"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
We queried the
listers and here is what they had to say!
March 2001 Issue
Many fantasy/magical romance have heroes or heroines with some sort of
gift/power, what do you think the appeal is of these novels?
T: I think that at some time or other everyone wishes they
could do a little magic whether it be to give someone joy or to alleviate
someone's suffering. Perhaps to an gift would give a person a small
sense of control in a world where most occurrences are out of our hands.
It's something that all of us have desired to have at one point or another.
The sense that the characters are special. Good vs. evil always appeals
to me too.
think half the appeal is wishing for things we know we can never have
Courtney: For me it's wanting to read about powers I wish I had. <g>
Gil: Magic opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. It's the stuff of dreams. Fantasies and paranormals with magically gifted characters are fairy tales for grown-ups. I adored fairy tales as a child, so graduating to fantasy was a natural for me.
consideration: many of us were teased and harassed as kids. I know I
was. Books, particularly fantasies, were my escape. I read A Wrinkle
in Time when it first came out, and I*was* Meg Murray, and I was being
made utterly miserable by kids at my school. In many fantasy books,
the heroine or hero is someone who doesn't quite fit in the real world,
but whose special gifts allow them to triumph. Lessa of Pern. Shay and
Raven in the Carpathian books. Maggie Shayne's witches. We can identify
with heir underdog status.
write fantasy and darker fantasy because my imperfect, emotionally scarred
characters get to win. In a way, it's my method of comforting the adolescent
girl I once was, who was made completely miserable in junior high. I
suppose it's therapy. But it also makes for a good story. The little
like to think that these gifts represent the mysterious side of life,
the part that we are one with the elements/world around us. I love reading
books that have characters who are able to connect with this 'higher
Rickey: The appeal of having such powers yourself. I know I've loved faerie tales ever since I was little, and it was always the *idea* that such things could really happen. You might call it the "Carrie" syndrome (from S King's book). The plain little girl, the unnoticed little girl, the one everyone made fun of, could suddenly have powers over all these people who seem to be more in control of your life than you are yourself.
love 'em! Having a gift or power immediately adds conflict to a story.
The character is forced to deal with the gift's ramifications. Regardless
of whether they let the gift overwhelm them, or guide the story, I'm
PNR Q.: Let's talk preferences, when it comes to power do you prefer it in the hands of the hero, heroine, or both. How about villains, evil powers in the hands of male, female or both?
T: Definitely both. When it comes to romance I like to see
the hero and heroine be on equal footing. Same with villains.
I don't like for both the heroine and hero to have it. I think that
when only one person has the ability, it adds more depth to the relationship.
It's something that the heroine and hero have to work through and with.
When it comes to villains, I want both to have it, especially the females.
Female villains are more inventive with their powers than males.
Preference would be heroine or both but not hero only. Evil
powers - no preference.
think the heroine definitely has to be on an equal footing with the
hero. She must be his equal in all ways. As for the villian, what challenge
is there is him being weak? He has to be as strong, or stronger than
the hero/heroine. He has to be a real threat. And I'd love to see more
I like it better when it's the heroine, and definitely when an evil
female has power. Always makes the book interesting, especially if there
is a major showdown between the two women...sort of the ultimate good/evil
I prefer strong characters, with flaws, and a limit on their powers.
Sorcerers Supreme do not work well. No tension. I don't really have
a preference for which sex has the magical powers--but if it's got a
villains, I want a strong character with a good reason for what they
are doing, and I'd like him three dimensional, rather than just a cardboard
cutout with Villain across the forehead. Give him a real motive--and
remember that the villain sees himself as the hero of the story. And
if they are a Wiccan gone dark--make sure you make that clear, because
a witch who works dark isn't a Wiccan any more than a Satanist is a
Southern Baptist. Both have turned against their Deity and their code
I like books that have both characters having a special power. I like
to see the hero and heroine get together because they share a magical
trait. As for villains - well, that depends on the story. I pretty much
like to read books that have only one main villain either male or female.
Rickey: I guess I like both. If I had to pick, I'd say heroine, because she's less strong and less capable physically and therefore may be more in need of special powers.
Villains? The best heroes and heroines need villains that are equal to them (to make their winning even more triumphant). So yes, the villains should have special powers too, if it works for the book.
it in the main character. If that's the h/h, great! If it's the villain,
wonderful. Just as long as the power is used in a way that makes sense.
