Friday, February 13, 2009

Is it a paranormal or is it a romance?

Is it a paranormal or is it a romance? Defining paranormal romance.
By Marie-Claude Bourque

Today, Friday the 13th and quite fitting for a blog on paranormal, I’ll focus on what I write, paranormal romance, or at least I think that’s what I write.

Unless we call it urban fantasy?
It took me a while to finally wrap my mind over the concept of paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy.

Author Terry Spear told me that urban fantasy was to bring paranormal elements to our world. My stories are set in our world and they have paranormal elements to it (one is about magic, another is about demons). So I thought I might be writing urban fantasy.

But then I asked author Jeanne C. Stein and she said that the paranormal elements really have to take over the whole story to call it urban fantasy.

At that point, I still didn’t know what to call my stories until I finally heard a definition that worked for me, from author Yasmine Galenorn. She said, “If they are fighting to save the world, it is urban fantasy; if they are fighting to save the relationship, it is paranormal romance.”

Okay, my story Ancient Whispers is a paranormal romance then. They have to fight an evil mage, but really the story is about the relation between a Pagan priestess and a tortured alchemist. Yes there are spells and ritual magic, enchanted swords and alchemy. But in the end, it is all about two people finding true love through hardship.

It used to be that in romance, the hardship was caused by the heroes’ faults or some small external conflict. But now we’ve added a whole new dimension that can bring conflict in the relationship: paranormal elements. In Ancient Whispers, my heroine denies her psychic powers and wants nothing to do with magic. But when she finds out that the man she loves is not only immortal but a powerful sorcerer, she is forced to accept the paranormal part of her and embrace it. But it doesn’t come easy, hence the source of conflict inherent in all romance novel.

How much paranormal should you add in a paranormal romance? We basically got the answer to that this week, as much or as little as you want.

Ghosts, psychics, Faes, vampires and shifters, witches? Anything goes really these days. One can even make a romance with a dragon shifter hero. I am consistently amazed at the imagination of paranormal romance writers to make the otherworldly seem normal, and even sexy. How did Stephanie Meyer convinced so many teens (and their moms) that a vampire sinking their teeth in a woman’s throat could actually be hot? It is true that Anne Rice had done a good job at that before with her Vampire Lestat, but she never wrote romance.

I love paranormal romance, because, let’s face it, if we are to dream about a hunky alpha hero, isn’t it so much more fun if he possesses some paranormal abilities as well. Now we are really drawn into the fantasy.

But in the end, in paranormal romance, we need the important romantic element to be fully there, the “boy meet girl, boy lose girl, boy get girl” story. We need the happily ever after (I personally love the marriage proposal at the end).
Otherwise, we’ll have to call it an urban fantasy!

My favorite paranormal romances are the Dark-Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J,R, Ward. What are yours?

Marie-Claude Bourque is an American Title V finalist with her entry ANCIENT WHISPERS, a dark paranormal romance filled with tortured sorcerers, dark sensuality and gothic rituals. You can find her at and


kerribookwriter said...

Hey MC!

Love your post today. I was drawn to it because I'm just about to complete my very first paranormal romance story. It has been a long time coming as I'm a huge fan of the genre. I just never got around to writing one myself. Couldn't get it off the ground, I guess.

Anyway, my faves to read are Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark Hunters all the way!) and Karen Marie Moning's time travels. She is totally why I fell in love with the genre. Oh, and I've just started getting caught up on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris.


Marie-Claude Bourque said...

Hi Kerri!
Congratulation on your almost completed paranormal romance. That is so exciting :)
Best of luck with it!!!!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Nice post- thanks for defining paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy. I agree-love an alpha male with special powers.