rosemary L.: Actually I'd go for fantasy characters in a fantasy setting....

PNR Q.: Do you prefer fantasy worlds to be medieval in setting? Futuristic?


Shelly R: I like them to be what works. If the author is doing urban fantasy, then a modern day setting is cool. If she is re-telling a fairy tale I've seen many different settings that work, depending on how the author chooses to tell the tale. Beauty has been done through the eyes of a concentration camp victim, and Tam Lin on a college campus, and yet other tales are medieval versions that work just as well.

Leslie T: One of the wonderful things about this genre is that the tales are only limited by the author's imagination. I get bored very quickly with so called formula pieces. So as long as the storyline is unique, I'm happy with the plot regardless of setting.

Chessie: I could go for either, so long as the world is really well developed, and the romance is heart-stopping.

Karen M.: Well, the common usage in fantasy seems to be a quasi-medieval setting, which is what I've done, but I've also seen some wonderful ones done with quasi-Regency and Victorian England settings. To me Futuristic again takes the book into SF Romance.

Keri A.: It doesn't bother me either way, as long as the setting is realistic. One thing that does annoy me is a fantasy world that's little more than a carbon copy of earth.

Rosemary L.: Futuristic or pure fantasy..the medieval always puts me off.. I think about the plumbing... :-)

PNR Q.: In either scenario what must an author do to make the story believable, or to allow the reader to suspend disbelief?


Shelly R: For me she must explain, however briefly, the connection between the worlds of fantasy and our world that allows characters to pass between, and she must keep the rules for passage constant (I'm assuming at least one human in the book to be our link to the story). Constancy is a primary objective when creating worlds and characters, and if the writer can do that, she's tackled a big problem. The second thing that draws me in is language and description. If the land or characters are not ours, the writer should make sure she illustrates this, from descriptions of the settings that highlight the unique and beautiful, to an unexpected action from a character because he's not of this world.

Leslie T: Regardless of setting or the type of characters portrayed, the author must create situations or circumstances that the reader can relate to. The story must engage the reader's emotions and evoke a sympathetic response to the protagonists.

Chessie: My pet peeve here is when authors rename things we can recognize on earth. The fun of a fantasy is to watch how people react to something that is unlike anything we have on earth.

Karen M.: Internal consistency is absolutely essential. If the heroine can't escape from the wicked lord's castle because he's set a spell around it to make everyone who steps through it burst into flame, she can't later just waltz in and say, "Oh, well, that spell only works when you're coming out" *unless* that fact had already been established earlier in the story.

Also essential is that the magic have its own set of rules and limits. I get irritated with authors whose characters seem to develop new powers every time they face a new challenge. Plus, I think magic is most interesting when it not only has rules and limits, but when there is a price for using it. The old TANSTAAFL principle makes for more interesting stories.

Keri A.: Be consistent with your rules, give me a setting that doesn't overwhelm the story, characters to cheer for, a hero and heroine to care about, and I'm a happy camper.

Rosemary L.: IMO it's vital to pull the reader in by their emotions... if you are pulled into the characters' heads then you can suspend disbelief in most other details...

PNR Q.: Do you feel that the presence of magical or immortal beings enhance a fantasy plot? How important do you feel this element is?


Shelly R: Immortality is not necessary for me. I think the magic is kind of important though, because without it it's not fantasy. And the magic is kind of worthless unless someone in the book can interact with or
control it.

Leslie T: Immortality brings a whole different set of problems and can be quite interesting. However I can't imagine a fantasy without some element of magic or special abilities.

Chessie: Since romance is essentially about emotion, it is even more important to have magical beings as characters in fantasy romances. Magical beings can interact and evoke emotions better than magical settings can.

Karen M.: I'm pretty neutral on this one. All depends on the skill of the author.

Keri A.: I love reading about magical or immortal beings, but if they are only in the story for decoration, then get rid of them. If they're vital for the story, great.

Rosemary L.: It can do..depends on the story... it's by no means essential.

PNR Q.: What do you feel are the differences between romances released by romance vs. fantasy imprints?


Shelly R: The focus of the story. Paranormal fantasy romances like Prince of Charming make the romance the center of the story, with all the surrounding action in the book directly related to that. In a romantic fantasy like McKillip's The Changeling Sea or MacAvoy's Tea with the Black Dragon, there is a primary story that is not romance, and the romances, while integral to the characters and their development, are not the main point of the story.

Leslie T: I think that the lines are blurring more and more as time goes on. I think perhaps the difference may be the depth to which the main character's character is explored. The fantasy romances tend to focus on the hero and heroine and what happens to them. The romantic fantasies that I've read have a tendency to take one of the two and go in depth about what motivates that person, what has shaped them, and why their soul mate suits them. They are more biographical or autobiographical depending on the voice the author chooses to tell the tale.

Karen M.: Pretty simple. Fantasy romances released by the mainline romance houses (and I'm thinking the big NY ones here, not the specialty imprints or epublishers) concentrate on the romance first and foremost while the milieu is less fully developed. OTOH romantic fantasies from the SF/Fantasy publishers tend to have more fully developed settings and milieus while the relationship isn't developed as extensively, or at least not as obviously.

Personal opinion here: the fantasy houses do it better, IMHO. Frequently the romance in a fantasy romance from an SF/Fantasy publisher is less obviously developed, but when you start looking at it more closely, you can't help but see that the romance is more shown than told, and the characters' actions tend to speak in more depth about how they view the relationship and their SO than the endless internal monologues that seem to fill many romances (with some very notable exceptions!)

Keri A.: Fantasy romances released by fantasy publishers very rarely advertise the fact that they are romances. They're aiming for a totally different market, and it seems to be a common belief that women don't buy SF&F much these days (I have no idea where they get this idea, mind you).

