We have some of the most devoted fans of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy as readers of our blog. And I know from your comments that some of you also like to read traditional sword-and-sorcery type fantasy, and that a lot of you, like me, adore Steampunk, and historical paranormal.
But I’m curious how many of you read romance outside the paranormal sub-genre? I admit that for a long time I exclusively read paranormal (with the occasional historical thrown in for variety). Last week a few of my Twitter friends mentioned they never read paranormal, and it made me wonder: How many people are truly omnivorous, and how many stick with only one genre?
Months ago, when I first stumbled upon the blog Wonkomance, Ruthie Knox had written a post about what she loves about historical romance: the burdens of the social customs of the time. I share her preference that historicals explore those tensions, and her post helped me to understand what I love about the paranormal and historical genres–lots of external conflict.
It also, ironically, made me aware of why I am wary of contemporary romance.
Without all those historical strictures or a set of fangs to keep secret, a hero and a heroine can easily get caught up in melodrama, as in the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” type contemporaries I read as a kid. I don’t much enjoy people with that degree of artificial drama in their real lives, why would I want to read about them? I came to see that I like the way historical and paranormal stories remove us from and at the same time sharpen reality in such a way as to help us see it.
That said, I like the blog Wonkomance so much that I have read a few of its contributor’s contemporaries as well as a few books by authors I heard speak at RWA Nationals in Atlanta. And, low and behold, I’ve liked them!
Some of them had loads of great external conflict and explored burdens of modern life. (We have social rules and tensions around class, gender and sexuality, after all; they are just perhaps harder to see because they are the water we swim in and also perhaps more controversial to address head on without touching on something political.) Other books I read had really compelling internal conflicts, which of course is crucial to any romance, no matter the genre. I encountered scarce melodrama, and when I did find, it seemed to be employed ironically, which made it hilarious.
Ruthie Knox’s analysis got me thinking about what kind of contemporary settings foster rich external conflict. My aha moment was more like a “duh!” In my professional life as an Episcopal Priest, I occupy a world very tied to history and moral codes that the institution is struggling to update, not without conflict. My own ordination process as a young woman was fraught with these tensions. I began thinking, “I could write about this!” And so I did, and just sold my first contemporary novella to Entangled Publishing. It’s called One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo and it’s about a young woman about to begin seminary who is struggling with what will become of her sex life once she becomes a priest at the same time she is forced to spend time with an old flame. It’s light while paranormal is dark, but it has the same level of humor and high heat.
I certainly plan to keep writing dark paranormal, but I have a few more stories set in the world of my day job in mind, and I am excited to write them. It surely poses some branding problems to write light contemporary and dark paranormal. And I am very curious whether there will be overlap in readers as I do so.
Do you read multiple subgenres?
What do you love about the various ones?
Do you read any authors who write in multiple subgenres?
Do you prefer external to internal conflict? A well-woven combination?