Straddling the Line Between Paranormal Romance & Horror
By Kelli A. Wilkins
Greetings Romance Lovers!
It’s mid-September and Halloween is right around the corner. At this time of year, horror movies are extremely popular and everyone is focusing on the supernatural. Ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and other “creatures of the night” seem to be lurking everywhere, just waiting to leap out and terrify an unsuspecting heroine…
But sometimes the heroine isn’t terrified. Sometimes she’s attracted to that vampire and can’t wait for the sun to go down so they can roam the night together, like any couple. That is, any couple in a paranormal romance.
Paranormals are a unique genre in the romance world. (Where else can a woman make love to an undead creature and not face criticism?) They straddle the line between traditional romances and the supernatural/fantasy/horror realm. And to create a convincing paranormal romance, the author has to do a bit of juggling in all of those worlds.
One of the most important rules when writing paranormal romances is to invent a believable universe where ghosts, shifters, vampires, and other types of “otherworldly” characters are real. Sometimes these creatures interact and coexist with “normal” humans (everyday people accept that vampires and shapeshifters exist), but most times they stay hidden in the shadows.
Whatever the basic premise, readers need to suspend their disbelief and lose themselves in the world the author has created. The writer has to establish a realistic paranormal character and take the reader on an exciting journey with the hero and heroine as they fall in love. After all, this is a romance!
I combined all those elements in my 2022 paranormal mystery/romance, In Another World. I started with the premise: What if an undercover cop was killed in a car and his spirit haunted the car? And what if a woman who was psychic bought the car and could communicate with him? And what if he wanted her to solve his murder? Then, what if they fell in love and were able to consummate their relationship in an alternate reality or “in another world”?
The type of paranormal character that stars in the story is key to the plot, and can vary from dead human, to nearly human, to full-fledged monster. Each character and/or story should have a few “rules” that apply to the characters and the world that the author created.
For example, suppose the hero was once human and has been cursed to live as another creature (such as a Bigfoot, or a gargoyle). Can the curse be broken if he finds a human woman to love him? Does he retain his human memories? Is the woman repulsed by him at first? Do they make love while he’s in his altered state?
Maybe the hero is an undead creature (a vampire) or turns into an animal (a werewolf), or is a ghost. How does this change his personality and way of life? Does he resent humans and live with others of his kind? What does he do when he’s not transformed? How (and why) does he transform? What happens when he reveals his true nature to his beloved? If he’s a ghost, how does he feel about being dead? Is he a vengeful spirit? Sad because he left his loved ones behind too soon?
As you can see, falling in love with a non-human can create a lot of conflict and difficulties for the couple. And sometimes it’s a challenge for the author to make the “monster” into a romantic lead. If the author doesn’t create a believable paranormal hero, readers won’t buy into it, and there certainly won’t be any sparks flying in the romance.
Even though the hero isn’t human, he must have a special appeal that makes the heroine overlook this fact and fall in love with him. Basically, the hero-creature has to remain true to his paranormal status and still be attractive to humans (and human readers), just like a traditional romance hero.
If a paranormal romance includes too much violence or gore, it could turn into a horror story. (In fact, with a little bit of rewriting, practically any paranormal romance could be transformed into a dark and disturbing horror tale!) To avoid this, the author has to find a way to deal with the unpleasant aspects of being a monster, while still keeping the hero attractive.
For example, if the hero is a vampire, he’ll have to feed at some point during the story. The writer and the other characters must address this. How does the heroine deal with her boyfriend’s need to drink blood? Does she accept it? Ignore it? Does he feed “off page” where she can’t see? Does she ever let him feed off her?
These are all crucial things the author has to consider when developing characters and plotting a paranormal love story. Readers want to fall in love with a “safe” creature and live vicariously through the heroine as she navigates the paranormal world. But the monster/hero shouldn’t be dull or boring, or too predictable, either.
It’s always refreshing when authors break patterns and have paranormal characters go against stereotype. (Why do all vampires have to be suave, live in large houses, and dress well?) When I wrote my paranormal romances, I always tried to give readers something unexpected, turned a cliché on its ear, or used a different point of view to liven up the story.
In Killer in Wolf’s Clothing, my “werewolf” didn’t turn into a four-legged animal; he became a super-aggressive Alpha male. Beauty & the Bigfoot is a paranormal comedy that explores the legend of Bigfoot through quirky characters (and some hot love scenes!).
Rothgar, the hero in The Viking’s Witch doesn’t believe that the heroine has supernatural powers—until she proves it. Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover is told in first person from the hero’s point of view and takes place at the beach—and that’s not where you expect to find a vampire.
Eddie from In Another World is as close to human as possible, but has his own set of “ghost powers.” His ex-partner Lou, doesn’t believe Julie has psychic abilities and can communicate with Eddie until she reveals a few secrets. And Eddie and Julie are able to have a real relationship in a very unusual way… and a happy-ever-after ending!
As Halloween approaches, take a closer look at the “monsters” and other supernatural creatures you encounter. But don’t be afraid… you might just fall in love with one of them!
Here’s the summary and links for In Another World:
IN ANOTHER WORLD
A Paranormal Mystery/Romance Novel
Disgraced psychic medium Julie Kershaw has finally met her soul mate. The problem is he’s dead… and his spirit haunts the car she just bought.
The spirit of Detective Eddie Mahoney is determined to find his killer and needs Julie’s help. At first, she refuses. She’s tired of being called crazy and swore she’d never use her abilities to speak to the dead again—even if Eddie is handsome and charming.
Eddie persuades Julie to contact his former partner, Lou Kaplonski, to ask him to reopen his case. Skeptical, Lou dismisses Julie as a fake—until she proves she can communicate with the dead—and he finds out Eddie has a lot to say.
Julie channels Eddie’s spirit and together with Lou, the unusual trio tracks down leads and follows clues to solve Eddie’s murder. The case takes them down a dark and dangerous path filled with secrets, where nobody can be trusted.
As they work to find his killer, Julie falls for Eddie. Funny, smart, and sexy, Eddie is the guy of her dreams—and he doesn’t look or act the least bit dead. To her surprise, Eddie discovers a clever way they can be together, and they begin an ethereal romance.
When Lou’s investigation brings him too close to the killer, his life and Julie’s are put in danger—and Eddie may be the only one who can save them.
Order your copy here:
All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/bpw16g
Read Reviews here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/in-another-world
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, and 6 mystery/horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror and mystery stories.
Her latest release, The Route 9 Killer, was published in May 2023. This mystery/thriller is set in Central NJ.
Kelli’s paranormal/mystery romance, In Another World, was released in 2022. She released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.