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October is a month when we embrace the unexplained, dressing up as goblins and monsters to celebrate Halloween. Elements of the paranormal - witches, vampires, and the like - are found in movies, romance and mystery novels, often resulting in cult followings like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, Twilight Zone, and more.
We asked the October authors to tell us a bit about their encounters with the "paranormal." Read on to see what they said...
Be sure to check out the evocative October releases on the Spotlight page.
Writerspace: Everything a writer does is done deliberately - no element in a story is completely random or without purpose. Paranormal elements are a device in the writer's box of tools, often used to further the plot or the characterization of a character. Have you ever used the paranormal in your novels, and if so, how have you used it? If you do not write about the paranormal, would you consider ever using the paranormal in a future novel?
Susan Kearney: I love paranormal but my first 25 books haven't included any unless one counts Deanna Troi of Star Trek abilities. In BATTLE OF BETAZED Deanna had to decide whether teaching her people to kill with their minds was a better or worse option then living under slavery.
And now, I've sold a Blaze Paranormal romance. I'm going to write one
of the three stories in an anthology to be released in July 2004 with
Julie Leto and Julie Kenner. We don't yet have a title, a theme or the
paranormal elements. So stayed turned for more details.
Ruth Ryan Langan: Like most writers, I'm fascinated by the paranormal. In each of my stories in our Once Upon A series from Jove, my characters experience the paranormal. In SEALED WITH A KISS in our current ONCE UPON A KISS novella, there is a ghost who bridges time and space to help the lovers come together.
I also have a series for Harlequin Historicals, Mystical Highlands, which will debut in 2003, about three sisters in sixteenth century Scotland who are endowed with special 'gifts'. One is a healer. One can see the past and the future. And one can speak with those who have already passed. As you can imagine, these three will encounter many difficulties from those who consider them a danger.
Beverly Barton: Yes, I've used paranormal elements in several of my novels. In 1992 in
my very first Intimate Moments, THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN, I had two ancient souls
trapped on earth until a prophecy could be fulfilled by two modern day
lovers. Then in a '95 IM, THE OUTCAST, my heroine was psychic, with the
ability to see into the future as well as the past. This character,
Elizabeth, has made appearances in several of books in my "The Protectors"
series. In my '96 IM, my heroine, Jeannie, was an empath; and Jeannie, too,
has made appearances in some of my other books. My upcoming Zebra romantic
supsense, THE FIFTH VICTIM, due for release in April '03, has a heroine who
is psychic. Her unique abilities enable her to help law enforcement to
track the killer, but those same abilities put her in danger.
Tara Taylor Quinn:
My current release, THE SHERIFF OF SHELTER VALLEY, has a paranormal
element - depending upon the perspective with which you approach it. I took
a walk on the darker side of life, discovering that good, innocent,
intelligent people are sometimes drawn into situations because of the
sometimes bizarre power of the mind. And the power of mind OVER mind. I
have to disagree, though, with the statement that everything a writer does
is done deliberately. I write from a very brief synopsis - two paragraphs
to ten pages - and nothing else. Much of what happens, just happens. When
I try to be deliberate to plan and control, I get stuck. I started this
book simply with the thought to explore mind manipulation, and not even,
necessarily, in a bad sense. The story took me into the world of cults. I
remember one morning, very early, as I was rollerblading with my friend -
and publicist - spending the entire hour and a half talking her about this
cult. I'd been up late the night before, writing a scene, and by the time
the scene ended, I wanted to join the cult. My characters had talked me
into craving the utopia they promised. Of course, there was no real danger
of that as there was no where to go to join(!), but I sure had a new and
somewhat scary understanding of how easy it is to be convinced of something.
And how vulnerable that makes all of us.
Darlene Graham: I love paranormal elements -- what one of my writer friends calls "the woo-woo factor." My most recent brush with woo-woo was in THE MAN FROM OKLAHOMA. My hero in that story is part Osage, but he has never acknowledged his heritage. In the process of solving his wife's murder, he starts having strange visions that will ulitmately lead him to the killer. He finally lets his crazy cousin take him to an Osage shaman, who turns out of be a Phillips Petroleum executive. I loved writing that scene!
