In an interview this week, I was asked, "Don't you think you are going into paranormal romance after its peak?"
I can't remember my exact response, but I do know that I didn't say, yes.
The question, however, stayed with me because I mulled it over, bothered by its underlying assumption and bothered that I didn't give a succinct response. As is the case, with me, I'm much better writing my thoughts than spontaneously supplying a fantastic answer.
First, the context of the interview was about the landscape of self-publishing, especially for African American writers who were and in many ways still are marginalized by corporate publishing. So while there are certainly more African American authors in the general romance spectrum, as you break it down into the various subgenres of paranormal, historical, new adult, etc., the percentage gets dramatically smaller. Hence, many authors are turning to self-publishing for their platforms.
Why paranormal in the first place? The decision isn't an overnight one. Back in the late 80's and much into the 90s, I wrote horror fiction. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, William Peter Blatty's Exorcist, David Seltzer's The Omen, Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby were the books that I devoured. At the same time, I was also reading Anne Rice's Interview With A Vampire, Chelsea Quinn Yarbo's vampire series. I loved Daphne Du Maurier's suspenseful mysteries and that wonderful gothic atmosphere to her books. That led to my love affair with the gothic romances. I particularly liked the stories where the mysterious goings on were not man-made, but elements of the supernatural.
That was the backdrop for my early novels. The works that will never see the light of day, but which held the truest passion for what I wanted to write. But that door was firmly closed, whether explicit or implicit (you know when you're not wanted even if someone doesn't show you to the door). Slowly I turned to historical romances and then to contemporary romances--conform and be accepted. And the mantra worked to get me published in 2002.
A lot has happened since then...paranormals have exploded. Mythologies and complex world building are all the rage. And even Hollywood and TV land has jumped into the fray with True Blood, Supernatural, Buffy, but even the science fiction stories--Walking Dead, Helix--appeal to me with humans turning into demons and monsters via experiments and viruses, instead of by the bite of a vampire. Clearly boundaries are being pushed, genres crossed, creative blending is producing innovative and original stories.
And yet, there is still a dismal lack of diversity even within the paranormal romance land. We are inundated by Eurocentric or Judeo-Christian mythology. To say that we've reached any sort of peak is to intimate that there is only one or two types of stories to tell. Arrogance at its highest. How much have you learned of the various Caribbean, African, Native American mythologies among these books. There is more than voo doo and there is more than animal spirits that turn hunky Native American men into werewolves. How about Chinese, Korean, Japanese mythology? They also have messengers of prophesies, death, and mayhem. Apply a few what if scenarios and a whole new world is born.
Who determines the rise and fall of a genre? Readers? Publishers? Exactly who carries that powerful job? Because clearly I've shown my love (financially) since the 80s for the type of stories that interest me. And I've also devoured (reading and rereading) the types of stories that interest me. And I wanted more. But I had to wait for gatekeepers to quantify how I would be satisfied with fits and starts of whatever is hot at the time. And in the meantime, no one fulfilled (and still hasn't) one of my needs to read paranormals beyond the neat box of who and what are included.
With self-publishing, I have creative freedom. It might be a niche. It might be enough people to fill a two-car garage. It might be enough to fill my high school auditorium. Or enough to fill three nights at Madison Square Gardens. You don't know until you do it. And the indie platform doesn't care whether it's in season or out of season--it's not fruit or garden vegetables that we're talking about.
My equation: Write the best book you can. Professionally edit the book. Design a bumpin' ass cover and hooking title. Market the book. Those are the things I'm capable of getting done. Strengths and weaknesses will occur, but that's normal. It's not as though "the other side" has the various elements of the equation nailed down. You live and learn (even fail), but you do it.
If a corporate publisher is interested in my work, Congratulations to me. But notice, they aren't at the front of my equation. Please don't come at me with "in season or out of season." Now, I've sufficiently answered the question. Next.
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