I grew up in India.
But contrary to the outlandish non-desi claim that cobras, elephants, rhinos
and all manner of flesh-eating yogis fill India’s
square-footage cheek by jowl, I rarely came across such sights—outside of zoos,
forests and the occasional temple—anywhere in India. The flesh-eating
yogis—being a bit more exotic, definitely more mythic—I am happy to report have
never crossed my path.
That said, the
truth is that an Indian grows up on a steady diet of the outlandish. Our history
and literature ooze Para-normality. The Hindu culture itself boasts 330 million
major and minor gods who battle an endless franchise of demons and/or demonic
wannabes in a never-ending Time Cycle on and off several realms unseen by the
human eye. (Won’t bother mentioning the Buddhist, Jaina, Zoroastrian, Islamic,
Catholic or Tribal myths that pepper and intermix with Indian culture in
various capacities.) Suffice it to say that Indians are extremely familiar and
oddly comfortable with scientifically inexplicable phenomena.
I won’t be amiss in
claiming that my introduction to the fantastic began in my mother’s womb. I’m
pretty sure she read and chanted plenty of allegorical stories, poems and
prayers throughout the pregnancy. But my first clear memory of the art of
storytelling was when I was five. My paternal grandmother lived with us and a
maalishwaali (a female masseuse) would come every morning to massage her old
bones. The masseuse, an illiterate though plainspoken woman, loved discussing
episodes from the Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata (think Iliad and
Odyssey, only much longer.) As I loved listening to those stories it became a
ritual for me to sit in on the massage sessions.
My world began to
expand with every tale. I came to love Sita (the exiled queen stolen from her
beloved Rama by the demon Ravana) as much as I loved Sleeping Beauty (the
unlucky princess secreted away for her own safety.) Karna (think Achilles) is
the utterly hot, devastatingly misjudged demi-god from the Mahabharata, and
remains my favorite mythological hero (or non-hero, depending on your
loyalties) to this day. So much so, that I’ve written a 400 page story about
him. My point is that while I never dreamed of being an author ever—not until I
stumbled into the writing profession and actually became one five years ago—I
have always been in thrall of the fantastical.
I write and am
published in Contemporary Romance. I have also completed an Urban Fantasy with
strong elements of romance (Karna’s story.) Can I claim preferring one genre
over the other? No. But I will say that writing about the paranormal is a
thrill like no other.♥
and bred in Mumbai, Falguni Kothari currently lives in New York with her family
and an utterly spoiled dog. She’s the author of BOOTIE AND THE BEAST (April
2014 via Harlequin Mills and Boon,) IT’S YOUR MOVE, WORDFREAK! and SCRABBULOUS
IMPRESSIONS, a short story. Visit her at: www.falgunikothari.com and
www.falgunikothari.blogspot.com. Follow her on:
www.facebook.com/falgunikothari.author and www.twitter.com/F2tweet
Ok, you’ve written
the book. And the book has actually sold. You feverishly work with your editor
polishing and perfecting. The launch date is set (well, as set as it’s ever
going to be) Now who will buy your baby? Hopefully, you will
receive a stellar review—Or several. Fingers and toes crossed.— and folks will
be ordering your baby up the wazoo.
But who are the
sales we initially count on? Friends and family, of course. After all they
must. The book’s progress has been documented in your Christmas cards, and they
have read about you on Facebook, and even showed interest at cocktail parties
and family reunions. But what about Aunt Petunia? Or Aunt Hattie, for that matter? Or Mrs.
Merkin, the postmistress? Or your father, for heaven’s sake?
My book, THE
DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, is a Regency set in 1810, but it is not a sweet regency. The
bedroom door is open. Not wide open, but open enough that my Auntie P. might
not be able to think of her niece, Jessica, in quite the same way. I have a critique
partner, Amber Belldene, who is an amazing writer of very steamy vampire
stories. She also happens to be an Episcopal priest. How does she handle it?
Let’s find out.
Jess: Hello Amber,
thanks so much for joining me. First off, congratulations on the release of the
final book in your Blood Vine trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about BLOOD
REUNITED is the third book in the Blood Vine series. The series focuses on the
Maras family of vampires, who are in exile from their homeland in Croatia, a
state which causes them to fall ill to a wasting disease. Hunters know this,
and have been driving vampires from their homes for centuries, but at the start
of this book, the Hunters’ campaign grows more violent, and only the biologist
Bel and the ancient Uta can stop them. The problem is the pair are enemies,
fated mates, and rather stubborn about the whole situation. I think the trailer
does a good job introducing the conflict between the characters.
