Only two more weeks until Relapse comes out…..eek!!!!! Why did I decide to release it right after Thanksgiving again? Oh, right, because I love you guys, and I want you to have something to read over winter break. 😉
Before we go on with today’s post, I thought I’d mention I got a little (very, very little) writing done this weekend…335 words, to be exact. I’m working on a novella from Anna’s POV. The novella takes place somewhat parallel to the events in Reborn. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it, or if it will become part of the next book. I’m mainly doing it to find her voice and flesh out her back story, since I want to incorporate more from her POV in future books.
But, anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. I want to talk about influences: the authors, themes, and types of characters I’ve become obsessed with over the years. This may turn into a two-part post…we shall see…
1. Mischief and Mayhem
As a reader and writer, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that there could be these otherworldly, always mischievous (and often malevolent) beings sort of lurking in the background, in worlds adjacent to our own, influencing it in ways we don’t realize. (Or sometimes, as they do in Reborn, they get very mixed up in our world.) It’s a totally freaky, even creepy idea–one I think is so much fun to explore in fiction, but nothing I actually believe in real life. When I was first playing around with the story that would eventually become Reborn, this is the concept I knew I wanted to capture. I wanted my supernatural beings to be volatile, mischievous, and manipulative–characteristics often embodied by The Fair Folk. I’m talking about the devious Fair Folk of Irish lore, or like Puck et al in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not the Disney fairies like Tinker Bell, lol. To be quite honest, I don’t know a lot about Irish folklore besides what I’ve seen other authors use–and they’ve incorporated it quite well already into works of fiction, so I wanted to do something a little different.
I think Karen Marie Moning’s Fae are the best–but, as she is my favorite author, I’m probably biased. In Moning’s Highlander and Fever series, the Fae are arrogant, devious, and lethally seductive. Back in the day, I wrote a book review of The Immortal Highlander–my absolute favorite of her Highlander romance novels. Immortal’s antihero, Adam Black, is a good example of this type of character, although he’s not mischievous in a cruel way. The Seelie Queen places a curse on Adam that strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible. His is a hopeless case until he meets Gabby, a sidhe-seer–gifted with seeing beyond the glamour used by the Fae, and the only one who can see Adam. Since Gabby seems to be his only hope, Adam ingratiates himself into Gabby’s life and eventually convinces her to help him. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book, but I remember Adam perched on Gabby’s desk at her law firm while she tried to get work done, nagging her. Obviously, that kind of behavior would be super creepy and annoying in real life, but the love-hate dynamic between Adam and Gabby made for a very entertaining book. It didn’t help that Adam’s glamour was that of a sexy Scottish Highlander, making it almost impossible for Gabby to resist him.
Moning went on to write the Fever series–a sexy urban fantasy series in which the walls between our world and that of the Fae become even thinner. The Immortal Highlander isn’t an official prequel to the Fever series, but it’s definitely where her books about time-traveling, sexy Scottish Highlanders start to get much darker, and it sets up the conflict for her later books. I think the Fever series was a pretty daring one–primarily, I’d call it an urban fantasy, but Moning combines elements of a bunch of different genres and just makes it work so well (mystery, sci-fi, romance, and they’re funny as hell). I’d say for marketing purposes, it’s a good strategy to choose one or maybe two genres that your work fits into, but her books have taught me that it’s okay to push the limits of a genre and mix things up a bit.
A very much related type of character is:
2. The Trickster
The Trickster is, according to TV Tropes, which I can’t stop reading lately, a type of character that “plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior.” This is definitely related to what I’ve described above, but I’m separating them out. We can depict these qualities in an entire race, like the Fair Folk (or the Olympians…), or in an individual character (whose peers may or may not embody these traits). I prefer the darker, more anti-hero-ish tricksters who use outright manipulation and deception to get what they want, without (much) remorse. They also pretty much pop in and out of places and situations as they like without a whole lot of consideration for rules or
puny humans other people. Recent examples include Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s Once Upon A Time and Loki in the Thor franchise. Another classic example (teehee) is Jareth from Labyrinth.
One of my other favorite trickster types is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game. I’ve most definitely fan-girled over this trilogy before on this blog, but it’s one of my all-time favs. One of my friends introduced me to L.J. Smith back in freshman year or so of high school, and my life was changed, forever. (Dramatic much?) These books were already ten years old or so when I originally read them, and now…yes, I just confirmed on Wikipedia, The Forbidden Game is twenty years old. Aaaaaand now I officially feel old.
Anyway, I reread them this summer (they were first published as separate books, but since they’re short, they’re published now in an omnibus edition), and…they were still good. Sure, they’re written at about a middle school reading level, and, since they are so short, I noticed some of the repetition. Smith is a fan of the epithet, which, in a longer book, may help you remember each character–but, in a shorter book, it gets repetitive. Even so, there’s just something about Smith’s writing I’ve always loved. It almost has a beat to it–like poetry.
The Forbidden Game is an urban fantasy trilogy with a tiny blonde-haired, green-eyed protagonist named Jenny Thornton. Jenny starts out as an innocent, naive girl still dependent on her childhood sweetheart, Tom. (I mean, Tom’s nickname for her is Thorny. You don’t get any more disgustingly cute than that.) There’s mystery and magic from the start of Book One, The Hunter, when Jenny, who is being followed by two delinquent-types, takes refuge in a strange store called “More Games.” She buys a game in a plain white box, simply called “The Game,” from the even stranger boy running the shop. Of course, with his white-blonde hair and otherworldly blue eyes, he’s über attractive–and, despite his seeming indifference towards her, Jenny feels a strange connection to him.