Rosemary L.: Haven't noticed....as I tend to read without regard for the publisher....but at a guess, I'd hazard that from a romance publisher there would be a better developed romance element...

PNR Q.: Do you feel it is important that the fantasy elements do not displace the romance, as the focus of the story? Do you feel it is possible to create stories that adequately balance the two? How?


Shelly R: I have different expectations depending on how the book is marketed. I think that balance is possible, but I wonder if it would be allowed by romance publishers. I have seen it, but the books have been
published as fantasy. The way these stories work is that the romance
is given equal time to any other plot in the book, and the arc of the
romance is across the entire book, so that the resolution is in the
last chapter or so just as it would be in a romance. Lackey's The Fire
Rose does this, as does Josepha Sherman's Son of Darkness.

Leslie T: I think that these two elements may be balanced more frequently in Fantasy imprints although I also think that some of the more adventurous editors are taking more risks and allowing the authors more leaway. Since I enjoy real depth to a story I think this is a promising trend.

Chessie: I believe it is possible to find stories that balance the two. I believe these stories are already written but no one is giving them a chance because they don't fit neatly into either category. That is sad.

Karen M.: I think I at least partly answered that question above. I like a pretty equal balance of fantasy and romance, but I adhere to the principle that actions speak louder than words. I really prefer books with lots of
plot--books that give characters room to grown and develop, that show how the characters change and how their feelings for each develop. Susan Squires' recent book DANEGELD was a wonderful example of an author showing how a relationship can develop between two very different characters who initially don't even speak each others' language. The best books, the books I really love, weave the fantasy and romance elements together so intrinsically that you can't separate them.
So, yes, I think it's possible to balance the two elements.

Keri A.: I think it depends on what type of book you're after. I love fantasy just as much as fantasy romance--I just need characters to care about. I do believe it's possible to achieve a balance of romance and fantasy in a novel--but I also believe many publishers do NOT know what to do with such a book.

Ann L.: Critique partners of mine really butted heads with this question. They wrote a wonderful book that was a Golden Heart Finalist, but found it rejected by the fantasy folks as too romantic and the romance editors as too fantasy. I think the difference is the balance and time spent on the romance. If the romance is THE story, it's romance. If the fantasy world takes over and the fantasy plotline is heavier, it's fantasy. You can't sit on the fence these days, I guess. Frankly, I loved the story my critique partners wrote, but it just didn't sell.

Rosemary L.: YES....if it's a fantasy romance..'pure' fantasy it's not so important...As to balance, A skilled writer with a good story can do just about anything.

PNR Q.: Do you share this sentiment, "It seems a shame to contrive a well developed "other world" only to have it end with one book.." Do you like series?


Shelly R: While I like a good series as much as the next person, I am more apt to buy a standalone. I'm keeping track of too many endless series as it is, and I don't want to add to the list. Not only that, but romance has made me enjoy resolution within a single book. Though there are a few writers who have different romances within a single world so you get world continuity with a plot resolution in each book, and I enjoy some of those.

Leslie T: Well again it depends on the focus. If the two main characters are the end all and be all of the story then that's fine. However, I'm a firm believer that people don't exist in a vacuum, that they have to be tested for the romance to be believed and that generally involves secondary characters. If the secondary characters are developed enough, it is difficult not to expect to see them again or to want them to have their own story. Likewise if a setting or premise really draws the reader in, it is probably that they will want to revisit that world in the future. With all the books out there to be had, its not likely that I will be rereading a large number of books, so the obvious answer is to continue the story with fresh characters.

Chessie: I always prefer series to single books. I love getting attached to characters and knowing that I will see them again. If I read one book in a series, I WILL read every other book in that series too.

Talya: In general, no, I don't like series. As a reader, part of my enjoyment of reading a book goes beyond the story and characters. It's the setting (I'm talking futuristic/fantasy). I like to see the worlds that authors conjure up, and if they only write in one setting, for the whole series, it can become repetitious. Also, it becomes a chore to keep up with what's going on from book to book, especially if the books come out far apart.

Having said that, if the series is well written, and it doesn't go beyond 2-3 books, I'll read it. Series I have enjoyed that range up to 4 books are outside of this genre. They were/are incredibly well written, and I read them over and over.

Karen M.: Yes, if the world is interesting enough and the author doesn't recycle the same plot over and over.

Keri A.: I love series--though I hate the wait between books!

Charlee: Since my WindLegends Saga series has nine volumes, I like series books. Although those books have the same recurring characters, they don't take place in the same setting each time. I created thirteen new 'worlds' in which to place the saga. I also incorporated magic and fantasy elements to go with my alpha male hero and fiesty heroine. Although the storyline is completely character driven and deals primarily with the hero's life, there is a very strong undercurrent of romance throughout the ten volumes (last one being written now). I tend to create my world building novels in trilogies. BloodWind has two sequels (DarkWind, coming in Nov. and EvilWind, coming next year); WindChance and WindFall are part of a trilogy that completes with WindBorne. BlackWind, coming soon, will have two sequels, as well. If I like what my characters have done in one book, I tend to not want to leave them to their own devices and never visit with them again. My readers tell me they enjoy the series and can't wait for the next installment. Even reviewers have made that comment so I think I must be doing something right.

Ann L.: I do. I want to revisit a world I like or the other characters I met in a book. I think this is why I'm a hopeless re-reader (my dh considers re-reading a book a slight insanity on my part as he thinks there are too many new books out to re-read any one. But I'm working on him...). I love to re-read because I love to visit again and again the places and people I've loved. So series are big for me.


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

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