Genre Talk

On Mystery and the Virtues of a Blood-Splattered Alexander Skarsgard


After romance, my next favorite genre of books is mystery.  I like historicals, cozies, I like noir—I love hard-boiled alpha-inspectors like Ian Rankin’s Rebus or Martin Cruz Smith’s Renko almost as much as I like a hardened warrior-vampire.

But it’s funny, when I get to the end of a mystery novel, I rarely care about whodunnit.  I only care about my inspector, and maybe his girl.  (*smacks forehead* I guess that’s why I write romance.)

So why do I keep reading mysteries?

holy toast

I think it’s the journey into a dark world, with wide-open possibility.  Mystery authors promise me they will leave no stone unturned, and I will see into the shadows of working class Glasgow and post-Soviet Russia.  With my alpha-inspector guide, anything can happen, anyone could turn out to be other than they seem, the allegiances, the very foundations of the detective’s world could shift at any moment—and this feels true to me.

_40534689_toastie-afp203It’s the same reason I write paranormal romance.  Because I believe in Mystery with a capital M.  I believe we don’t know everything there is to know.  When it comes to aliens, yetis, the Lochness monster, ghosts, the Virgin Mary appearing on a slice of toast—I’m as hard-boiled a skeptic as Renko and Rebus.  (Of course, I believe in vampires because I’ve met Andre Maras in person, and I’m fifty-fifty about the existence of werewolves—persuade me in the comments and I’ll give you a book!)

But, mostly, I delight in all that we do not know about the world around us and the one inside us, the human psyche.

As a genre, paranormal fiction allows authors and readers use the full range of their creativity to explore life’s Mysteries.

  • Where did we come from?
  • Why are we here?
  • What is the relationship between good and evil?
  • Is redemption possible?

beware the white walkers

In normal life, humans use science, magic, religion, and mythology to explain the Mysteries.  And these are the same colors on a paranormal author’s palate, which allow us to paint the world of our books.  Think about the subtle mixture of magic and science Diana Gabaldon weaves through Outlander, or the mythology George RR Martin constructs to scare the bejeezus out of us with those White Walkers.  The last season of True Blood on HBO did some fascinating stuff with the Lilith myth—whoa, she was scary—and the blood lust and vampire supremacy her mythology spawned was downright frightening. Hhmm. A racial supremacy myth that resulted in enormous bloodshed and slaughter.  Sounds familiar.

Eric again

I’m a working mom and a writer, so when I find time to read, I want it to be something fun.  And yet, the dark, serious themes always pervade paranormal.  These days, I’d rather not read a heavy nonfiction book.  But take off Alexander Skarsgard’s shirt and smear him in blood, and I’m willing to contemplate the horrors of genocide.  Maybe that sounds glib, but I mean it.  There is a safety in fiction.  We know it’s not real.  And yet, if we didn’t think it was true, we wouldn’t bother.  And so it is while watching True Blood, instead of reading Elie Wiesel, that I will consider how good people creatures can be tempted to do evil. Will I find an answer?  Probably not, only deeper things to think about, and that’s fine with me.

And in the meantime, I am enormously happy to read and write in a genre that’s Mysterious, entertaining, titillating, and still provokes deep thoughts.

I’d love to hear from you!  

What Mysteries fascinate you?

Which authors that you enjoy explore deep truths?

Have you ever met a werewolf?

And seriously, if you can convince me to believe in werewolves, I will give you a copy of Blood Vine! (Okay, I guess it would only be fair to do a real giveaway, and enter everyone who comments or tweets this post!)


The virtues of a blood-splattered Alexander Skarsgard on @ParaUnbound <—Click to Tweet

How paranormal answers life’s greatest Mysteries on @ParaUnbound <—Click to Tweet

The Virgin Mary appears on a slice of toast on @ParaUnbound <—Click to Tweet

25 thoughts on “On Mystery and the Virtues of a Blood-Splattered Alexander Skarsgard

  1. Well if you ask a Greek, they’ll tell there is such a thing. I reckon I’ve crossed one. Once or twice or maybe even thrice. Lol. Have you not seen the hair on some Greek guys? They are werewolves I tell you…werewolves! Told you they exist. 🙂

  2. I enjoy mysteries as well. Although A Discovery of Witches is not considered a mystery, there were so many plot twists, I really thought it was wonderfully done. I haven’t met a werewolf, but I’d like to!