That night, Jenny, Tom, and the rest of their friends start to play The Game, setting up a paper house and drawing their worst nightmares on sheets of paper. The next thing they know, they’re inside the paper mansion, transported there by the cyberpunk boy from the More Games store. His name is Julian, and he’s the youngest of an ancient race called The Shadow Men. In order to win Julian’s twisted game, Jenny and her friends must confront their worst fears–and, if they lose The Game, they lose their lives. Julian is a predator and master of manipulation (and very Jareth-esque). Of course, as the series goes on, you find out that Julian maybe isn’t the ultimate big bad he claims to be.
The Forbidden Game includes one of L.J. Smith’s favorite themes (and, okay, one of mine): the love triangle. Ms. Smith’s love triangle is usually set up as the relatively innocent girl caught between the good guy/hero type and the seemingly bad boy/antihero. In this case, Jenny’s good guy is Tom, and Jenny’s bad boy is Julian. Jenny knows that sweet and caring Tom is the guy for her, but she can’t help but be tempted by Julian’s beauty and charisma. These books are also about obsessive love: Julian is obsessed with Jenny and will do anything to have her.
Which brings us to one of my other favorite topics, and the final one for tonight:
3. Forbidden Desires
Two of my favorite themes in fiction are sin and temptation (well, what is perceived to be sinful by that character). Often, this takes the form of fairly-innocent-girl-gets-tempted-by-dark-sexy-mysterious-man’s-dark-world-of-…..darkness…..okay, I’m becoming less and less articulate as this post goes on, but you get the gist. 😉 Let’s just call it forbidden love/lust. This theme probably at least in part stems from the idea of sex as a sinful or evil act–perhaps a very Western/Christian notion. In some of these stories, the innocent heroine, initially intrigued by the sexy, devilish antihero, ultimately resists temptation and does the “right” thing. Going further with this interpretation, maybe it has something to do with the antiquated notion that women retain their virtue and innocence for as long as possible. And, even though I don’t agree with that, it’s a fun theme to explore in fiction. This is probably why Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was big on writing about sin, temptation, and the hypocrisy of the Puritans, remains one of my favorite classical authors.
Like I said, The Forbidden Game is the perfect example of this. Throughout the series, Jenny has to battle against her attraction to Julian in order to do the right thing and save her friends. But Julian’s influence on her isn’t all bad: Jenny transforms from the innocent girl who still relies on her boyfriend for everything into a more independent and confident young woman who thinks for herself. This theme of the allure of darkness is also a major theme in the musical The Phantom of the Opera. And in a certain 80s children’s fantasy movie.
With the relatively recent explosion in popularly of paranormal romance and other darker forms of romance and fantasy, the above types of characters and themes are fairly common right now–although not every author approaches them in quite the same way. These otherworldly characters, whether they’re the Fae, gods, fallen angels, vampires, etc., may be charming and alluring, but they’re also cunning, dangerous, predatory, and don’t play by our (human) rules. Of late, they’re also typically inhumanly beautiful, which further emphasizes their almost irresistible pull and maybe plays a little bit into the notion that not everything attractive is good for you.
When I think of what a paranormal romance is–just what exactly the genre encompasses–these types of characters and themes are what come to my mind. I think everybody is a little bit different with regards to this. Although many paranormal romances still have that major, initial element of forbidden love, some authors go on to develop a story that is a little more traditionally romantic/lovey dovey, and it’s this type of story a lot of readers are used to now. Since I’ve been marketing Reborn as a paranormal romance, I think a few people have been confused by how I chose to approach Siobhan and Jasper’s relationship. It’s not traditionally romantic–it’s passionate and intense, but also a roller-coaster ride, and even a bit scary at times. That’s because the, er, “classic” paranormal romances, like L.J. Smith’s work, combine themes from the romance and horror genres. I’m not even sure “romance” is the right word, except that it captures the passionate relationship between the two lead characters. But these stories are also about temptation, forbidden desires, obsessive “love,” good and evil, dominance and submission, predator and prey. The settings are dark, mysterious, and sinister–as are some of the characters.
If you’ve read Reborn, you may see now how the above ideas have influenced it. My Olympians are, for the most part, volatile, capricious, mischievous, and manipulative. And even the ones that aren’t completely devious have a dark side (as the tagline for Relapse says, everybody has one…although perhaps not quite to the extent that my characters do, lol). Siobhan isn’t completely innocent in the conventional sense, but she’s a bit of a small-town girl thrown, thanks to Jasper, into the darker, alluring world of the Olympians. Jasper is her forbidden fruit–Siobhan knows he’s dangerous, but is tempted all the same (and Jasper will go to any lengths to keep her). And, unlike the strong, “virtuous” ladies described above, Siobhan isn’t as good at resisting temptation. In Relapse, Siobhan’s struggle against this forbidden world is taken to a new level as she begins to realize she’s more like the manipulative, control-freak Olympians than she thought. As a final tease, you’ll also meet a new character in Relapse–a sexy, silly, trickster-type like Jareth or Julian. I’m excited for you to meet him. 😉