PNR Q.: Do you prefer witches who are immortal, or is vulnerability part of their appeal, i.e., discovery of their ability could put them in mortal danger?
T: I like them both. Immortals are interesting because the
HEA really is one, and I think everyone likes to think about that. Vulnerability
is not exclusive to mortal witches though. Take Maggie Shayne's books,
where the light witches were put in limbo by a dark witch who stole
their hearts for power. These can be very interesting stories. I think
the reader can feel more personal empathy for the mortal witches though.
There is the fear of discovery and their consequences that create a
different sort of tension. I tend to put myself in their shoes while
Vulnerability is a main part of their appeal. They have to work harder
to stay alive and unharmed.
I like the vulnerability. Immortality seems to make them TOO powerful.
think even immortals should be vulnerable in some way. But I do have
a preference for witches just coming into their powers and being placed
indanger because of that.
Courtney: I prefer witches who are immortal.
Gil: Depends. IF it's a Wiccan witch, and there's no explanation for the immortality (I loved Maggie Shayne's explanation for the High Witches: those who died helping save a witch are reborn as immortal High Witches with special powers), I tend to be unthrilled. It's the fact thing again. If it's a fairy tale witch, the writer is free to make whatever rules she wishes. I *am* bothered a great deal by shows like Charmed which are really just Bewitched with Wicca tacked on, because it's like calling the heroine a Southern Baptist, then making up completely what she believes and saying because she's a Baptist she can run faster and jump higher...Barb Sheridan gets it right, so does Maggie Shayne.
tend to prefer vulnerable heroines and heroes because if they are all
powerful, there's no story! Vulnerability is what makes the plot work.
here has to be something which threatens the heroine/hero, even if it's
only emotionally vulnerability. Even Gandalf in LotR can be killed.
You need to balance power with vulnerability, or you end up with no
vulnerability is part of their appeal, but I want to see them become
immortal after they've suffered whatever is to be their ordeal. I wouldn't
like a book that killed off the witch and that was that. I think of
immortality as a reward of some kind.
Rickey: Definitely mortal, in my opinion.
witches are not immortal. Each witch has a gift or talent, be it divination
or healing, etc. So unless immortality is one of their gifts, this addition
to the plot seems ridiculous.
PNR Q.: If the witches are immortal in nature is it important that both hero and heroine by immortals?
T: I think it especially important for both to be empowered
if the witches in question are immortals. Wouldn't make for much of
a HEA otherwise. This would be the same for any long lived beings, vampires
etc. I suppose some might find it romantic that someone could love a
person enough to be with them even though that person ages while they
stay young and beautiful but I think it is sad.
It makes for a better ending if both are immortal; but with one having
immortality, it adds more to the character. The hero/heroine know that
their love will die, but they aren't willing to forsake the pain they
will eventually suffer.
No, but then it is sad that one will grow old & die.
Definitely. It's too sad thinking that only one will grow old and die.
Courtney: Well of course! Talk about the ultimate happily-ever-after!
Well, otherwise you're faced with the bummer ending that the magical
character will inevitably have to watch the beloved age and die while
they remain young...which is a tragic ending, not a romantic one. Remember
the original Highlander film, and Connor's love for Heather. It's deeply
romantic, but it's NOT romance, because most of us want a happy ending.
not sure about that. Part of me says yes, part of me says no. I'm a
big fan of Highlander and in a story like that, the sadness of only
one character living forever is part of the emotional story line.
Rickey: In view of my answer to #3, I might say N/A, but this is an interesting question. A favorite movie of mine is Highlander (original) and he's immortal but he keeps leaving the loves of his life behind. For some reason that is compelling, in a 'tortured hero' sort of way.
just hand immortality out like it's a coupon. The great thing
PNR Q.: Among the vast variety of witchlike characters, some are hereditary witches, that is they inherit their powers, others are through craft, apprentices to others with the skills they wish to acquire. What do
you find appealing about each of these types?
T: There are differences that make them both interesting.
I think it can be lots of fun when the witch in question is just getting
a handle on their gift. I love humor in magical scenarios. Inherited
powers still need to be controlled, that can add humor as well, or suppose
they just want to be "normal", think about a witch who feels
like Susan Krinard's werewolf Rowena. Of course if you're having a bad
millenium there's always the next. There are lots of ways to got with
Hereditary witches are often faced with the fact that this is a gift
they can't get rid of. They have to learn to live with it. Having to
learn to focus your powers, to develop shows a great deal of determination
and drive, not to mention dedication.
