Monday, July 16, 2012

Dueling Vampires :: Modern Paranormal Romance

I had a great weekend, but I'll admit I'm ready for Monday. Bring it on. My asthma has been giving me fits all weekend. I partly blame the crazy shifts in weather: hot and dry one minute, then flooded with rain, the next. The other thing I blame is the dust from ripping the tile out of the house.

We're getting ready to do showroom style floors from one end of the house to the other. The new floors will be a soft gray with a clear epoxy over them. After we do this, we will never put down another tile in this house ever, ever, ever again.

We started remodeling in Oldest's room first. The tile was there when we moved in, and we think it's at least 30 years old. Who knows what it's made of, but when hubby ripped one third of the tile from that room, my asthma went crazy. 

It was so bad Friday night and Saturday morning, I didn't know if I'd be able to drive to my local RWA meeting. I didn't know for sure until right before I walked out the door. I took my medicines with me, just in case, because all morning, I was wheezing and gasping for air. I've been very congested, too. Still, I managed to get it under control, and made it to Bossier. I'm glad I did. There were two very good workshops, one on subtext; the other on voice and style. I took a ton of notes, then came home, inspired, and ready to write.

Last night, in one of those moments when I was able to sleep without feeling like I was suffocating, I dreamed I was walking down this dirt road alongside a field. There were a bunch of turtles out there. They were moving a little faster than turtle speed, and they were playing and roaming through the field with their necks stretched out so they could see where they were going. I was barefoot, and went out there to play with them and tromp through the grass. I walked with one turtle for a short distance, then returned to the road. A very strange dream, but kinda fun.

Anyway, on to writerly things... I read today that a panel member at the San Diego Comic Con credited Buffy the Vampire Slayer Series for the entire paranormal romance genre. Um...what?  I have to say, this totally blew my mind. I thought about that for a long time, wondering if there was something I missed, and I'm thinking... no.

That credit to Buffy may work for people who were fans of the show, but on my own behalf, I have to respectfully disagree with that writer's statement, especially as someone who writes in the paranormal romance genre.

Now, I watched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie back when Kristy Swanson was "the Buffy". It was a good movie; Donald Sutherland was fantastic in it, but it was a movie that didn't really stay on my radar for very long. And when the Buffy the TV series came out... I'm going to spill a little secret. I was hugely disappointed Kristy didn't take the part as Buffy. Because of that, I have never been able to watch an entire episode of Buffy or Angel in one sitting. I have tried, but it's just not for me. I mean, I know who Spike is, I know who Willow is. Pretty people with problems. Do I care to watch them on screen? Not really. 

Everyone's influences are different, and I can understand how someone can bring Buffy into the picture when talking about paranormal romance, because she helped redefine the heroine in the eyes of mainstream TV viewers as someone who can kick ass. The thing is, there have been kick ass heroines since before Buffy. Comic books are filled with them. However, Buffy became more of a pop culture icon. She reached a broader audience than most comic book heroines. However, I don't feel like her impact was what set off the popularity of paranormal romance as a genre.

My first brush with paranormal romance happened in 1987. The attraction between Star and Michael in The Lost Boys. For me, at the time, that was the hottest thing ever. Who didn't want to date one of the Lost Boys?  Hello? Sexy vampire bikers. Count me in. (My parents were not amused.)

The new guy in town comes battles a gang of vampires because he's fallen in love with the only girl in their group. Back in the day, every teenage girl I knew, myself included, would have kicked over and screamed Bite Me, please! to at least one (or more) of those bad boy vampires.  

My next adventure into paranormal romance came in the form of a paperback copy of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. There are people who will argue that Interview isn't a romance. I beg to differ. There is a non-physical romance between both Louis and Lestat, and Louis and Claudia. This was the definitive book that made me want to seek out more poignant vampire fiction. This is the book that made me go to the bookstore to search for vampire romances. Let me just say, there were not many vampire romances on the bookstore shelves at the time.

From there, I read The Hunger by Whitley Streiber. The book had been out  for many years before I finally read it. I had already seen the movie, but the book is so much better than the film. The author was decades ahead of his time with the creation of his character, Miriam. She was a bi-sexual vampire, of sorts, who kept trying to turn a lover into an immortal like herself. Only, every time she created a companion, after so many years together, the human would go insane and rapidly age. To protect herself and others, Miriam would have to lock the lover away. She could still hear them as they decayed into a thinking, feeling pile of dust. A very sad love story indeed.

