Today, I’m chatting with M.V. Freeman, who writes urban fantasy/paranormal romance, about the differences between those two genres. Since I have a foot in both worlds, as myself and as Susannah Sandlin, the two of us have had an ongoing conversation for the past couple of years about what differentiates them. Read on for a giveaway, and weigh in!
SJ: Do you think there’s much difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance? When you’re writing, are you thinking about where it fits in the genre–or do you just write the story you want to write and then figure out where it best fits?
MVF: I do think there is a huge difference in paranormal romance (PNR) and urban fantasy (UF)–PNR focuses on the Romance–there is character arc to it and the primary thing is the relationship–the tropes are similar to what you find in contemporary romance. I know you’ve said here is where the various POV’s are, whereas UF is more focused on single POV, and the plot character arc is important. Plus in UF you don’t have to make a redeemable hero (or at least completely). The adventure is paramount (but this is my perception).
When I write–I tend to write the story and then think of where to put it–but I have to say the more I write I naturally start putting it in a category. But I am blurring the genre’s UF/PNR. I love the adventure, plot, character development, but I adore the romance wrapped in it. I write what I want to read–but that may put me in position making it difficult to place. How about you? Do you prefer to keep the lines delineated between PNR/UF? Do write first and ask questions later?
SJ: LOL. Well, I got myself in trouble trying to write first and categorize later. Two years ago, I was in that limbo land between signing the contract for my urban fantasy series and when my first book, Royal Street, actually went into production. Book two was already written, so I was bored…which usually gets me in trouble. I’d just blown through JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, reading the first eight books back to back. I love that series–in my mind, there’s no one who can create tortured heroes like her. They’re tortured but (ahem, Bella and Edward) they don’t whine and grow annoying.
So I thought, ‘I want to write a multiple POV story that’s a romance but has lots of strong action in it.’ I’d found myself skipping over a lot of the stuff with the Lessening Society in the BDB series to get back to the romance bits, and I wanted a strong enough external plot that it could hold its own with the romance. So I wrote this book called Redemption. My agent pitched it to two editors, both of whom promptly came back with the verdict that while a great story and worldbuilding, it sat on the fence between UF and PNR and they wouldn’t know how to sell it.
I had the UF series going already, so I decided to swing it toward PNR. But first I had to pull this seven-POV monstrosity apart and figure out how to put it back together as a paranormal romance. That’s when I developed my plotting system. Now, before I ever write a word, or even finish thinking about what the big idea is behind my story, I decide what genre it’s going to be.
I still think I skirt close to the line. My urban fantasies have romantic elements, and my paranormal romances have very strong external storylines; it’s just that, now, I try to keep PNR proportions about 60-40, with 60 percent of the story skewing toward whatever genre I’m writing. My UF has moved from 60-40 plot-to-relationship to, now, about 70-30. I got a mild negative backlash from some romance readers who were disappointed that the romance bits had been scaled back, and positive feedback from UF readers who were glad to see the series settling firmly into the UF genre.
Do you think about reader expectation when you’re writing? I mean, UF and PNR have a lot of reader overlap, and most of the readers (and authors) are women, so I was surprised that there were so many purists that don’t want to see romance in their UF and don’t want to see too much action in their PNR.
MVF: That is a good question–and I’ve struggled with it. Should I write to the expectation of the readers or the story I want? I’ve already gotten reviews that did say both: Too much romance/Not enough romance. It is my opinion–you’ll always have the mix of reviews, not everyone is going to the like your story and there will be others who do. I’d like to be self-righteous and announce of course I’d write what I prefer–but lets be realistic, if you can’t sell it, there is a problem.
You mentioned that you wrote a book the way you wanted it, but had to revise it to fit the right genre. I know I gravitate toward stories which have the blend of UF/Romance. There are three authors who I believe straddle the fine line we are discussing: J..R. Ward, Jeaniene Frost, and Ilona Andrews.
Do you think it’s possible to straddle the line? Or do you think it’s a losing battle? And do you think that in time the lines will blur further? (Much like it has for suspense etc).
SJ: I think Jeaniene Frost definitely straddles the line—technically, the Night Huntress series is urban fantasy, but Cat and Bones’ relationship is so much at the heart of the story it would be hard to remove it and have anything approaching the current books. JR Ward is, to me, strictly paranormal romance. The relationship is the whole point of each book—how the damaged hero of each novel finds a love that completes him. The relationships get resolved at the end of each book while the external plot—the war with the Lessening Society—continues from book to book. Well, except for my man Vishous. He was cheated
Giveaway – Comment to Win:
So, what think you, readers? Do you have a preference between UF and PNR, or do you read both with equal passion? Next Friday, I’ll post one winner here to win a signed copy of REDEMPTION, my straddle-the-fence book that finally had to get off the fence!
Open to international. This contest will run through Friday 11/22/13 (11:59 PM Pacific) – Winner will be drawn and announced on Saturday, 11/23/13.
Disclaimer: Prize must be claimed within one week of the winning announcement.