In DREAMLESS, a romantic suspense, I stick closer to reality. But I always show a certain psychic connectedness, and all the reasons why we need to love and forgive each other even if we can't understand the full ramifications of our actions at the time. In DREAMLESS my heroine has to forgive her father who is in prison for a crime that has caused great damage. Once she does forgive Boss, she is free to love with a very full heart.
I've often used the paranormal. For me, it's just
part of the spectrum of human experience. Out at the
*edge* of that spectrum, but still normal. We've all
experienced times when we're certain something has
happened before, or when a normal night whispers fear
to our primitive instincts. We've all seen how
children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren
have turns of mind and body that remind us of parents
and grandparents and great-grandparents...and we've
wonder if genes are *all* that is passed on.
I'm currently working on a series that will start November 2003 called King
Of Hearts which will have a paranormal element in it--a match-making
would-be angel. Il Re (the King in Italian) is sent to earth to unite in
love as many couples as enemies he murdered in hate. So the paranormal
element in these books gave me a chance to explore fate and destiny. The
premise is these couples are supposed to get together and need a nudge to do
Linda Conrad: The only paranormal element in my October Desire release, SECRETS, LIES...AND PASSION is the ghost of a past lost love. This third and final installment of the Operation Rock-A-Bye trilogy features hero, Reid Sorrels, who is a down-to-earth FBI Special Agent-In-Charge, currently undercover and looking for an international baby seller. Instead, he finds the echo of an old love and a child he never knew existed.
In my Silhouette Desire release scheduled for June, 2003 called THE GENTRYS: ABBY, I did use some paranormal elements. The hero of that book is an American Indian who is guided in his basic life decisions by his ancient ancestors. They speak to him through his vision quests. Even the heroine, Abby, hears them in her dreams.
Since I'm excruciatingly grounded in the "real," I have a hard time
suspending disbelief enough to use paranormal elements (and besides, I
scare much too easily--can't bear to watch horror movies, even the
corniest) Paranormal usually seems a bit out-of-place in a Regency
anyway, although Alicia Rasley and Lynn Kerstan did a fabulous
RITA-award-winning classic Regency whose hero was a ghost! If I were to
incorporate paranormal elements, a ghost haunting an Elizabethan or
medieval wing on some large country manor would probably be the device I
I have never used a paranormal element in a book I've written, but I do have
an idea for a future novel where my heroine will go back in time--to the
1980's! I work at an online travel agency where the workforce is quite
young, and talking to one of my youthful co-workers one day got me thinking
about how much has changed in our lives during the past twenty years. When
I started in business, there were no cell phones, no fax machines, no
voicemail, and no e-mail. You had to feed the copy machines one sheet of
paper at a time. And there were very few women in positions of power
anywhere I worked. I'm not saying that women are all that common in the
boardrooms of today, but at least the younger women I know don't have that
"I'll never get there" mentality that used to be so prevalent. I would love
to see a woman in her late-twenties today go back just two decades to show
how different life was back then. It would also be fun to relive the big
hair and disco music and movies that I grew up with. My editor has already
told me that the 80's don't sell, but I may just write this one for the fun
of it sometime!
Linda O'Brien: My current novel BALLYROURKE is set in Ireland in the 1800s, and everyone knows how superstitious the Irish are, especially about their fairies. How could I not weave some element of that into my story? I believe readers like a bit of magic, whether by fairy, spirit, divine hand, or odd coincidence, because we'd like to think it could happen in our own lives, or already has.
Lillian Stewart Carl: I always use paranormal elements in my novels (and many of my short stories), usually ghosts. I love history, and I see ghosts are the psychic remains of our own emotional history--we haven't arrived here without having been there.
TIME ENOUGH TO DIE takes place at the excavation of an ancient Roman fort in England. The ghosts of the people who lived there tell a story that ties in with the present-day mystery. Ghosts in my earlier books include a Revolutionary War soldier in Shadows in Scarlet. The heroine falls in love with him, but it's an awkward relationship, to say the least! In MEMORY AND DESIRE, the ghost of a 17th century needleworker accused of witchcraft as well as the ghost of her cat haunt a Tudor manor house under restoration.