Another book that was way ahead of its time was Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite. I always felt like this story might've been influenced by The Lost Boys. I could be wrong, but it had that same rock n' roll bad boy vibe going on. Lost Souls greatly inspired my interest in tragic vampire stories that are dark, but have heavy romantic elements. I've read this book so many times, the front third of the book has fallen off in sections. I bound it together with a rubber band and still have the first printing on my keeper shelf. Lost Souls turned the entire vampire mythos on its ear. It was very fresh, and very different when it came out, and it's the first book I ever read that featured openly gay vampires. 

I'm still not sure why a movie hasn't been made based on the book Lost Souls. It has a strong cult following, and in my opinion, Jeffree Star would be perfect in the role as the evil, lover, father-figure vampire, Zillah. 

Those books were all very influential in developing my interest in paranormal romance as a genre. But, I remember the story. The one that changed me forever. The movie that made me want to not only read paranormal romances specifically, but to write them as well.

Bram. Stoker's. Dracula.

Gary Oldman as the Count was H-h-h-hot. I've watched that movie dozens of times, and it still stuns me that Mina decided to go through with her marriage to Johnathan Harker. Why? Why?!  Johnathan was so dry and boring. And Mina was so giddy in love with Dracula who was "a prince, no less". She cheated on Johnathan with her vampire lover, drank absinthe with him, laughed and led him on, then when Johnathan beckoned her, she left that poor vampire weeping in despair. If that isn't a whirlwind romance, I don't know what is.

I still want to shake Mina for choosing Johnathan. In her shoes, I would've been on the first train to Transylvania with my new husband, the Count. Make no doubt about that!

Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Lost Boys, and Interview with the Vampire literally reshaped the real world goth and vampire community "scenes", and brought them into the mainstream. So did lesser known White Wolf role play books such as Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and the briefly popular TV series, Kindred: the Embraced.

Look at the new wave "goth" scene before these movies and books became popular. The Bela Legosi/Frank Langella cape-wearing vampire ruled the night. And that was the type of vampire presented in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which the TV series was based on.

After Gary Oldman's portrayal of a sexy, romantic, genteel, and brutally blood-thirty Dracula, there was a big change in the way we view vampires, both generally speaking, and as potential romantic partners in fiction. Gary Oldman's role redefined the vampire, and the vampire/goth scene changed almost overnight because of the popularity and styling of that movie. And those visible changes in the fictional vampire was further cemented in popular culture, when Interview with the Vampire was released shortly thereafter.

I remember seeing a flood of Mina and Dracula style weddings getting coverage after Dracula hit the theaters. I had been married for a couple of years, and I gawked over the pictures of Victorian inspired wedding dresses with corsets and bustles. Dressing like that had never crossed my mind. The gowns and cakes, and Victorian details were absolutely gorgeous. But what impressed me most, were men walking down the aisle in the count's suit, complete with walking cane, top hat, and even his purple, vampire sunglasses. That's romance, baby. That's fiction inspiring real life. 

So if I were to credit anyone for bringing about the paranormal romance genre as we know it today, I would have to say Bram Stoker's Dracula is directly responsible for birthing the modern, sexy vampire as seen in paranormal romances nowadays. Anne Rice's gentlemen vampires Louis and Lestat can be held equally responsible. The Lost Boys, also. Both authors, and the movie directors that made those films box office hits, brought about this change by making paranormal characters that were dangerous, sexy, sympathetic, and accessible to a wide audience of movie-goers and readers.

Modern paranormal romance heroes are often rich, genteel, alpha male, and utterly in love with the heroine. For example, take Christine Feehan's The Dark Prince. Do you see Bram Stoker's influence in there, or Buffy's?

Buffy had an impact on paranormal fiction, yes. But not on the same scale. If Buffy influenced anything, it was early paranormal chick lit. The tone and style is very similar. But paranormal romance overall?  Sorry, guy, I'm totally not feeling it.

With that said, I'm stepping off my vampire soap box. It's almost midnight, and I have (more) writing to do before I can go to bed. Remember, it's Mercury retrograde, so take care out there. Happy dreams, everyone!


  1. I'm absolutely in love with vampires and the whole vampire romance side of books.

  2. Vampires and werewolves. I never tire of them.


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