Genre Talk

Unparanormal Bound? (Aka Gone Girl, er, Vampire)

LDD-FinalI thought it was ironic that today, December 30, the schedule came round for me to do our “Genre Talk” feature here at Paranormal Unbound. Because I have a new book out today (woo-hoo!) and it finds me stepping way out on a limb without a single bit of fang, fin or fur to support me. Yeah, that’s kind of a mixed metaphor, but I digress. The book is (gasp) not paranormal. My first all-human offspring, so to speak.

All of us who write paranormal fiction have been hearing about the death of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for the past year, maybe two years. Sales are down, we’re told. Editors don’t want to see anything featuring a (fill in the blank with paranormal species or kickass heroine of choice), we’re told. We’re asked, “Got any YA or NA or contemporary? Something like Gone Girl?” Uh, no.

So before I talk about my own leap, here’s my theory on the state of paranormal fantasy, which is my general term for urban fantasy, paranormal romance, rural fantasy, and all things in between. I don’t think the readership has  dwindled or gone away. It’s simply that the proliferation of small press- and self-published paranormals has flooded the marketplace at a time when the readership has remained stable. So now, instead of finding one or two new authors I might want to add to those on my autobuy list, as a reader, I have fifty or a hundred new authors to consider. Nothing more complicated than luck determines whether I even find out about the one author who might have written the best book I will ever read. Whether readers find out about me and my books…also largely luck.

I’d like to look into my publishing crystal ball and say that it’ll all shake out in the end, that the cream will rise to the top, that authors will discover the magic bullet to propel them into reader awareness. (More mixed metaphors! Let’s make it a genre!)

It’s a hard old world out there, however, and my publishing crystal ball is as foggy as fall on the North Atlantic coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Which brings me back to my new adventure, the last third of which is set on the foggy North Atlantic coast of Cape Breton.

While I write urban fantasy as Suzanne Johnson, I also write darker, sexier books under the name Susannah Sandlin. In the process of writing a dark, sensual–and somewhat apocalyptic–vampire series as Susannah, I discovered a taste for writing stories that edge into thriller territory. High stakes. Tension. Big ideas. I even coined my own genre mashup name: paranormal romantic thrillers.

Then I had a frightening thought. What if I took the paranormal out of the mix? What would a romantic thriller look like in my voice? And that’s how The Collectors series came to be and the first book, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, which comes out today. It features a washed up ex-Marine combat diver named Shane and a feisty but damaged biologist named Gillian. (Geeks!) It has some lost treasure of the Knights Templar, ancient shipwrecks, evil billionaires, a dog named Tank, and a conspiracy theorist named Chevy.

But OMG, how I wanted to have a merman swim out to shake up the divers, or maybe even Poseidon himself! A reef monster. Sea spiders. I could go on.

Still, it was great fun to write, and I’m already looking forward to the second book, where my cabal of evil bad guys goes after the lost crown jewels of Bad King John.

Does this mean I am moving away from paranormal? Never, ever, ever! In fact, I just turned in Penton book four and am already back in New Orleans with my wizards and my undead pirate.

What are your thoughts on the past, present, and future of paranormal fiction? What’s in your own crystal ball? Leave a comment and I’ll choose someone to win their choice of Lovely, Dark, and Deep or–if you really want to get your paranormal on–my new paranormal romance novella, Chenoire. I’ll post the winner’s name here on Sunday, January 5.

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14 thoughts on “Unparanormal Bound? (Aka Gone Girl, er, Vampire)

  1. Nice to see you again. I’ve recently been reading contemporary romance. Why? I have no idea But I will not do it again, not even for you whose writing I love. I don’t know about the urban fantasy readership I can only speak for me. I keep finding more to read in the genre, some of it from this site. And no offense but your latest sounds very similar to a book I just finished.

    I apologize for the rant but you caught me at a bad time. Contemporary means real life and sticking to the real world and “facts”. In a paranormal the world is the author’s and if it’s authentic the possibilities are endless. And not boring and mundane.