I also write characters with ESP of various sorts. In TIME ENOUGH TO DIE, the main character makes her living as a parapsychologist, solving crimes connected with the illegal antiquities trade. The main character of ASHES TO ASHES is startled to discover that she can pick up an artifact and sense events that took place around it.
And then, in MEMORY AND DESIRE, magic actually works.
I read Tarot cards for fun and enjoy vampire novels and movies. Halloween is probably my favorite holiday! So while I haven't written a paranormal yet, I'd love to write one down the line.
I'm a former naval officer currently write contemporary military suspense for Silhouette Books, so my books tend to be grounded in a very gritty reality. But, personally, I love time travels. In fact my first manuscript (which will never see the light of day!) involved a modern-day naval officer (the heroine) who was transported back to the American Revolutionary War. She splashed down two hundred yards off the bow of the hero's ship and was mistaken for a spy after her rescue.
Since I write vampire novels I use paranormal elements all the time. Not only do I have vampire protagonists in my Laws of the Blood books, but human psychics and witches are important to the stories, and are especially involved in romantic relationships with my vampires. In DECEPTIONS I even have a secret government agency that uses Walking, a form of astral projection, and the heroine of DECEPTIONS has a pet hellhound, a couple hundred pounds of paranormal puppydog that chews up shoes along with its magical abilities.
I rarely use any paranormal elements in my historical romances, preferring to
focus instead on the powerful romantic fantasy between my heroes and
heroines. But I did have a brief touch of paranormal in my last book, DESIRE.
The women in the heroine's family were plagued by a Gypsy curse, where anyone
they loved would die. But it was more of a superstition than actual curse,
and even by the end of the story, the heroine had no proof that it was real.
Dorene Graham: To date, I haven't used paranormal elements in any of my books, though I am working on a proposal now where my heroine is very empathic. She can sense what others are feeling, especially the hero. She also has the gift of sexual healing. I'm not sure that qualifies as a paranormal element, but it is somewhat out of the ordinary.
I have always been drawn to the paranormal and yes, given the opportunity,
would include such elements in future works.
Falling in love is always a paranormal experience, isn't it? Seriously, I
have used paranormal elements in several of my books--particularly the IRISH
MAGIC novellas and BELLING THE CAT, a novella in A PURRFECT ROMANCE. As a
reader, I am a "hard sell" on paranormal elements--my logical
mathematician's mind tends to and reject them. As a writer, I'm even harder,
so if I wander into the twilight zone, I must have found something to
Kathleen O'Brian: I have never used the paranormal in a book, mostly because I haven't found the perfect story. One of my earlier Harlequin Presents, BETWEEN MIST AND MIDNIGHT, was set in an old Southern plantation that supposedly was haunted. Once or twice my heroine actually thinks she sees a ghost, but both times she's just being led by her own imagination. And in my early Harlequin Temptation, MEMORY LAPSE, the heroine is definitely haunted by something wicked in her past. She is terribly unhappy, and she even sleepwalks. Thank goodness the hero is finally able to help her figure out what lurks in the past, poisoning the present!
But in both those books, the "ghosts" were all in the heroine's own
psyche. Someday I'd love to write a story with *real* ghosts--many of my
favorite tales have them. Stories all the way from "The Ghost and Mrs.
Muir" to Harry Potter have used the supernatural in wonderful, exciting,
and sometimes very romantic ways! But to use a ghost, a writer needs the
perfect story. Just throwing one in for fun is cheap and won't appeal to
anyone, I wouldn't think!
I have written a novel where the paranormal element played a very big part of the story. I must admit I am still warmed by the memory of a beloved Scots ghost in THE BRIDE OF BLACK DOUGLAS.
Writerspace: How do your characters react to the paranormal elements of your current release? Are they an accepted part of an alternate reality, or do they have to deal with the doubt that confronts anything that can not be logically explained? If your current release does not include paranormal elements, how would your characters react if something out of the ordinary was thrown into the mix?
