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by Barbara Sheridan
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor - Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity
To submit articles of interest to our readers Email Barbara.

May 2000 Issue

Tea, Crumpets, and......Paranormal?

Tea with a Vampire?...

Karen Harbaugh
A.k.a. Kathleen Elliot

I'm a half Japanese, U.S. Northwesterner, Navy brat, am (mumble, mumble) years old, have a BA in English, am happily married to a sweet and supportive engineer, and have one alarmingly intelligent son. I have found being a full?time romance writer, mom and wife to be a heck of a lot more challenging than being a Quality Assurance Analyst for a major HMO or being a technical writer. The job has longer hours, for one thing, and I'm on call a good 24 hours a day, and there is no such thing as vacation time.

I grew up along the coast of the west coast of the U.S. with a four year detour to Hawaii during my high school years (yay Radford High!). I still remember Miss Fukuji who actually managed to get me into the Math Club and Miss Harada, who introduced me to Shakespeare and had us read Chaucer's Miller's Tale in the original Middle English. I still remember all of my teachers from kindergarten on, except for Junior High, which seems to be a complete blank, why I don't know. I suspect it has something to do with the influence of adolescent hormones on one's brain, something I am learning about as my son goes through puberty. Argh. I eventually ended up at the University of Washington, and couldn't decide on whether to major in Psych. or English, but decided on English. Those years were, however, some of the most delightful years of my life, and I'd go back to college in a second for more degrees if I could. I've consigned this ambition under the heading of "One Of These Days," however, along with such foreign ideas as "vacation."


An interview with Karen Harbaugh

Barb S: Karen, you write the short regencies for Signet I believe? You have written a number of straight regencies. The regency period was rather short and the elite had a pretty rigid code of behavior. I understand that regency readers do not expect the writer to deviate much from expectations. Why did you decide to include paranormal elements in several of your regency romances rather than writing paranormal romances on the side?

Karen H: Well, I wrote two "normal" Regencies when I was writing for HarperCollins under the pseudonym, Kathleen Elliott. After that...well, I just wrote the paranormal ones, and those were published under my real name at Signet. That's just how they came out. I didn't particularly decide whether they'd have fantasy in them. The first two fantasy Regencies I wrote were what I call "gift" books, in that The Devil's Bargain (and yes, the hero does sell his soul to Lucifer) came to me whole and complete--all I needed to do was write what was in my head. The second, The Vampire Viscount, was also a "gift" book, in that it had an incredible energy and absolutely had to be written, although I was only really joking when I suggested writing a Regency with a vampire in it.

I was surprised that they sold to Signet Regencies, because publishers are pretty rigid about what they will take and what they won't. However, I also knew that there is a strong contingent of science fiction and fantasy fans amongst Regency readers. I mean, science fiction conventions have had Regency cotillions for years before romance conventions even thought of having them. So I wasn't afraid that they would be turned off by these elements. All I needed to do was market them properly, and they'd do very well. And so they did. Readers are much less rigid about what they'll read than publishers are.

Mind you, there is a fanatical core of Regency readers who insist on the very traditional kinds of Regency romances, who won't touch anything with sex or a hint of the paranormal. They--and others--do think that there was a rigid code of behavior during the Regency. The fact was, there wasn't, not nearly as rigid as they think. What they think is "Regency" behavior is really Victorian/Edwardian--that's the sort of behavior that Georgette Heyer drew from when she wrote her books, and everyone assumes that's the way it was. But original sources show it wasn't that rigid. Seriously. Regency folk were wild and radical Georgians, not Victorians. I mean, sheesh, Victoria wasn't even Queen then. Georgians drank and partied all night. Victorians believed in cold showers and long periods of mourning.

However, insofar as the Regency world as built by the Grand Georgette is rather like world-building vis a vis science fiction and fantasy, you don't want to go too far away from those expectations when writing a Regency. People will crawl all over you if you do. You really do have to have a sort of balance between that and historical accuracy.

Barb S: How were these paranormal elements received? I mean I can perhaps see cupid gaining acceptance but a vampire viscount? What made you decide to make your hero a vampire?

