The Romance Writers of America Golden Heart ® Award is the industry’s highest honor for unpublished manuscripts, and it warms my paranormal-loving heart to see so many diverse stories in this year’s crop of finalists. These talented women are writing about time travel, demons, vampires, shifters, telepaths, jinn, Voodoo curses, whales, panthers, Egyptologists and doppelgangers–and usually more than one of the above.
Here’s a little taste of what the finalists’ books are about and why their authors chose to write paranormal — or why paranormal chose them:
Mariah Ankenman’s GH story, Dark Secret, is a high-stakes human-demon love story with a “by-the-books straight arrow” human and a “bend-the-rules sexy bad boy” demon who accidentally fall in love while trying to save the world. (I hate it when that happens.) Mariah began writing at the tender age of five when she penned her first book George and the Green Blob. (An early convert to the genre, I see.) Many years and lots of green glob stories later, Mariah set off to the University of Wyoming and received a BFA in playwriting. After a few years in LA working in “The Biz” Mariah decided to head home to the beautiful Rocky Mountains and her first love, novel writing.
For Mariah, paranormal romance is a way to take a vacation from normal for a little while: “I write paranormal because fantasy gives us a chance to escape our world and be a part of one that is magical and fantastic. What’s more fun; Witches, Vampires and magic or taxes, grocery trips and doctor appointments? Give me a wand, wings or fangs because I don’t want a normal life. I want a paranormal one!”
India Powers writes paranormal historical romances set in England during the late Middle Ages and early Regency period. Her Golden Heart finaling manuscript, Demon’s Bane, sounds deliciously genre bending. Here’s the blurb: Hunting the demon that killed his wife, a medieval mage travels through time and meets his wife’s doppelganger in Regency England—but is she a second chance at love or the demon in disguise?
Time travel and demons and mages? Yes, please. I think India echoes many paranormal writers with the following: “The stories that pop into my head always have paranormal elements, so I can’t not write paranormal. I grew up reading myths, fairy tales and fantasy. Apparently they imprinted themselves upon my imagination!”
I couldn’t agree with this more–I don’t think we get to pick what we write, and you can’t help what choses you.
Tara Sheets spent most of her childhood as an American abroad, growing up in different countries. Always a voracious reader, Tara learned from a very early age that books have the power to take you anywhere you want to go, no matter where you are. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with a book-loving family, a furry mop of a dog named Merlin, and one of Tolkien’s ents in her backyard (Where can I get one?) Her GH manuscript, Guardian, makes me nostalgic for the days when I was obsessed with pyramids and Amelia Peabody mysteries. It features an Egyptologist, Kate Lancaster, who discovers a legendary stone that grants absolute power. She joins forces with Noah Jordon, a warrior angel who is charged to protect the stone from falling into the hands of an evil man and his demonic allies.
Given her book description, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Tara writes paranormal for the adventure of it: “I write paranormal because I love the adventure of worldbuilding and the unexpected elements of magic that make a story a true escape from normal life. I have always been fascinated with fairy tales and “happily ever afters”, so the paranormal romance and urban fantasy genres really hit it home for me.”
Kay Hudson is one of my own Golden Heart sisters–she finaled in 2012 as well as 2013 (not to mention 2011) with her funny, off-beat paranormal romances. This year she finaled with Jinn & Tonic; last year it was Bathtub Jinn.
Kay on her quirky characters: “I suspect if I tried to write werewolves, they would have fleas and get stuck in doggie doors. Vampires in my stories would probably be hemoglobin intolerant or afraid of the dark. So I write about a jinn who loves Errol Flynn movies, a pooka stuck in the form of a wise-cracking cat, and a cigar-smoking, Spillane-reading goblin who lives in a dumpster, along with relatively normal, if somewhat bemused, people who fall in love and have slightly off-kilter adventures. Those are my stories, and I’m sticking to them.”
A.E. Jones‘s finaling manucript, Mind Sweeper, has enough supernatural punch to satisfy anyone. Here’s her blurb: A human female with the ability to manipulate memories must work with a vampire, a demon and a by-the-book human cop to stop the desperate hunt for a prophesized ‘key of knowledge’ in Cleveland, Ohio of all places, from escalating into a supernatural civil war.
I love paranormals that mix the fantastical with the mundane (and I love by-the-book cops who get caught up in supernatural shenanigans.) A.E. says: “I write paranormal for several reasons. First, I love to read paranormal so I think that is why I gravitate to writing it. How many times do we hear ‘write what you love’? I also write paranormal because of the world-building. Now, I know that all writers world-build to a certain extent, but for paranormal you are able to break through the normal boundaries and create your own rules which is very liberating. I really like plot lines that include life or death conflict and that is a part of (most) paranormal writing. But I think paranormal can also be funny and that plays a huge role in my writing as well. When you take a normal life event and put a supernatural twist on it, funny ensues. And last but not least, if you like your heroes ‘alpha’ then there is no better place than paranormal. Of course, having cool powers, fangs, fur, and being sexy as H-E-double hockey sticks doesn’t hurt either!”
Dawn Marie Hamilton is another genre-bending finalist. She writes Scottish-inspired fantasy and paranormal romance, and her GH finaling book, Sea Panther, sounds like Pirates of the Carribean-esque romp with time travel. There’s a Scottish nobleman and panther shifter-turned vampire, a Caribbean Voodoo priestess, and a heroine on the run from a hitman. Plus, her hero and heroine get to travel to 1715 Jamaica to break a curse. I love it! Will there be rum?
Dawn (like so many of us!) got her first taste of paranormal from Dark Shadows: “The soap opera Dark Shadows first introduced me to the world of paranormal. The genre has been on my bookshelf since. I write what I like to read.”
I have a soft spot for Paris, so I’m intrigued by finalist Lark Howard‘s series. The inspiration for her GH manuscript, Shadows in the Deep, came in The City of Light:
“I started in romantic suspense. Then one cold winter day I was at Deyrolle in Paris, totally enchanted by the taxidermied animals posed as through they’re frozen mid-party when I entered the room. I thought, “What if the man who owned this establishment could bring these animals to life–sort of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM meets DR. DOLITTLE?” Naturally he was gorgeous, damaged and hot–and in need of a woman who could redeem him. My paranormal world grew from there and the second in the series, SHADOWS IN THE DEEP, took the Durand family’s psychic abilities to the Caribbean where whales vanish mysteriously and a powerful enemy controls a force that may enslave the world’s non-psychic population. Naturally, there’s a very hot love story. So here I am in paranomral and loving it!”
Ella also sees writing paranormal worlds as away to temporarily escape real life: “In my everyday life, I’m a freelance editor, karate instructor, mother to a teen and preteen with a chronically dirty house my OCD never stops screaming about — breathe! So, in other words, chaos, panic, pressure, and more chaos — that’s my life. Nothing takes me out of that life like a good, solid paranormal story. Who wouldn’t crave months and months spent with the sexiest characters imaginable in a place where my imagination can run completely unfettered, where I can experience things totally opposite my everyday, mundane, real life? Add in the romance and a hunky alpha male, stir the pot, and you’ve got fantasy in its purest, best form, at least for me!”
What say you, Unbounders? Are you excited to see these stories coming down the paranormal pipeline? I personally hope we’re reading all of these books by next summer, because they sound fantastic. Congratulations to all of the finalists!