Jess: I think,
BLOOD REUNITED, is your best yet. Uta is so uta-er-ly delicious! I could go on
and on but we have to get back to Aunt P and my dilemma. How did you come to
grips with being a writer of sexy vamp stories as well as an Episcopal priest?
first I treated it like a dark, dirty secret. But as I got to know so many
romance writers who are just like me--moms, professionals, Sunday school
teachers, I realized it shouldn’t be a big deal, and that I needed to be a part
of making sure it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve become really outspoken about why
there is nothing sinful about reading or writing sexy books. In fact, I truly
believe romance is one of the ways we experience God in our lives, and most
romance readers I know report reading sexy books about love is great for their
you ever wonder how your parishioners would deal with this other side of their
Amber: I do
wonder, and that is why I have a pen name. I don’t need to be in the face of
the people I pastor as a writer of racy romance. Some of them know, and their
reaction ranges from amusement to indifference. But because I know it would get
in the way for some people when they need my listening ear, or my prayers, or
my advice, then I want to keep it under wraps for the most part.
you ever consider toning down your books because of your preaching job?
Honestly, no. I wrote the stories I had to tell, and I believe they have
integrity as truly human (or vampire stories). And I would much rather write
in the explicit style that suits me as a writer, and engage in the conversation
with people who might not like it, than to hold back. We need to start having
more honest conversations about sex as a society, and maybe my dual vocations
will spurr some of those on.
you have any stories about how you dealt with an Aunt Petunia?
funny that you ask about this, because I did just see my dad yesterday for the
first time in months and I gave him copies of both my books. It turns out all
my aunts already love FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. But even my uncles and male
colleagues have read my books. My father-in-law put it down when he felt uncomfortable,
and that’s what I hope anyone would do. I will assume people can judge for
themselves whether it will affect our relationship or not, and I would never be
offended to hear someone put it down for that reason!
have twins who must be about three now? A little young to be reading, but you
must have thought of what you might say to them about your books when they do
start getting curious.
Amber: I sincerely
hope to have an honest and open dialog with my kids about sex. From my work, I
know that is something hard to achieve, and like a lot of things about being a
parent, it’s much easier to plan on before the time arrives. Still, I expect my
son will want nothing to do with a sexy book his mom wrote. My daughter may be
more curious, if she’s anything like me (and so far, she is). I read romances
as a teenager and I don’t think it hurt me, but fleshed out my sexual
education, so how DD and I will handle that will probably have everything to
do with our relationship--but I hope when and if she reads it, she will talk to
me about it so that we can put behaviors and actions in context and talk about
good decision making.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Amber. I certainly agree
that sometimes we tend to be too puritanical about some things while being
terribly negligent about others. Finding love is a good thing. Something to be
celebrated and cherished whether it comes to a group on Vampires or, in the
case of THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, a rather shy and monkish Duke.
So to the
Aunt Petunias of the world, I certainly hope I will not offend you with my
writing. Blood Reunited, and The Dressmaker’s Duke, are stories
centered around people struggling to find love. As writers we torture them a
bit, but that only makes it all the more delicious when they finally get their
happily ever after. And besides, you can always just skip over the naughtier
bits. As a side
note, my mother waited weeks on a waitlist at her public library to read 50
SHADES--I believe she said she was #800. ♥
Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and RWA/NYC. THE
DRESSMAKER’S DUKE came in first in the Fool for Love Contest, Golden Apple
Awards’ Secret Craving Contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest and the
Golden Rose Contest (also winning the Best of the Best). And it finaled in the
Great Beginnings, Emerald City Opener, and the Lone Star Contests. Jess is
currently working on two other stories, (working titles), HEART OF GLASS, and
MAD FOR THE MARQUESS. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, (The Wild Rose Press) will be
available in late Spring. Please Visit
her Web site: http://jessrussellromance.com
As someone who
likes her erotic romance dark, and edgy, and replete with BDSM, including pain
play, the perfect genre to combine it all, with a sepulchral atmosphere that
can’t be beat, is erotic horror romance. Unlike erotic horror which, reasonably,
includes both erotic sexual elements as well as the horrific supernatural
aspects, and which usually leads to blood and often death or unfortunate ends
for the characters, with EHR, you actually can have the HEA as well.
