Category: romance

Paranormal Romance Trends in 2020 and Beyond – Guest Post

Today I’m featuring a guest post from Desiree Villena, filling us in on all the up-coming Paranormal Romance (PNR) trends. I know some of you love your saucy shapeshifter stories…so, over to Desiree…

Trends in Paranormal Romance – Desiree Villena

Vampires, werewolves, raunchy love triangles — is there anything more to paranormal romance than this? If you haven’t kept up with this intriguing genre, you might be justified in thinking there’s not. And to be fair, plenty of new releases continue to perpetuate the same old tropes and ideas. But that’s not to say that there aren’t new trends cropping up in paranormal romance all the time! Today, I’ll be taking you through some of these developments so you’ll know what to expect the next time you browse the shelves.

Image by Mystic Art Design from pixabay

Magical realms

This will surely come as good news to jaded readers of the genre: the lengthy reign of vampires and werewolves is finally being counterbalanced by the worlds of fae, mermaids, and mages. And while these certainly aren’t uncharted territory, there has never been so much enthusiasm for fantasy world-building in PNR as there is now.

Take Bella Forrest’s Harley Merlin series, for instance, which follows a 19-year-old orphan who discovers a community of people who share the same strange psychic abilities as her — among whom she might just find her true love. While the first volume was published in just 2018, its continual success (and the wonders of self-publishing platforms) have led to 20 more books detailing the adventures of Harley Merlin. It goes to show how much traction this sort of universe has!

For good measure, here’s another example of a uniquely mystical world: the Fireblood Dragon series by Ruby Dixon. Set in a post-apocalyptic realm where humans live in enclaves away from beastly dragons, these books follow different female protagonists as they are punished for their deviance by being made “dragon baits.” If you’re wondering where the romance comes in — well, these dragons are shapeshifters looking for lifelong partners (and fiery passion, no pun intended). Now on its eighth installment, it seems this enchanting universe is only becoming more popular, setting the trend in PNR for years to come.

Love in the academies

As PNR is largely targeted at young adults, this trend should come as no surprise. Academies are a very popular setting in fantasy and sci-fi books, from A Wizard of Earthsea to the aptly named Vampire Academy — and since these genres have significant overlaps with paranormal romance, it’s about time boarding schools and spell-binding institutions made their mark on the genre.

We don’t have to go any further than the Harley Merlin series to see this in action. Just from the Amazon book description, which compares Harley Merlin to Harry Potter, readers immediately know that Harley will find herself having many adventures in a magical school. Even though she goes out into the world to hunt monsters and face her dark past, her starting point, her home, and the place where she develops a bond with her significant other is the academy that welcomes her at the beginning of the series.

Some authors go even deeper into this trope, setting almost their entire series in an academy, as Serena Akeroyd did with her Caelum Academy trilogy. Eve, the protagonist, has been raised in an emotionless cult and cut off from outside the world — until she is mysteriously smuggled out of “the compound” and taken to Caelum Academy, a school for those with who aren’t really humans, but paranormal creatures. Here, she’ll not only learn about the world she’d been kept from in the past, but also meet people who truly love her.

Subverting PNR gender norms

In tandem with the rise in academy settings, which provide love interests galore, is the increasing popularity of the “reverse harem” in paranormal romance. This has its roots in recent developments in Japanese animation, and involves a female protagonist encountering many love interests throughout her journey, but being unable to decide on her “one true love.” Sounds dramatic, I know — but isn’t that the whole point of these supernatural love affairs?

Let’s return to Caelum Academy, where our female lead is initially bullied and made fun of at her new school because of her ignorance of the modern world. Soon enough, however, some of the guys who made fun of Eve take a liking to her (in a typical enemies-to-lovers turn of events) and start trying to help her out. As the trilogy progresses, Eve develops strong relationships with these guys, some of which excitingly escalate beyond the friendzone — but she never admits to loving any of them in more than a platonic way, at least not until the final installment.

Rather than making these books purely raunchy, Akeroyd shows readers that relationships are complicated, and finding “the one” isn’t so easy, or even necessarily imperative. It’s also a great way to throw a wrench into the common trope of a dominant male stringing along a female lead. If you’re interested in these types of gender role-subverting stories, consider checking out Meg Xuemei X’s War of the Gods series, and The Dark Side series by Kristy Cunning.

Crossing over to urban fantasy

Sure, it’s thrilling to be pulled into bizarre landscapes with fantastical heroes, but isn’t it even more enthralling to discover the world you thought you knew in a different light? This is the premise of urban fantasy: it takes a familiar setting (our own world) and points out the nooks and crannies in which you can find a whole other, supernatural universe.

This trend has been a long time coming, starting in the mid-2000s with some PNR classics such as the Dublin pub-hopping adventures of Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever, and the bounty-hunting chases of Jeaniene Frost’s Halfway to the Grave. Since then, plenty of series have taken readers down dark alleyways in cities we thought we knew all too well, suspensefully revealing the underbellies and hidden gateways of concrete jungles… while spicing things up with some (often star-crossed) romance. Though many urban fantasy fans aren’t particularly fond of the growing romance segment of their niche, PNR fans continue to embrace this trend, which should make for a number of fascinating crossovers in the future.