Karen H: The Vampire Viscount was received with...controversy. certainly with a great deal of curiosity, and most definitely with excellent sales--it's gone into three printings. Most people couldn't imagine how it could be: Regency (proper people sipping tea, sex certainly never on their minds)...Vampires (improper people sipping blood, sex a good deal on their minds).

But it was perfect and blended very well. The Regency romance world is a "shared world," much like those that fiction and fantasy--think of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover stories, for instance. Ms. Bradley kindly allowed fellow writers to play in her world for a while, much like Regency writers "play" in Georgette Heyer's world. The concept is the same.

When you write any kind of paranormal, SF or fantasy story, you have to do your world building. Otherwise, the story's not convincing. There are certain rules you have to abide by when writing a Regency so as to construct a recognizable Regency world. Once you know what those rules are you can write a convincing Regency. Putting paranormal or fantasy elements in a Regency simply means you need to add more rules and more world building to your story in addition to the ones you already abide by.

Ironic, isn't it? You'd think that writing something this unusual means you'd be breaking the rules. But in reality, it means you ADD more rules. That's what world building is all about: constructing rules around which your fantasy/science fiction world operates.

It also helped that the modern vampire was built on a Regency rake: Lord Byron. The first seductive, suave vampire was Lord Ruthven, written by John Polidori, Lord Byron's personal doctor. Before that, vampires were ugly, horrible beasts. So it wasn't much of a stretch to incorporate a vampire into the Regency's nightlife, since Regency aristocrats often partied into the wee hours of the morning and didn't get up until afternoon.

As for the rest of my fantasy Regencies, I just continued incorporating elements I loved ever since I was a kid: fairy tales, Greek mythology, and science fiction/fantasy. Gotta go where the muse leads you. I was very, very fortunate to have an editor who supported my whimsy like this.

Barb S: Have you any plans to write another such book, perhaps with another Vampire?

Karen H: Yes, I'm writing one now, although this is a historical set during the French Revolution, not a Regency. This time, it features a female vampire heroine. I had a bit of trouble with this concept at first, because this is a very strong heroine: powerful, swift, deadly. She demanded a very strong hero. Who could be a match for a heroine like that?

An assassin, of course! As dark and deadly as a non-vampire hero can get, I think. As usual, history nicely dovetails with my imagination: There was ample reason for England to send an assassin to kill off whoever might be trying to fund the spread of revolution. So, why not have a covert British government agency do just that?

I want to thank Anne Stuart, by the way, for teaching me what dark and dangerous is all about. When looking for a dark and dangerous hero, you can't do better than read her books. I learned a great deal about how to create such a hero from her and from reading her books. In fact, she's written a few vampire heroes as well, I believe. She really is a genius this way.

Anyway, I have the prologue and first few chapters of my vampire historical (currently titled NIGHT FIRES) on my website. You can read them by going to: http://www.sff.net/people/KarenH and clicking on "Work in Progress." Let me know what you think! I plan to put readers' comments on that website as soon as I get my FTP program working.

Featured in this Issue:

Interviews with:
Karen Harbaugh
Jo Beverley

Sandra Heath

Rosemary Stevens
Contributions from:
The Regency list


Karen Harbaugh

Website

 Books



Signet Regency
October 1995
ISBN: 0451183193

Rerelease with "The Devil's Bargain" scheduled for September 2004

Being a vampire is okay--you get to stay up all night, women find you irresistable, you're strong, fast, and magic is yours for the taking. But Nicholas, Viscount St. Vire finds all of that means little in the face of impending insanity and the eventual deterioration of his senses. Only the the willing embrace of a virginal young woman can reverse his condition. Who better for his wife-to-be than the impoverished Leonore Farleigh, whose abusive father sells her to St. Vire to pay off gaming debts? Leonore agrees to marry him--how else is she going to save her sister and her mother from their poverty and pain? But she soon finds she's stepped into a marriage of inconvenience ... and possible death.

Other Paranormal
Regency Romances

Signet Regency
February 1997
ISBN: 451192397


Buy it now!

Signet Regency
Feb. 1998
ISBN: 0451194713


Buy it now!

Signet Regency
Feb. 1999
ISBN: 0451195353


Buy it now!

Kensington
January 1998
ISBN: 0821758179

 

 

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