Taking the edgy,
dark hero of a contemporary romance one step further in EHR you have a dark,
edgy and potentially deadly hero. He can be a vampire, a demon, a sorcerer –
those supernatural beings that deal with blood and the soul can often be the
perfect hero to attract, seduce – and torment – our heroines.
I have written a
number of erotic horror romance short “flash fiction” pieces and my published
short story, “The Vampires’ Embrace” is a hot horror ménage where the heroine
is seduced with pain and sex by her three vampire masters. Imagine, if you
will, Dracula in all his blood sucking glory, as romance hero. The Frank
Langella seductive bloodsucker as opposed to the really freaky Nosferatu dude.
Whether the heroine becomes his human servant, or joins him in eternal darkness,
the erotic scenes can be blistering hot, or chilling, but they are always
seductive. And the BDSM elements of edge play most certainly fit in
beautifully, especially with a bit of blood involved.
I have read a
number of erotic romances that I would consider either actual horror, or to
possess major elements of horror. The darkest of Anita Blake’s novels are
erotic horror with the elements of romance that she is known for. The sexual
eroticism that permeates those books is inextricably linked to the lengths to
which author Laurell K. Hamilton forces her human protagonist, Anita Blake and
her shifter and vampire lovers. Pain is a great accompaniment to these scenes
and in her most recent Blake title, AFFLICTION, amid zombie attacks and humans
dying of zombie flesh-eating disease, Hamilton weaves in the trio of lovers
(Anita needs sex to feed an unwanted sexual vampire-like hunger, without which
she, and her vampire servants, will wither and die) having sex amid the horror.
Given the backdrop, the sex itself is dark and intense, but she goes further
than she ever has before, and includes a consensual choking scene that was
riveting in its eroticism. Additionally, the extreme act dovetailed well with
the outside events.
One of the final
lines of my flash fiction blog post “The Sweet Sting” is, I feel, a perfect
definition of erotic horror romance, where the heroine welcomes to her bed,
eagerly, her midnight lover, and his promise of exquisite pain:
“And the night
became as fire as he used me. As he pleasured me. As he showered his torments
lovers in the throes of ecstasy bearing with it that sweet sting and the taste
of blood, or dark magic that enthralls a heroine to give herself over to the
wicked torments of her sorcerer lover, or the chilled embrace of a ghostly
lover who wrings from his partner screams of climax – and shrieks of pain –
erotic horror romance pushes all the envelopes. To my great delight! ♥
Lise Horton’s debut novel WORDS OF LUST launched in September
2013, and she is finalizing book 2 of the Stellato Siblings series for
submission. You can read more about Lise, her books, and her blogs, by visiting
her website, www.LiseHorton.com, and join her in the madcap whirl of social
Ms. Mac Perry, Thank
you for your submission. I read your manuscript, and then showed it to a friend
better versed in this genre. He informed me paranormal is a bit “too long in
tooth for any meaningful new entrant,” at the moment. Best of luck to you in
your endeavors. Regards,
Long in tooth? Is he
delving out fang humor as he rejects me? Oh, ho, ho, ho. I beg to differ, Mr.
big, scary, unattainable-and-highly-coveted Agent Man.
As long as there is
sex, there’ll be Bad Boys. And long as there are Bad Boys, there’ll be
vampires, shape shifters, fairies, and the like. Maybe it will go underground,
but cult fans are loyal fans, and eventually dominate popular culture
again--once the hungry masses crave something “fresh” again.
Small Town Romance
and New Adult are the way to go, huh? Did small towns suddenly appear? Have
women previously skipped ages eighteen to twenty five, until big publishing
decided to slap a label on those formative years?
Dare I point out, the
only reason the label exists is because TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER fans have
gone and grown up. And have you ever seen a Small Town Romance gain the kind of
following either of those two franchises command? Not to mention Paranormal’s
siblings, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Did you know yet another Star Wars movie
is in production? Never mind Star Trek’s recent and successful
What does that have
to do with sex and bad boys?
