When I first started writing Fantasy Romance, I didnâ€™t know thatâ€™s what it was.
After all, none of the books I read said â€śFantasy Romanceâ€ť on the spine. They
were Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Romance. I
would sort through the back-of-book blurbs, searching for the kind of story I
loved â€“ one with solid world-building, beguiling magical elements and meaty
romance. Finding a good blend of those became an enduring quest.
It turns out Iâ€™m not the only reader who felt this way. And now weâ€™re seeing the
emergence of Fantasy Romance as a strong genre in its own right. From talking to
readers â€“ both those who like the same books I do and who like what I write â€“ I
think this is a natural outgrowth of a couple of generations of female reader
coming into our maturity.
See, when I was growing up and raiding the library for everything I could lay my
greedy hands on, I loved Science Fiction and Fantasy. The alien worlds, the
magic, the shapeshifters, vampires, witches, sorceresses, spaceships, dragons â€“
all of it rocked my world. However, so much of it was male-oriented. Donâ€™t get
me wrong â€“ I read those, too. But the big scores were finding books with
interesting female characters. Ones who did more than get rescued or who
apparently had no lives off the page. Back then I didnâ€™t have ways to articulate
that dissatisfaction, I only knew that they bored me. Now I understand that many
of those female characters simply served as foil for the male charactersâ€™
No wonder I got bored with them.
When I found books with not only well-drawn female characters but who were
sometimes the protagonists, and heroic ones, I glommed onto them. Writers like
Anne McCaffrey, Patricia McKillip, Mercedes Lackey, Vonda McIntyre, Tanith Lee,
Anne Rice, Robin McKinley, Andre Norton, Madeleine Lâ€™Engle and Mary Stewart gave
me great fantasy to chew on with wonderful female leads. Occasionally male
Science Fiction and Fantasy authors wrote from a female point of view â€“ like
Stephen R. Donaldson and Jack Chalker â€“ and I devoured those, too.
Then I discovered Romance. Or, more accurately, I defied my book-snob mother and
sneakily acquired a paperback Romance novel from the used bookstore down the
street, to at last sate my driving curiosity about those torrid covers I saw in
the grocery store. (Back then, libraries did not shelve such books â€“ no no no.)
That Romance novel delivered everything I hoped it would. Sexual tension,
adventure, swooning romance, sex scenes! And, most of all, the story focused
entirely on the heroine. How she thought, felt and acted drove the story. Even
in those older romances, where the heroine had little power and was swept away
by a powerful hero, she had an agency I rarely found in other genres. Thus began
a lifelong love of romance.
While some of my Fantasy and Science Fiction female authors offered up some
romance â€“ particularly Anne McCaffrey â€“ they rarely gave me what the Romance
novels did. And I wanted BOTH!
Turns out, Iâ€™m not the only one.
And those girls, those adolescent and teenage readers have grown up and weâ€™re
writing in that intersection. Weâ€™re creating these stories with women following
the classic heroâ€™s journey, in complex worlds with magic, politics and religion
forming a tapestry for the epic sweep of a stirring epic fantasy. With our vast
and varied knowledge of the Fantasy canon â€“ including all the Paranormal Romance
and Urban Fantasy thatâ€™s burgeoned over the last couple of decades â€“ we also
know and love the Romance genre. Better, weâ€™re finally in a place where we
arenâ€™t sneaking off to buy those illicit books not good enough to be shelved in
the library. The sense in the SFF world that romance dilutes the genre hasnâ€™t
gone away entirely, but tons of us love to have both.
I think weâ€™re entering a new golden age of Fantasy Romance, with smart writers
who write female protagonists in dense worlds with epic plots and who donâ€™t shy
away from romance. For me, in particular, part of a womanâ€™s journey in life
involves dealing with love, intimacy and passion. Itâ€™s also not her entire life.
So I love writing about the men who play a role in helping my women become the
heroes they need to be. Always good to have someone in your corner when you have
to save the world!
Thatâ€™s what Fantasy Romance is all about for me.
3 comments posted.
Hi Peggy! So sweet of you to check on my behalf. I think some do and some don't - it really depends on who's in charge of deciding what the library buys. Good luck with your surgery! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too!!
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