PNR books do tend to be slower to change — authors often stick to the ideas and themes that they’ve seen work well, not wanting to mess with a successful formula. However, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been shifts in the paranormal romance landscape over recent years, and very interesting ones at that! Hopefully, these trends will kickstart a host of other innovations in this corner of the literary universe, and we’ll be looking at plenty of exciting new titles soon.

About Desiree

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading paranormal romance, writing contemporary fiction, and analyzing tropes and trends.

#71 – Debbie Young – Write Through The Roof

Interview with cosy mystery writer Debbie Young

“Cosy mysteries are an antidote to the strains of modern life”

Episode 71 – Debbie Young – Show Notes

  • Short novels are her favourite form
  • Journalistic background but mainly a pantser
  • Writes a chapter a day in the writing phase
  • Doesn’t always write every day. Needs to recharge the batteries and think
  • Themes of celebrating community and nurturing understanding between people
  • The mystery provides the framework to flesh out with characters and comedy
  • Based on her real village life and her community
  • Closed communities in a mystery; village and classic English boarding school
  • Cosy mystery popularity – an antidote to modern life, resolution and happy ever after
  • Writing without stopping – experiment with the next novel with a little light editing to begin each writing session
  • Different technologies for writing – Word, using Scrivener for plotting, writing by hand with a fountain pen
  • Touch typing
  • Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers
  • Sophie Sayers mysteries are not always murder stories and veer more to romantic and situational comedy.
  • Experimenting with crossing over between the Sayers and St.Brides series and writing more novellas

I’m an organised pantser.”

“Sometimes I feel I’m writing situation comedy sketches.”

Links

#63 – Toby Neal – Write Through The Roof

Interview with best-selling romance & mystery writer Toby Neal

‘People are preoccupied by crime because we want to recognise the wolves in our midst’

Episode 63 – Toby Neal – Show Notes

  • Writing is like a muscle – needs regular workouts
  • 2000 words a day target
  • Both a plotter and a pantser. More pantser for romance and plotter for mysteries
  • Recording affirmations and listening prior to writing session
  • Themes of good versus evil and the shades of grey in everyone and how love can overcome a multitude of problems
  • Dark themes but with hope – fascinated with the duality between dark and light
  • Mastering your craft – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – the 10,000 hour rule
  • Take off your pants – Libbie Hawker – the hero needs to find a cure for their flaw
  • Unconventional childhood – Memoir – Freckles
  • Putting off writing goals for security – started with an anonymous blog – using real life experience as a school counsellor
  • Speeding up the writing process
  • Dictation, health and accessing creative brain by writing longhand
  • Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens, The Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon
  • Wired Truth: multi-cultural kick-ass female main character. Pushing the envelope for what’s acceptable with female behaviour. Experimenting with different kinds of love.

‘Nothing but writing is going to make you a better writer’

‘I tried to do literary fiction and I bored myself by page 40’

Links

#56 – Alex Harrow – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 56 – Alex Harrow – queer SFF author

As I edited it, it just got queerer and queerer.’

Episode 56 – Alex Harrow – Show Notes

  • A secret closet pantser who also loves index cards and Scrivener – ‘dots connector’
  • Daily writer but not all writing is at the keyboard
  • Agile method of writing in sprints
  • Trinity of drinks – coffee, tea and water
  • English as a second language influenced the approach to writing from a ‘voicey‘ perspective
  • Need to see more queer characters as protagonists.
  • Found families and enemies to lovers
  • Good critique partners are essential
  • Moderator of #queerspec Twitter chat
  • The ever-expanding ‘To Be Read’ pile
  • Classic fantasy, Seanan Mcguire, Xan West, RoAnna Sylver
  • Interrupting cats
  • Getting in touch with non-readers. Understanding what stories touch people
  • Empire of Light inspired by the need for more queer protagonists in sci-fi and fantasy
  • Queering up your bookshelves.
  • Upcoming projects include an alternate history set in post war Dresden – queer Agent Carter

‘Not all writing happens at the keyboard’

‘I wrote this book out of spite’

Links

#38 – Gail Carriger – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 38 with Gail Carriger – comedy of manners paranormal romance author

“The strength of the romance genre lies in the Heroine’s Journey.”

Episode 38 – Gail Carriger – Show Notes
  • A militant plotter and a purger
  • 2000 words per day and only re-read words written the day before
  • Novellas in the independent publishing world
  • Chronic tea drinker – import from England
  • Gentle, frivolous, strong female friendships and the help of others
  • The Heroine’s Journey
  • Give yourself permission to suck
  • Beta readers with different coloured pens and revision pass for funny
  • Scrivener
  • Moving back into YA high fantasy
  • Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey
  • Queer characters and power of normalisation
  • Competence: with queer main character.
  • Shared world of characters but stories are stand-alone

“No one but you has to read your first draft.”

