Exploring the Darker Side of Being Human through Paranormal Romance
I’ve got my head down at the moment working on the final rewrite of Blind-sided, the second of my Medusa’s Consortium novels, which is the sequel to In The Flesh. For me the rewriting of the final draft of a book has never been a hardship, but rather something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s the time when the story deepens, becomes more textured, more three-dimensional. And it’s the time when I get to know my characters and their motivations better. What’s not to love?
It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to get lost in my writing and enjoy the wonderful experience of letting my characters tell me what happens next. Characters are often so full of surprises when I let them tell the story. It’s especially exciting when I’m writing paranormal because a good bit of the time, it’s a vampire or a demon, or even Medusa herself whispering in my ear. (I always keep my eyes shut when she’s doing the talking, though.) I’m never thought I’d write vampires. In fact, I balked at writing paranormal in general until I realized that paranormal is the perfect place to explore the darker side of the erotic without all the rules and regulations that restrict contemporary erotic fiction. In fact, paranormal is a great way to explore the dark side of human nature, full stop! And it’s the perfect place to contemplate that age-old question: Who are the real monsters? I’m discovering that, quite often, it’s not who I think. Having said all that, there are several aspects of reading and writing paranormal stories with erotic elements that particularly intrigue me.
The first off, no one insists on vampires and shifters and other scary dudes wearing condoms. It’s pretty much a given that there is nothing safe about fucking a vampire or a demon, and if the whole idea doesn’t scare the reader as much as it turns her on, then it’s not proper paranormal, is it?
That brings me to the second reason I love to read and write paranormal — the very close relationship between fear and arousal. The iconic sex scene between the young and beautiful couple in a horror movie is always followed by the ghoul, serial killer or other baddie killing the lovers in a horrible way. I suggest that a part of what is so arousing about paranormal sex is the breaking of so many taboos, the attraction to something that the world says should horrify us. And it is horrifying – of course it is. Still, we Just. Can’t. Resist. That the boundary between what arouses us and what terrifies us is so permeable, that crossing that boundary can get us into all kinds of trouble and then some, means that the story of that boundary crossing is unputdownable, even as it gives us goose bumps and makes us want to hide behind the couch.
The rules of what is forbidden in erotica by most publishers don’t apply to paranormal. Some of the most erotic scenes I’ve ever read are of vampire taking blood from or giving blood to their lovers. Blood is the river of life. It contains the magic of who we are as individuals, and yet we don’t have to lose a whole lot if it until we die. That it’s all contained in such a fragile sensitive vessel as the human body only amplifies its preciousness and its power.
The final fascination for me is that paranormal is the perfect place to explore dubious consent and loss of control. When dealing with vampires, demons, witches and magic, is consent ever less than dubious? And is there any other place to explore safely that total loss of self-control that is giving oneself over to the forbidden? Add to it the very real possibility that, with all our human frailties, there’s no guarantee of survival, and how can the resulting story not be intriguing?
The truth is that while we might be happy to dabble in the darker side of our sexuality, on a fundamental level, the very act of sex is frightening. It is the losing of self in the other, the opening to the unknown. It is the allowing ourselves to be more vulnerable than we are in any other act. It is the giving up of control. All of these elements are, by nature, a
part of sex — sex that carries at its core both the possibility of conception and of death.
That all we fear and all we desire in sex can be raise to the nth degree when placed in a paranormal setting and examined from the intimately terrifying safety of a book gives us a vicarious experience that allows us to experience the darker side of our desires, of our humanity. I would suggest that there are few better ways to explore our humanity than taking an erotic journey with the monsters who are more like us that we can easily admit.