Hereditary witches seem like they might take their powers too much for
granted. By learning them, they really want to aquire the skills etc.
I like both for different reasons. With hereditary witches, you always
hear about the history of the ancestors, and see how far along this
particular witch has come. And with others who practice the skill and
aquire the power, they have an entirely different outlook on their gift.
Gil: Again, it depends. If you're writing Wiccans, there is such a thing as a family trade. I actually know one lady who's a Norse witch, and the teachings have been passed on from mother to daughter, like the witches in Practical Magic. That is NOT the rule, since Wicca only dates back to Gerald Gardner, in the mid 20th century, as an attempt to recreate the old nature religions . My friend's family simply was the rare exception, where old sorceries were kept alive. That's how Maggie Shayne handles it in her books, as does Barb Sheridan. And they both use Wicca as a religion, as well as just spell-casting.
But even if you do go the hereditary route, a natural talent which runs in families, your mage character will still need training. Even great artists apprentice, and take lessons. Ditto musicians. Magic is the same way--an inborn talent which requires shaping. I will admit to having a definite prejudice against stories where the heroine doesn't need training at all. For me that blows the wiling suspension of disbelief all to hell.
think the hereditary thing is great. It makes for a strong character
- a soul defending ancient traditions. Yet a character new to the craft,
etc, can be great as well. As both writer and reader you can really
get into the character as the hero/heroine feels the excitement of learning
this new mystery.
Rickey: I am not particularly interested in either of these types. My favorite is the character who does not know how or why s/he came about his/her powers, and has to learn, often on his/her own, how to use them. They are ostracized from others because of their differentness, and this is part of the battle they face through the course of the story.
like witches who learn their craft, or come from a long line of witches.
Just having magickal powers bestowed on someone always feels too forced.
PNR Q.: What elements do you enjoy most fantasy elements as in the performance of magic, or more natural elements such as the ability to heal?
T: I like empathy best, people who can feel what other's need
and do what they can to provide it, that gift makes a heroine truly
heroic to my mind. I enjoy all kinds though truly. Some of my favorites
are Nora Roberts' Donovan Legacy, Barb Sheridan's Silver Rain, Sandra
Hill, the Blue Viking, and actually Chris Feehan's new gothic, The Scarletti
Curse features a very devout heroine with the gift of empathy who hides
her gift for fear of being branded a witch. I also loved this months
featured books by Carol Lynn Steward, Maggie Shayne, and Karen McCullough.
I really dislike it when the witch protagonist uses their powers inappropriately.
A hero who uses his shapeshifting ability to be a voyeur, while his
heroine thinks he's a lovely animal that she's taken into her home,
is not nice.
It depends on the story itself. Some times, I enjoy the performance
of magic; it fits the characters. Other times, the natural elements
seem to flow better and are somewhat more believable.
I like healing stuff the most. But in a good vs. evil battle, let those
tend to like 'natural' elements more than straight out magic. Storm
witches, empaths, healers, etc.
Courtney: Definitely fantasy elements.
Again, it depends on how you're handling it. If the character is a Wiccan,
I like the spells to work in such a way that the magic isn't perceptible
to those who don't know about it. Heroine casts a spell for
to prefer magic which has a consistent system, and which eaves the mage
vulnerable. Consistency is key. My pref is for ritual magic over the
nose-twitching--but I don't mind nose-twitching if it makes sense within
the context of the story. One of my favorite books is Jill Barnett's
Bewitching, where the heroine's control other powers isn't very good,
with hilarious consequences, but there is still a set of rules by which
magic works, and they are consistent, even if the heroine's control
tend to like stories that have the characters doing good for others
with their magic such as healing. But if I were reading a modern day
fairytale, then I'd want to have some fun with the spells/magic.
Rickey: I love healing powers. I also love shapechanging. Not nearly as interested in the spell-casting type of character.
Jade: I enjoy all aspects of magick. Mostly, I prefer magick that makes sense. Using a goldfish to fly doesn't mesh with the intrinsic nature of the craft. Being a traditional witch, I also prefer magick that isn't too new agey.