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.