Ruth Ryan Langan: In my story SEALED WITH A KISS, in our Nora Roberts ONCE UPON A KISS novella from Jove, my heroine initially misunderstands her encounter with the ghost and believes she has witnessed the death of the man she loves. It is only when the hero comes to her, alive and well, that she realizes what really happened. She has no choice but to accept that what happened to her was real, and that the noble ghost was able to complete his mission on earth by saving her, and will now find the peace that has eluded him. Both she and the hero find it comforting to know that their love has been blessed by those who went before them.
In my MYSTICAL HIGHLANDS series for Harl. Historicals which will be published in 2003, the three sisters accept their gifts and have been trained from birth to use them wisely. The conflict arises when they encounter those from other clans who want to exploit their gifts for evil purposes.
My current release does not incorporate the paranormal, but the
characters in the books which have were forced to deal with skepticism,
disbelief and intolerance from the outside world. Even the heroes had to be
"convinced" that these heroines possessed sixth sense abilities far beyond
the normal. And it is usually very difficult for a big, strong, macho guy
to accept that on some level the woman he loves is far more powerful than
he. But for my heroes--all very secure in their masculinity--nothing is
more important than protecting/defending the women they love. They're all
definitely the type of guy who "stands by his woman." If I had used
paranormal elements in the current book, I'm sure the characters would have
reacted with skepticism at first, especially my hero, but would accept what
was happening once they were unable to deny the reality of such a power.
Tara Taylor Quinn:
My heroine is completely sucked into an alternative reality without even
realizing that it's happening. She doesn't make a choice to cross over. In
fact, she is an intelligent, very aware and proactive woman who truly
believes that she's instrumental in making the world a better place. Later,
of course, she not only has to doubt that reality, but also doubts herself.
She doesn't know how she can trust a mind that could be led without her
awareness to a dangerous and wrong reality. Luckily she made some
discoveries that put my mind at rest!
As I said, even when I don't have paranormal elements per se, I show tiny miracles, downstream effects, unexplained phenomena, stuff like that. That's just who I am -- I love that woo-woo feeling, and the "magical" elements of life, especially the mysterious way two people fall in love and form a bond that can never be broken, even by death.
In EDEN BURNING, Nicole takes one look at Hawaii and
knows she is finally home. (I felt the same way the
first time I saw the land west of the Rocky
Mountains.) She takes one look at Chase Wilcox, and
is certain that he is the man for her. (I felt the
same about my husband.) She meets him first as the
dancer "Pele," and he is the drummer for the evening.
The speak to each other without words, using the
ancient dance. Unfortunately, the past is always part
of the present, and in the past Chase learned too well
not to trust women...
There are no paranormal elements in CINDERELLA'S CONVENIENT HUSBAND. But
Seth is a lawyer and has lived a tough life. I don't believe there's much
in life that's unexplained that could throw him for a loop. He'd probably
deal with the unexplained thing by protecting Lynn and then applying fact
and reason to it. Lynn would probably whole-heartedly believe in it She'd
see the possibility that something other-wordly has and want to embrace it
not deconstruct it with fact and reason.
love reading romance novels with paranormal elements, and I'd like to try my hand at writing more of them. While I think my SECRETS, LIES...AND PASSION hero, Reid Sorrels, could handle anything thrown in his path, he's a down to earth FBI agent who already has his hands full dealing with his reality. But I'll bet he would have wished for psychic powers to help him discover the truth of his past and the child he never knew.
Actually, in my October release I have the hero, who is strongly
tempted to marry a woman whom he figures his ancestors would consider a
disgrace to the family, does carry on conversations in his head with his
deceased father, trying to decide what he should do about her
(conversations which he thinks are entirely normal and logical) So maybe
I use a bit of the "paranormal" after all.
RECORD TIME doesn't have any paranormal elements, but if David Gamble saw a
ghost, he'd put it to work in his record company. Free labor and all that,
you know! The heroine, Kylie Rogers, would take it to the nearest homeless
shelter and get it something to eat. Then she'd make sure its chains (a la
Jacob Marley in Scrooge) were polished, dry clean its withered and ragged
clothing, and drive it to its next haunting. Heck, she'd probably even
help, just to be nice!
My heroine, Katherine, is American born, which makes her very practical, and completely skeptical when it comes to spirits of any kind, but most especially fairies. For my hero, Colin MacCormack, the paranormal is normal. Without giving anything away, let me just say that a fairy plays a part in the evolution of one of the characters.