    • LOL! I loved that book too. I loved how slowly it developed the romance, and all her world building–it was a very unique book. If werewolves look like the ones on True Blood, I’m in!

  3. I like mysteries, both cozies and police procedurally. Most of the time I don’t really care whodunit either. I read series with characters I like. I’m not really poking for earth shattering revelations in books – I read for enjoyment.

    • Sandy, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who reads mysteries that way. I also lose interest when it becomes all about the suspects and victims and not enough about the detectives’ reactions to them.

      I hear you on the “earth shattering revelations.” Those are the books that never leave my TBR pile! But do you ever find them sneaking in? Like, I think about Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke–even though it’s such a great, sexy romance, and romp of an adventure, it has these great questions about freedom and self control and how humans respond to repression, never heavy handed, just there as part of the world and characters, making their conflict so compelling!

      • I think that some stories lend themselves to questions like that because of the way the story works out. I’m not sure that the authors always set out to ask deep meaningful questions.

      • I know that’s true for the way I write, Sandy, and every writer I know well. Some time, I’d like to talk to someone who does it the other way because I am curious how their process works.

  4. I also like mysteries…and I also don’t care “whodunit”–what’s fun is seeing when the protagonist figures it out and how he or she gets there. Deep truths? I rarely write my books with a thought as to what the deep theme might be, but after they’re done those themes are always there: redemption, self-forgiveness, the importance of the family you create rather than the one you’re born into, loyalty. Human condition, in other words. Having a non-human work through those issues is a safe way for us to look at hard truths. Werewolves? I think my boss might be one….no, no, that would be soul-sucking vampire.

    • Oh no Suzanne! Is your day job at Azkaban?

      It’s interesting what you say about not writing with those truths in mind. I’m the same way, and that’s always my first reaction when someone starts analyzing fiction. For me, the characters, the story and the world come first–any insight into deep truths just come out of that. But, often the way the world is set-up determines what kind of questions get asked.

    • Suzanne, I think that’s the best way to make a theme come to life: by not looking at it too hard. I do the same thing. I come back to a book months after it’s finished and realize the issue I was subconsciously working out on the page.

  5. Interesting post. I like mysteries too, though I have a terrible habit of reading the last page if I start to get a bit bored. Amazing how often a lot is revealed in those last 2 paragraphs! But, sometimes I like watching how the author gets there just as much as having it revealed by reading like a normal person.

    I also think that having paranormal creatures work through very human issues is part of why I like fictional justice figures (police, detectives, sheriff, etc), because it allows us to have the knowledge everything can work out fine, and the victims’ families aren’t suffering, because they never existed in the first place. It’s a lot easier to deal with raw pain and suffering when you can always step back and know it’s just a story.

  6. LOL, that is funny! If I am that bored, I just stop reading. I love what you’ve said about the justice figures. And, YES, I agree about the “just a story” thing. I’ve even been taught that’s why so many people prefer Third person point of view to First person.

  7. I’m not a huge mystery lover. I think I’m more into relationships than clues! LOL

    I love werewolves… I picture them as hotly protective, strong and loyal… Since True Blood, I now picture them as Alcide too! LOL


    Lisa 🙂

  8. Really great post, Amber! I’m a bigger fan of Mystery than mystery, but my mom is a HUGE mystery fan, so I grew up surrounded by all the classics of the genre. I asked her for recs recently and got a pile as tall as I am. 🙂

  9. Amber, I like the way you think. Interesting post. I don’t usually read mysteries unless there’s a paranormal element. And I agree – I’m more interested in the relationships than the actual whodunit. As for werewolves… yes, please. I like LKH’s werewolves and also Kresley Cole’s.

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