Sex is libido, our
primary motivating source of energy. Libido comes from your unconscious
impulses, your instinctual bodily awareness. A Bad Boy is a symbol, or what
Carl Jung would call, an “archetype,” of unfulfilled erotic desire. He’s “bad”
because he cannot be obtained (or integrated). He represents the unknowable or
repressed parts of ourselves, which we have repressed for one various reasons,
also known as, “the Shadow Self.”
unattainability doesn’t stop us from wanting our Bad Boy. Fantasizing about
him. Creating him over and over again in various forms, guises, and
inter-galactic species. In fact, archetypes were discovered through a story of
unrequited longing. Carl Jung first discovered the collective unconscious and
archetypes when examining the fantasies of Miss Frank Miller-- a single woman
in love with a man, but unable to act upon her erotic interest. Jung researched
myths, fairy tales, and religious motifs from remote corners of the world, to
interpret Miss Miller’s images. He found striking parallels and determined it
evidence of the collective unconscious, which influences all of us through
archetypes and instincts.
and instincts exist within every human being, from the moment of birth,
connecting us all through collective unconscious--best accessed through dreams
and meditative states. Your waking mind struggles “against being swallowed up
by primitivity and unconscious instinctuality” on the one hand, but also
“resists complete possession of spiritual forces,” on the other. But when they
are coordinated, the archetype provides meaning to the instinct, and instinct
provides the raw physical energy necessary for archetypes to help man realize
his spiritual goals. As a writer and storyteller, this would translate into
fulfilling the “promise of the premise” of your story (to learn more, read
Blake Snyder’s, SAVE THE CAT).
Okay, so now
we know what archetypes are, but what do they look like?
Campbell hopped on this gravy train and took it one step further in his book,
THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, which examines archetypes cross-culturally and
illuminates The Hero’s Journey. Christopher Vogler, in his infinite
wisdom, reduced and simplified Campbell’s theories in his book, THE WRITER’S
JOURNEY: MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR STORYTELLERS AND SCREENWRITERS, so we plebs could
understand Campbell without referencing the dictionary for every other word.
provides a cheat sheet for essential archetypal roles:
1. Trickster--Embodies mischief and desire 2. Ally--Companionship, conscience, or comic relief 3. Shadow--The unexpected, unexpressed, and rejected
aspects of ourselves 4. Shape shifter--Brings doubt and suspense to the story,
embodies ambiguity 5. Herald--Issues a challenge and announces the coming of
significant change 6. Threshold Guardian--A lesser thug, represents our
everyday fears 7. Mentor--Represents the higher self, teaches and gives
gifts 8. Hero--Represents the ego’s search for identity and
Cowden, LaFever, & Viders, authors of, THE COMPLETE WRITER’S GUIDE TO
HEROES & HEROINES: SIXTEEN MASTER ARCHETYPES, there are three types of
commonly understood characters or archetypes: core, evolving, and layered. The
core character thinks and acts consistently to the very end. The evolving
character starts as one archetype and evolves into another. And the layered
character has a single archetypal core at his emotional base, but is layered
with attributes from other archetypes.
How do archetypes
interact to create conflict and move plot forward?
GONE WITH THE WIND, for a romantic example. Rhett Butler is a layered
archetype, a Chief to the world, but a Bad Boy at his core. Scarlett O’Hara is
a Seductress at her core. A Chief and Seductress are both strong and stubborn
and struggle for power. He takes control, while she seduces it back. However,
they both admire each other’s focus, are good in a crisis, and know how to
negotiate. Their characters grow and change, when the Seductress surprises the
Chief in showing him he can be wrong and still powerful. In the Chief, the
Seductress has finally met a man who sees her for who she is, and is free to be
herself without fear of abandonment. However, Rhett’s Bad Boy layering of
cynicism and street smarts eventually persuades his Chief self to turn away
from his Seductress, saving him from emotional bankruptcy.
this have to do with the Paranormal genre?
Bear with me,
I’m going to get existential on you; Paranormal, Fantasy, and Science Fiction
are all genres that represent archetypes in their purest form. Super-human
characters with magical powers are a distortion from physical reality, and are
thus flexible in their representation, allowing us to project onto them our own
personal experiences. Why is that important? Because if you can more easily
project your own personal experiences onto an imaginary character, that
character becomes more meaningful to you than another character confined by the
trappings of a more “realistic” representation.