Lillian Stewart Carl: My romantic suspense and mystery novels take place in the real world, just with an extra layer of reality.
Matilda Gray in TIME ENOUGH TO DIE makes her living by believing in the paranormal--but she admits it took her a long time to accept her abilities and learn how to use them. Now she has to work with Gareth March, a Scotland Yard detective who has his own personal reasons for thinking that ESP is rubbish. He doesn't want to trust her. He certainly has no intention of falling for her!
To me, the trick of writing paranormal is to set limits on how much
paranormal to allow in each plot. In a mystery, for example, you can't have
a character pick up the identity of the villain through ESP--there would be
no story! When I have my main character explore not only his/her doubts but
those same limits, they come at last to believe. And if the characters
believe, then so does the reader.
The characters from my latest Blaze do react to something out of the ordinary -- their incredible, almost mystical attraction to each other! But if something more paranormal was thrown into the mix, I'd like to think they would handle it with aplomb. Nick probably wouldn't believe it (he can be sort of stubbornly practical), and Mari would probably feel right at home... she's used to the unusual.
The hero in my current release is US Army Special Forces--Rick would keep his eye on the objective and automatically "adapt and overcome". My heroine, Eve (an Army chopper pilot), would be more open to the paranormal--definitely more accepting of questions that might not have tidy answers.
The characters in DECEPTIONS are all actively involved in the paranormal. The vampires, their companions and associates are part of a secret culture – they call it the Underneath World – that exists within the modern world. Their concern is to keep the “normal” world from finding out about their “paranormal” world. The heroine of Deceptions is Olympias, the chief of all the Enforcers (vampire cops, essentially) in America. The most important part of her job is to keep mortals from finding out about the immortals living among them. Her job is made much harder when she falls in love with a mortal man who is head of a group of government psychics on the verge of discovering the Underneath World.
In my October 2002 Ballantine-Ivy release, ECSTASY, my heroine is determined
never to let love destroy her life the way it did her mother. So she creates
a fantasy lover in her imagination – a sexy, dashing pirate to whom she can
give her heart without danger. Trouble is, she's compelled to marry a
notorious gamester who begins to resemble the imaginary lover of her dreams.
My current release, TEMPTING ADAM, doesn't have paranormal elements. If
something out of the ordinary was thrown into the mix, though, my heroine,
Lauren Bryant, a dedicated workaholic, would get very stressed out and do
her best to rationalize it. My hero, Adam Morely, who is much more laid back
and spontaneous, would probably go with the flow and enjoy whatever new
experience he was having.
Jack and Madeleine, in CINDERFELLA, would easily fall for some sort of
paranormal event, I think. They absolutely believe in fate and destiny. Face
it, when you don't recognize your dream date as the scruffy guy who's been
making your life hell at the office, you're definitely a sucker for magic!
I write for Superromance, and so far I haven't heard from any Super
readers who are eager to see supernatural elements. Our editors are
extremely open-minded and creative people, so I'm sure if the Superromance
market was clamoring for paranormal elements, the editors would be open to
the ideas! I think, though, that sometimes our books need a more "real"
feeling, so that the readers can completely identify with the characters
and their experiences. The good thing about Supers, though, is that we
have such a wide variety of "styles" and "tones." It's not just one
storyline after another, and I'll bet if someone turned in a fabulous
paranormal story, the editors would definitely consider it!
I write character driven stories, and have yet to meet a character that let anything throw them for long. Neither of my two releases in October have a paranormal element in them, but dealing with that issue wouldn't be a problem for the characters. In my contemporary Christmas novella, UNDER THE MISTLETOE, a woman with six children, a nanny and a housekeeper moves next door to a bachelor psychatrist who knows a thing or two about being a grouch. If Holly Noel Winter can handle all of this, she certainly could deal with a few paranormal events tossed into the situation. My Scottish novella, THE BRIDE OF BLACKNESS CASTLE takes place on a deserted island where a hero straight out of "Beauty and the Beast" resides. With the gothic element already present in the story, the sudden appearance of something/someone from the paranormal realm wouldn't be any surprise to Lady Anne, who sees Robert McQueen as something from a different world already.
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