Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On Romance and Demons

I recently had my first opportunity as an author to speak in a book store, Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT. I'd like to share what I said that evening, on romance and demons.

“Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing,” so says Snow White on the television series Once Upon a Time.

Since I began reading romance in college, I’ve found that romance novels may be the most misunderstood books on the shelf, even though they out sell every other genre. Romance Writers of America defines a romance as “a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

I once gave a romance book to a friend to borrow and she handed it back to me saying, “No, that’s smut.” Never mind that it wasn’t any more graphic than most Hollywood movies.
I once saw a man in a bookstore shield his daughter while passing by the romance shelf. (Later I saw them browsing the horror section.)

Let me take a moment to share how I see romance novels. Remember the movie Titanic? Had Titanic been a book, it would have been a love story on the fiction shelf, because it didn’t have the happy ending required to be on the romance shelf, but that’s the only difference between that story and a great romance. Was Titanic smutty? Certainty not.

In Titanic, a young woman changed her life, fell in love, and survived a tragedy at the same time.

Romance stories send powerful messages to both men and women. You can fall in love and save the family business after a devastating hurricane. You can have a Happily Ever After and defeat an invading vampire army. Characters—especially female characters—don’t have to choose between their goals as they do in many mainstream stories.

In horror, you have sex and you usually die. In romance, you can have everything you want if you’re willing to confront challenges. Romances do not harbor damsels in distress. Romances feature strong women.

Now, some may say Happy Ever Afters are not realistic. True enough, unfortunately. But why do we read? For reality? No, we don’t read fiction for reality. We read fiction to experience things we may never experience in real life—not that I think true love is unrealistic, personally. That’s why I chose to write in the romance genre.


Paranormal romances are romances with a strong fantasy element—vampires or werewolves, witches,  Greek gods. I write about angels, demons, and ghosts. Deep in Crimson is the second book in my Return to Sanctuary series, which features a world where demons protect fallen archangels from human poachers.

Both hated by humans, the fallen angels and the demons joined forces for survival. The love story in the first book of my Return to Sanctuary series, Out in Blue, is a between a human woman who was raised by a demon, and a half-human, half-archangel hero. The romance is fast paced and focuses on the idea that love can happen fast and hard, when the right two people come together, and that even the most dire external obstacles can be overcome. I am a believer in true love and love at nearly first sight, and these particular characters are the embodiment of that.

The love story in the second book in the series, Deep in Crimson, focuses on free will. Both the demon hero and the demon heroine have issues concerning whether or not they are the driving force in their own lives. In paranormal romances, you find a lot of plot lines with pre-ordained destines and such. The prince and the princess, separated after millennia, reunite in a bar in a questionable neighborhood in New York. Those stories can be very romantic when done right.

In Crimson, I examined the pros and cons to being stuck fulfilling a prophecy, what drives us to want the things we want, how fighting hard for one thing can allow something better time to sneak up behind us, and how sometimes we miss that the most important thing was right in front us the whole time.

In Deep in Crimson, both the hero and heroine are demons, though the archangels continue to play a critical role in the plot.

Demons in fantasy stories make, in my opinion, endlessly interesting protagonists and antagonists. Being inherently evil—or inherently any one thing of limited scope—isn’t natural for a sentient creature. Personalities and experiences will always provide variation and growth. That makes the demon a perfect character to examine in fiction—so much potential conflict. What will happen when they grow beyond the tiny little box of “pure evil?” How will they turn out when they sidestep expectations?

I wanted to write demon characters in the first place because I’ve always loved the idea of taking the “monsters” of other stories and making them the heroes and heroines. Vampires in modern paranormal romance and some fantasy are excellent examples. I’ve always been a fan of more traditional vampire stories, but I also love reading—and writing--how they overcome their darker natures to be the heroes of stories.

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