    Okay I should go and give someone else a chance. By the way your Redemption is on my pile to be read. G’nite

    • Hi Sue–No problem on the rant! Actually, I’m not a fan of contemporary romance as a general rule, and I see the thriller genre as a little different although it is set in the real world. The thing I missed most in writing non-paranormal for the first time was the worldbuilding, and I think that absence–plus the tendency of a lot of contemporaries to basically stay within a very familiar storytelling pattern–is what turns a lot of paranormal readers off about contemporaries and makes so many contemporaries feel like a slightly different version of the same story. And I hope you enjoy Redemption–it’s definitely not a contemporary romance!

    • LOL–I know. You come up with what you think is an original title and–oops, not so much. Well, when I think of contemporary romance (and I could be very, very wrong), I think of a book that has a pretty simple plotline. Girl meets boy, girl and boy hate each other, girl and boy are forced together by some machination, something happens to make girl and boy realize they’re each other’s The One, and girl and boy get married or shack up or whatever. The plot is a flimsy 20 percent and the romance 80 percent. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s kind of like eating cotton candy all the time, right? It leaves me wanting some red meat or something. When I think of a romantic thriller, I think of a book where there’s at least a 50-50 plot-to-relationship ratio. I’d rank LDD at about 60-40 plot-to-romance, or even 65-35. Although my characters did have a lot of fun with some chocolate-covered cherries….

  2. I will always read PNR or UF because I love the world building and the possibilities that can exist in that genre. Having said that, I love a good romantic thriller. Something that keeps you at the edge of your seat and frantically turning pages to see what happens next. Looking forward to reading Lovely, Dark and Deep!

  3. I read a lot of different genres and I’ve always gone back to paranormal books. I think paranormal fiction is here to stay

    • I agree Sandy–there’s just more to choose from. I can’t imagine ever NOT reading paranormal. I look back now to when I was younger and I was reading Laurell K Hamilton and Anne Rice. I just didn’t know what to call it 🙂

  4. Suzanne,
    You just tapped into my consciousness with this post! I’ve read UF/PNR as a steady reading diet for over 4 years, and I have to say – I’m starting to introduce other things. I admit, I’m burning out a bit on it as a reader. Hate to say it, but the plots are starting to blend together. That said, my first adult UF/PNR launches in April with the second book in the series on it’s heels in the Fall. But for some unknown bizarre reason, I was gripped with a Contemporary Romance idea in October about an older woman / younger man (with more plot than your description in the comment above I promise you! :-)). And out came a fully formed 80K novel 8 weeks later that I love. Huh? Where did that come from? I think it’s all the Contemporary New Adult I’ve been reading lately squeezed in and among my UF/PNR. I really like your new book description. Think I need to add it my Goodreads TBR, or maybe I’ll be lucky and win the copy! Have a great day, and thanks for the timely post. LG

    • I hear ya! I think there are so, so many paranormals coming out that it’s hard to find the new twist or spin. Once you find it, it’s golden. I’m not a big contemporary fan, so Ivstarted reading a few historicals…of course then I drifted to paranormal historicals!

  5. Paranormal Fantasy-to coin your phrase-is most definitely here to stay. Like you said, the playing field just exploded with many Indie writers, so there is just so much to choose from. Having said that, I still have my auto-buy authors and those that I know I want to read. In the past year alone, I probably have added at a minimum 25 new authors…wow, that is a lot of books!!! In most cases, I buy Kindle or Nook books because, again-in most cases, they are less expensive. However, there are authors that I simply MUST have their books in print. All this to say that Paranormal isn’t going anywhere.
    This past year has also seen me jump into the Romantic Suspense genre head first, and I love it! I find good suspense book-sans the otherworldly folk-to be quite gratifying!

    • Yay–another romantic suspense fan! I’ve started buying most new authors for Kindle now, but I do have a stable of regular authors I have to have in print. I might be two books behind with the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but I always buy them when they come out. I’ll get to them one of these days!

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