“My goal is at least three LOLs per page.”

Read More

#35 – Shona Husk – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 35 with Shona Husk – speculative fiction romance author

“I like a fast and dirty draft.”

Episode 35 – Shona Husk – Show Notes
  • Writes quickly but as a plotter, edits aren’t generally structural
  • Dark mint chocolate, not coffee
  • Dark angsty and tortured heroes
  • Every other genre plus romance
  • Write novellas to learn characterisation and three act structure
  • Learning – Stealing Hollywood by Alexandra Sokoloff, podcasts, the Story Grid and movies as a reference
  • Katharine Kerr, Marie Brennan, Jim Butcher
  • Different dynamics in heterosexual, gay and lesbian romance
  • Servant of The Forest: YA Cinderella re-telling
  • Hybrid publishing – write first and then look for the right market
  • Ballet classes as research for writing

“All the wonderful world building with a happily-ever-after.”

“I write faster with chocolate.”

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#23 – Dean Mayes – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 23 with Dean Mayes – romance, family saga & thriller writer

“Cherrypick techniques but develop your own style and process.”

Episode 23 – Dean Mayes – Show Notes
  • Balance between structure and disappearing down rabbit holes
  • Writing story notes by his patient’s bedside
  • Writing romance in Star Wars pajamas
  • Spending a lot of constructing characters and people watching, women and men and their responses to challenges
  • Understanding the Aboriginal experience
  • Process of outlining with Scrivener
  • Using pencil to get away from plastic
  • Molly Ringle, Simon Winchester
  • A world exclusive!
  • Madeleine’s tip – Reading Critically

“Outlining has been a positive tool to improve my writing.”

“A love letter to the two towns I’ve lived in.”

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#21 – Amanda Bridgeman – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 21 with Amanda Bridgeman – space opera & sci-fi thriller writer

“Take all writing advice with a pinch of salt.”

Episode 21 – Amanda Bridgeman – Show Notes
  • Not necessarily writing every day, but working on the book business every day
  • Dead cold silence to write
  • Fueled by crumpets
  • Sci-fi thrillers but ongoing character driven sagas with a bit of romance
  • Writing military without a military background; research including Facebook groups and input from fans
  • Learning from other writers but with limits. Finding stories you like and analyse why
  • Ernest Cline, Andy Weir, Emily St.John Mandel, Stephen Moss, Lindsay Buroker
  • Time of The Stripes inspired by a walk to the shop to buy chocolate and current events
  • Setting stories in the US
  • Madeleine’s tip – Taking a Break

“Believe in yourself and your voice.”

“The key to a good book is mystery and intrigue.”

Read More

#19 – Karen Rose Smith – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 19 with Karen Rose Smith – Romance & cosy mystery writer

“Writing, along with cats, is my therapy.”

Episode 19 – Karen Rose Smith – Show Notes
  • Writing after back surgery to deal with pain
  • Husband and cats
  • Dictation; more editing involved but writing goes faster
  • Relationships; family, romantic and in small towns
  • Writing every day hones your instincts
  • Writing 13 books before being published
  • Getting manuscripts in early and saying no
  • Daisy Tea Garden mysteries; tea shops, Amish country, family relationships
  • Emilie Loring, Glenna Finley, Kathleen E Woodiwiss, Harlan Corben, Jodi Piccoult, Dan Brown, Lisa Scottoline
  • Madeleine’s tip – dealing with comparisonitis

“When I’m alone in the dark with the tape recorder, I’m good”

“Reading a genre you don’t write sharpens your skills”

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#17 – Abbie Williams – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 17 with Abbie Williams – Historical family saga & romance writer

“There’s a different thought process when you write long hand”

Episode 17 – Abbie Williams – Show Notes

  • Plotting the story as a bridge
  • Exploring family dynamics and gritty historical detail
  • Giving a voice to women working as prostitutes in 19th century American history
  • Trusting your gut and the story
  • Building a writing community to commiserate
  • Poetry as inspiration
  • Larry McMurtry, Sherman Alexie, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes
  • Ending a series
  • Balancing two series at the same time
  • Madeleine’s tip – Twenty Solutions

“Punching you in the guts with words”

“Writing the first draft is telling myself the story”

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#06 – Harmony Williams – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode o6 with Harmony Williams – Period romance, cosy mystery & ghost writer

Romance, Co-writing and Regency Research

“I want to lift you up from your daily problems for a few hours and drop you off feeling better”

Episode 06 – Interview with Harmony Williams – Show Notes
  • If you write 500 beginnings, you will only get good at beginnings but not middles or ends
  • The co-writing process
  • Inspiration for the Regency period; Austen, Clarke and Novik
  • Humour and romance
  • Madeleine’s tip: musings after GenreCon

“Everything’s better with dragons”

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