paranormal romance breaks conventionsI think I’m drawn to writing paranormal romance because it’s easier to break conventions. For example, in historical romance the heroine is always* a virgin. This is why Karen Marie Moning’s Beyond the Highland Mist is classified as historical rather than paranormal romance, despite the fairies and time travel.

It’s conventional in romance too for the heroine to be smaller and weaker than the hero. He’s usually broad-shouldered and muscular; she’s dainty and needs some kind of protection or security the hero can give her, even if she doesn’t think so.

But in paranormal romance there’s no expectation that the heroine be a virgin. And it’s completely possible to have a heroine who’s a vampire, werewolf, fae or whatever who’s stronger than her human male counterpart. The romance between Selene and Michael in the first Underworld movie is an example of this.

Communicable diseases are also something you won’t see in romance. But here’s another convention that paranormal breaks, for what are vampirism and lycanthropy if not communicable diseases? This is as close to a sexually transmitted disease as you’ll likely get in a romance.

Perhaps these various conventions are on my mind right now because of what I’ve been writing lately.

In October I took the Lawson Writing Academy workshop “Getting Serious about Writing a Series,” taught by Lisa Wells. It helped me turn my attention back to the Lilly Frank series, which I hadn’t really thought much about since finishing the first book this summer. But I want to write the second book this spring, and so I needed to get my head back in it. As a result of the workshop I have greater clarity about how the books fit together and what needs to happen in the second one.

paranormal romance breaks conventionsBut now I’m also writing this other novel…which is to say I don’t actually know if I’m writing it but I’m writing some of it, which is cool. It’s a contemporary romance. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the idea came to me and I got excited about it. I generally don’t read contemporary romance anymore; there’s something exotic about historical settings and super-humans that I prefer to romance set in modern day society.

Anyway, I’m considering which conventions of contemporary romance I want to break in this one. Of course the primary advantage to self-publishing is that I don’t have to conform to a publisher’s idea of what’s desirable in a romance. On the other hand, I assume that publishers’ standards have come from extensive market research, which I have definitely not done nor have the resources to do, so it is scary to take that leap and hope people will like it even if it is quite different from what they’ve come to expect.

*True in my experience, but there may very well be exceptions. If you know of any, please draw my attention to them! I’m always on the lookout for fellow convention-defiers.


[Originally posted on on 11 November 2012.]