The Edge of Danger

May 9, 2008 at 2:41 am (General)

GHOST MOON, by Rebecca York

 Last week, I gave a talk on the horror genre at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference in Oklahoma City. As I researched the topic, I realized something interesting. The roots of paranormal romantic suspense reach all the way back to the dawn of time. One of the ways the shaman of an ancient tribe maintained power over his people was to protect them from the scary beings that roamed the night. And in those ancient spectral creatures, we can see the roots of today’s literary vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, and all the other beasts who fill the paranormal universe.

In paranormal romantic suspense, the villains may come from the ranks of these fearsome creatures. But at the same time, the vampires, demons and shape-shifters have also morphed into the heroes of our books. In my Berkley Moon series, for example, I’m writing about a family of very sexy alpha males–who happen to be werewolves. My first werewolf was Ross Marshal in KILLING MOON. He saw himself as an aberration in the modern world, yet he desperately wanted to be part of humanity. And the right woman helped him make peace with the wolf side of his being.

Now Ross Marshall is the linchpin of the family, guiding his younger brothers and cousins into a life they never could have imagined. In my latest book, GHOST MOON, he’s the one who organizes the family to fight a terrorist threat against the U.S. government. And he’s also the wolf who’s secure enough to reach out to my hero, Caleb Marshall, a ghost who was killed by Ross’s great-grandfather.

If you’ve stopped by this blog, you’re obviously into sexy alpha males who are also paranormal creatures. But did you realize that paranormal romantic suspense has created something quite new and startling in literature? In the past, shape-shifters, vampires and demons were almost always the bad guys. The conventions were like the conventions in a cowboy movie where we knew that bad guys had black hats and the good guys had white hats. Instead, our heroes have blurred the lines between the good guys and the bad guys. My werewolves may be the heroes of my books, but you never know when their savage side will emerge. Caleb wants to rip out the throat of the man who killed him. Since he’s seventy-five years too late to do that, he’ll go after the guy’s grandsons instead.

Is that edge of danger and unpredictability part of the appeal of the shape-shifter? The realization that you never know what’s going to happen. And the knowledge that these are guys who live outside the bounds of civilization. They might dress in jeans and tee shirts-–or even business suits–but you never know when they’re going to rip off that clothing and expose the animal side of their nature. And when they do–watch out. Because anything can happen.




  1. Lori Devoti said,

    When I was working on my first Nocturne, I asked some friends who are big paranormal romance readers what they liked most about a paranormal hero–and that was exactly it, not knowing quite for sure if he might snap and rip the heroine’s throat out. So, that ever present possibility of danger.

  2. Michele Hauf said,

    Yes, the danger aspect! I think these men are the bad boys we lusted after in high school (I’m just sayin’) and if we didn’t get them then, we can now have them in the form of alpha male characters. And it’s much safer on the page. They can freak out, but then we get to watch the heroine tame them also (but not completely).

  3. teresadamario said,

    I think it’s a combination of things, but yeah, the danger aspect is a huge one. I can’t tell you how many guys I fell for in my life that really were just the bad boys of life.

    I think the next biggest part is watching the strength of love as the woman is able to tame her mate, to bring him in. How fast or how slow that happens is dependant on the characters and the world, but it’s still kewl to watch that relationship develop.

  4. Savanna Kougar said,

    Great post, Rebecca. I think there’s a fundamental psychological aspect also, along with many other dynamics in play. And, that is, our own wild natures have been so repressed — so not allowed in our current culture, that the beasties are loosed in ours stories, as they should be. In a way, it’s a healing and help to our psyches. Not to mention, some of these critters could be real. There is evidence being gathered by real researchers. The Beast of Bray Road being an example of an excellent book on the topic.

  5. Jennifer St. Giles said,

    Great Discussion Rebecca. Yeah the danger works, that edge the hero walks where you know he will do whatever it takes, but also I think it is the battle they fight against the dark side of their animal nature that enthralls us as readers. We’re drawn so much more emotionally into their struggle and thusly so much more satisfied when love wins out over the darkness.

  6. Rebecca York said,

    I agree, Michele. I was attracted to some real bad boys in high school. And yes, what I’ve always liked about writing romantic suspense is having a serious relationship with those dangerous guys–at least in my imagination. Paranormal romantic suspense takes it one step farther by upping the anty. You never know what these guys are going to do. I mean, even though I plot my books, -I- never really know what they’re going to do in a tight situation–until it happens.

  7. AJ Hampton said,

    Amazing Rebecca. I would have loved to hear you speak about this. Aside from romance, I love horror. When the genres are merged, thats when I really feel at home. Like you said, the danger is the allure. I love vampires, and shifters and all the other paranormal creatures because you don’t know what they will do next.

    Having our heros and heroines fall in love takes a great deal of trust, and that, is what love is all about.

  8. Rebecca York said,

    AJ, the talk was a lot of fun. And it gives me a lot of material to discuss in the future. Like for example, Carl Jung’s take on the “shadow self.” The dark side of humanity. Horror lets us dip into that–and come out intact.

    I can see having a hero who is a demon–defined the way I want to define “demon.” He’d be able to shape-shift.


  9. Marcia said,

    When I started out writing, I didn’t ask anyone about what they wanted in a story. I asked myself what I wanted in a story and danger was always near the top of the list. Then again, I had been reading a lot of John Saul and Bentley Little at the time. Danger, to me, is what makes a story fun and keeps me turning the pages. It’s like cherry sauce drizzled all over a sundae. Yummy!

  10. Terry Spear said,

    Great post, Rebecca!
    I’ve been trying to get my house ready to sell, so between painting and now doing yardwork, I’m behind!!! I just happened to have written a post on another blog similar to what yours so was so surprised to see this was something that you’d talked about when you went to OK. How fun! I’d written about the aspect that often the vampire, werewolf, witches, demons, were considered the bad guys. Even today, in a lot of the stories with witches, they’re still not the heroine…or good guys, like in Star Dust. She’s the star–sweet innocent. The witch is still the evil witch. 🙂 But also, most were never romantic elements, except for Dracula, and even he was considered evil, and the stories never had a happily ever after. In fact when I finaled with Heart of the Wolf, the editor who was the final judge said it was an enjoyable twist on a horror story. I thought–this isn’t a horror story! 🙂
    One other thing, ghosts…I’ve read a couple where the hero is a ghost lover. Well, who appears for the heroine but no one else can see him…again, something that would never have been done–ghosts were evil, or funny characters, or needed help, but they weren’t someone’s lover. 🙂 So fun post!

  11. Rebecca York said,

    Terry, I think there’s more tradition of ghosts getting to be the good guys. I’m thinking of THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR,a movie which came out in 1947. He wasn’t her lover, but they had an almost romantic relationship.

    The first time I read a ghost lover, I think, was THE IVORY KEY, a Temptation by Rita Clay Estrada, which came out in 1987.

    In GHOST MOON, wanted to make my hero different from the other Marshal werewolves, which was why I thought of making him a ghost. And yes, he can only communicate with the heroine, because she’s from my alternate universe and has psychic powers.


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