One of the biggest-selling subgenres in the science fiction and fantasy worlds is something called "paranormal romance." This catchall term gets applied to everything from vampy erotica and space opera, so we asked popular paranormal romance authors to define it.
Marjorie M. Liu is the bestselling author of the Hunter Kiss and Dirk & Steele series. She says:
I started out reading urban mythic fantasies, which were always romantic - but not romances, per se. Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, and others were my favorite authors...and, of course, television provided many adventures into contemporary fantasy land, with shows such as Beauty and the Beast, Highlander, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I point this out, because I think of paranormal romances as a cross blending of urban fantasies and romances: basically, the best of both worlds. Wild crazy magic, creatures out of legend, rich mythologies...plus hot sex, romance, and a happy ending? What's not to love?
J.R. Ward writes the popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and her new book Lover Mine, goes on sale April 27. She says:
Paranormal romance is that great combination of out-of-this-world and down-to-earth. On the one hand, you have beings that are anything but normal, average, everyday Joes- vampires and werewolves and ghosts can be heroes, heroines, villains, foes. There are no limitations for the author in terms of the world building, no rules for what can or can't be done with people, settings and storylines. However, you have all that fantastic weirdness balanced by the rock solid, happily-ever-after resolution - at least for the main couple. Paranormal romances can bungee-cord the reader all around, taking him or her outside comfort zones and into strange and fabulous dynamics... because it's always clear from the outset that everything's going to be cool at end.
Paranormal romance is to urban fantasy what new wave was to punk, which is to say sort of a bastard child of previous genres that is hard to draw a firm line around. It's got the emotional punch and complications of angsty romance, mixed together with fantasy elements like vampires, werewolves, telepaths, angels, etc.
Ann Aguirre, author of the Jax Series and the Corine Solomon series, writes science fiction romance and urban fantasy. She says:
For me, paranormal romance is, at base, the story of two people falling in love; it can incorporate supernatural creatures, unusual abilities, or legends come to life, but the book must focus on the relationship arc above all else. That's where it differs from urban fantasy, which may include some of the same tropes, but instead follows one protagonist's journey instead of the magical reality of two people falling in love, oft during difficult or dangerous circumstances.
Lyda Morehouse, who writes paranormal romances under the name Tate Hallaway, including Romancing the Dead and Dead Sexy:
Paranormal Romance to me is all about power equality between the sexes, and the resurgence of the sexy alpha male. Way back before MaryJance Davidson/Charlaine Harris/Laurel K. Hamilton hit, I was reading time travel romances, which I think are actually the genesis of the paranormal bubble. They were attractive to me because you could have a neanderthal hottie (not literally, but you know what I mean) and a modern, sassy, powerful chick. The time travel shtick didn't work for most people, though (too science fictional? too fantasy? Yeah, a little of both). BUT then someone figured out that you could do the time-travel thing in a contemporary setting and have a traditional alpha male in the vampire and pair him up with a modern, smart, ass-kicking woman. Nothing is more sexy than two people who are equally matched getting it on.
Greg van Eekhout, author of Norse Code says:
When a book takes place in a contemporary setting, deals with creatures who exist outside our everyday consensual reality (werewolves, zombies, bitey immortals), and has central characters taking a romantic shine to one another, there can be marketing pressure to call that "paranormal romance." Particularly if one of the characters is a hot female. P.R. is a lucrative area in publishing right now, but I don't think it's fair to market a book under that label if there's only a glancing emphasis on the romance. Many novels span a whole range of subgenres. The best-case scenario is that there's a little something for everyone. In the worst-case, everyone's pissed off and nobody's happy. I wish publishers would use a wider variety of descriptive subgenre labels. If there were books tagged "contemporary mythical fantasy," I'd be buying stacks of them. But the overuse of the "urban fantasy" and "paranormal romance" labels probably means I'm missing out on a lot of great books. I'm also concerned that a lot of readers who might enjoy my own work are seeing it packaged in a way that makes them think it's something it's not.
Jayne Ann Krentz is the bestselling author of the Arcane series. She says:
Personally, I think of it as a variation on romantic-suspense. In true romantic-suspense (paranormal or otherwise) every action in the suspense must trigger an action in the romance and vice-versa making it impossible to resolve the suspense elements without also resolving the romantic elements. If you could remove either the suspense or the romance and still have a good story left, you are not writing romantic-suspense with or without the paranormal.