What’s the deal with the snubbing of paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian in lesfic? They are all at the bottom of the pecking order. I scratch my head all the time when I am reminded of this. The data and marketing have not changed over the four years this became evident to me. Recently, I read a brand new review on my debut novel, and like a few others, the reader was surprised about enjoying the book and would never have picked the book up had she known it was a paranormal book.
I’m reminded of that old commercial for Life cereal. I know I’m really dating myself. To help all you young’uns out, here’s how it went: Two slightly older children shove a bowl of Life cereal in front of Mikey (a toddler) and state, “I’m not going to try it. Let’s give it to Mikey. He won’t eat it. He hates everything.” Mikey proceeds to eat the cereal with gusto and they exclaim, “He likes it.” The link to the YouTube video is below because it is just too cute to miss!
When I wrote my first novel, I naively thought it would sell a lot better than it did. Why? How about Buffy the Vampire Slayer-A cult classic for lesbians? Xena, Warrior Princess? The Twilight Series…yes, I know this is more a straight teenager’s wet dream, but I’m not too proud to say I enjoyed the series. Plus, I live in Forks…nuff said. The Vampire Diaries? Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon? Wynona Earp? Should I go on? I know there are many others, but I’ve been out of the loop lately.
Let’s talk about dystopian or fantasy. Does Harry Potter or The Hunger Games ring a bell for anyone? How about The Handmaiden’s tale?
Whenever there are polls out there asking about these subgenres and about books with characters out of the norm, such as persons of color and people with disabilities, there are always many individuals who pipe up and say they love those kinds of books. I am one of those readers. I gobble up these books and eagerly wait for new ones to arrive. But, apparently, books in these subgenres, except for a few are always the red-headed stepchildren of lesfic. Now, don’t get me started on redheads. Personally, I love them and have made several of my main characters red heads…including one of the main characters in Love Forever, Live Forever…so there!
I hope that someday, lesfic readers will take a page from the Life commercial and watch how other readers, who would never try paranormal before, exclaim how much they love it after inadvertently stumbling over a lesfic novel that doesn’t quite meet the typical romance plotline. The magic, paranormal, fantasy, dystopian, etc angles in all of my books are secondary to the romance, but getting readers to give them a chance has been the ultimate struggle.
When I posted the review, I got some interesting comments and asked Rhavensfyre to weigh in on this topic.
Rhavensfyre here, chiming in on the topic of the week. Let’s talk about everything not pure romance inside the lesfic genre. I’m talking werewolves, vampires, space operas, fae and fantasy…feel free to add anything I left out.
Now, let’s add a definition…paranormal…para-normal. Above or outside of normal, which I think we all agree we aspire to be. I mean, why be normal, boring? Right?
Synonyms for Paranormal.: metaphysical, otherworldly, preternatural, supernatural, transcendent, transcendental, unearthly.
Pretty broad, right? I mean, even speculative fiction and sci-fi could fall under this umbrella term because we play with the science of possibilities (real, hard science, in my experience, seems to follow the creative flow of writers who imagine something impossible and then becomes possible through science, like planes, submarines, genetic manipulation, space travel, etc.) They all have their paranormal aspects (Dr. Who comes to mind…with ghosts and such, not to mention weeping stone angels that will kill you if you blink). Now, the purists will argue with me and that’s ok. There are those who only want hard sci-fi without a drop of romance, and well, romance without a drop of paranormal. That’s what we are talking about here, this strange bias against paranormal in lesfic romance while embracing it elsewhere. I’m talking about mainstream…TV and books. It is all over the place and we all watch/read it. We love our Harry Potter, our Wynonna Earp, Warehouse 13, Hunger Games, our Van Helsing, even Xena (vampires)…. with all those lovely straight women we automatically ship into fanfic and sexy lesbian translations. Kudos to Wynonna for the WayHaught, and not killing one of them off as is so commonly tropish.
So, now we come down to the meat and potatoes of this blog. As Rhavensfyre, I have created several interesting novels that fall under paranormal in one way or the other. The Adventures of Two Reluctant Zombie Hunters has a lesbian couple as leads, but it’s not really a romance…it’s just pure zombie apocalypse. It’s witty and sarcastic, mildly gross and a lot of fun.
The second novel is fantasy. Ladysmith is a modern take on Fae in America…and has the requisite evil Stepmother. It’s hot, it’s sexy…and it has a shape-shifting Fae who turns into a nightmare that can invade people’s darkest dreams. What a badass girlfriend, eh?
The third, and most recent is Healing Springs, an odd novel in that it is a romance with a paranormal undercurrent that makes you wonder if the MC is truly mad or is there really a spirit in the springs helping her along. It also deals with disability and has a PIC as a love interest, all things our readers have asked for. It’s gotten great reviews…and those who have read it, have found inspiration for dealing with their own wounds, both spiritual and physical.
I’m listing these in this order for a reason.
Zombie series? We have a very small, very loyal group of followers with this series, but it is the most passed over by the general lesbian community, despite our love affair with The Walking Dead, Z-nation, Resident Evil and other associated mainstream shows. Why? Inquiring minds want to know. Why can’t lesbians be in charge of the apocalypse?
LadySmith? Many loved it, but again…that fantasy/paranormal aspect turned off a lot of readers without giving it a chance. I’m not complaining…just trying to understand. Would the novel had done better if we made Alex just a badass blacksmith, and Rohanna the abused step-daughter trying to escape from a murderous step-mother? It’s an interesting idea…scrubbing the Fae out of the Smith. Would we have garnered more readers? This confuses me, as we all love BO from Lost Girl.
Healing Springs? It’s such an unusual novel…it was hard to decide how to market it. It is truly a romance…so it was labelled as such. Amazon limits where you can put it, so logically, we need to put it where you can find it the easiest, right? However, despite many great reviews…it was noted that the “paranormal” or “ghost story” aspects of the novel were a surprise. The funny thing was, despite the reviewer noting it might turn off some readers…they still enjoyed it. So, would I have that review or reader if it had been marketed as paranormal romance in the first place? Based on some of the reviews, no, they would have passed it by.
These are the things authors need to consider every day when writing a great story. Love comes in so many ways, and paranormal romance is a way to push romance into realms that could never be reached in the mundane world. I believe, firmly, that we could all use a little magic in the world right now, a little suspension of belief….and enjoy reading about possibilities, about alternative worlds, and realize that love-our kind of love, can exist in every universe, through an apocalypse, and across time.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, give paranormal a chance, you might be delightfully surprised.
#1 Best Selling Author of Switching Gears, Rest and Relaxation, Ransom’s Redemption, and Healing Springs
Sometimes stories are more than myth and legend. What has been forgotten cannot be suppressed, and nightmares can come alive in your dreams. Rohanna MacLeod has lived her entire life trying to escape her nightmares, now one has become her closest ally and lover, and just possibly, the only thing that can save her. LadySmith on Amazon
In closing, I hope that someday, lesfic readers will take a page from the Life commercial and watch how other readers, who would never try paranormal before, exclaim how much they love it after inadvertently stumbling over a lesfic novel that doesn’t quite meet the typical romance plotline. The magic, paranormal, fantasy, dystopian, etc angles in all of my books are secondary to the romance, but getting readers to give them a chance has been the ultimate struggle. There are plenty of links to books from Rhavensfyre and myself…so come on be like Mikey…try them…maybe you’ll like em. Below are some links to my favorite out of the norm lesfic novels!
Proud to be an Affinity Rainbow Publications author!