“Oh, I can’t watch that show. The bossy character reminds me too much of my
supervisor. “ So the viewer refuses to engage with the character, and loses out
on what he might gain from exploring what that character might teach him, or
the catharsis of watching a bossy character get his comeuppance (and all storytelling
is about vicarious learning and catharsis, right?). But if similar archetypal
traits were represented by, say, a vampire, than perhaps the viewer might be
more willing to engage, because it is enough outside his reality so that he is
able to escape into the story.
Star Trek , and anything vampire continue to be popular, because they represent
a time and place that has never been grounded in real experience, and appeal to
the bad boy archetype in all of us . Thus, we can continue to project our
collectively unconscious fantasies upon the characters, unfettered, from the
1970’s all the way up to 2014. That equals popularity, longevity, and (say it
with me) money! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be rolling in it.
So, here is
what I have to say to all the naysayers of the Paranormal genre:
Agent Man, Thank you
for your prompt response, as well as your willingness to review my manuscript.
I truly appreciate your time and effort in reviewing my work, and I look
forward to proving your friend wrong about the size and length of my bite. Warmest
Regards, Mac Perry Mac
Perry is a Creative Arts Therapist, adjunct professor, and aspiring author of
urban fantasy. When she is not corralling her three-year-old son, she is
blogging, editing RWA/NYC Keynotes, and working on her passion’s pursuit. To
learn more, check out her web site at www.macperry.com, or her blog at
I’d like to devote my
inaugural column to one of my pet peeves about the modern English language –
what I call “the ubiquitous they.” In the admirable quest for gender
neutrality, “they” has irrevocably crept into our language.
How many times have
you heard the words “they,” “their,” or “them” used when the speaker or writer
is obviously referring to a singular subject? “When interviewing a prospective
literary agent, make sure they understand your genre and style of writing.”
You are meeting with one agent so wouldn’t “he or she” be more precise, though
perhaps more awkward?
I believe this
problem became more acute as our society progressed from viewing tradition
roles as belonging to one gender or the other. Some of us are old enough to
remember when policemen, firemen and mailmen were commonplace terms, before
they evolved into gender-neutral police officers, firefighters and mail
carriers. It often seems unavoidable, so the use of “they” and its related
pronouns – I admit to using them on occasion myself – has become almost
universally acceptable, especially in spoken English. If you call me at
work and get my voicemail you will hear, ”If you wish to speak with someone
else, please dial their extension, or dial zero for the operator.” Though I
cringed as I recorded this greeting, I set aside my grammatical bias,
recognizing that “please dial his or her extension” was too awkward, and
besides, how many people would even notice? However, there are ways to remain
both grammatically and politically correct. Sometimes you can merely switch
from singular to plural.
Using my previous
example, one can say, “When interviewing prospective literary agents, make sure
they understand your genre and style of writing.” Or better yet: “…make sure to
discuss your genre and style of writing.” Another fix, though nearly impossible
to use in fiction writing, is to alternate between “he” and “she” from one
example to the next. I have seen this method applied in non-fiction and in
business manuals. If the written material involves an illustrative
stockbroker, for example, the first broker referenced could be female, while
the next, male. A generation ago, they would all have been male. We still use
words such as “mankind” and “brotherhood” to refer to mixed gender groups. The
old saw, “A dog is a man’s best friend,” is not meant to exclude female pet
In fiction writing,
however, euphony and style often grapple with grammar. I encountered the
“his/her/their” dilemma while writing my World War II romance, In the Arms of the Enemy. I had written
this sentence: “She couldn’t imagine a life with Günter; neither of them would
ever betray their comrades or their country.” Of course, this was grammatically
incorrect, but the phrase, “…neither of them would ever betray his or her
comrades or his or her country” was appallingly clumsy. Thankfully, another writer came to my rescue
by proposing: “…neither of them would ever betray comrades or country.” Not
only is it grammatically correct, but it also flows more smoothly.
This also reinforced
an important lesson for me as a writer: sometimes less is more. So, with a
little thought and creativity, use of the ubiquitous “they” may be avoided, or
at least reduced, much to the relief of the grammatical gods and goddesses.♥
Lisbeth Eng works as a Compliance Officer in the financial
industry by day and writes historical romance by night. She holds a bachelor’s
degree in English, and speaks a smattering of German, Italian and French.
Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.