When we decided to spend this week and next either photoblogging with a paranormal bent (para-photoblogging?) or talking about inspiring paranormal romances, I knew exactly what I had to do. No, not photoblog, though I'm sure everyone would be enthralled by the contents of my hero pic folder (subtitled "The Carousel of Studs") and/or pictures of my giant cat sleeping on his back and impersonating roadkill. Let's face it. Nothing I could do would beat the survivalist lawn gnome living in Jody's rock garden anyway. So I'm going to talk about The One That Started It All where myself and paranormal romance is concerned. The one that made me sit up and go, "Ohmigod, this is, like, WICKED cool!" No, really. I was thirteen at the time. I said "wicked" a lot.
I have loved romance for years. I started stealing my mother's romance novels sometime in sixth grade, and from then on, I had to have my Happily-Ever-After fix on a regular basis. I read 'em all. Regencies. Scottish Historicals. Vikings. Sultans. They were the comfort food of my youth and remain some of my oldest friends, though many of the copies are now dog-eared and stained with REAL comfort food, i.e. cheezie poofs. However, in 1990 one book came along that utterly changed my notions of what a romance novel could be. The author was Johanna Lindsey, and the book was Warrior's Woman.
Yeah, so I scrounged up the Totally Eighties Cover (they've since changed it to reflect the P.F., or Post-Fabio, state of cover art). There's lots of purple eyeshadow, some ridiculously falling-off extraterrestrial dress thingie, and Fabio-as-alien-with-a-whonking-big-sword. But believe me when I tell you that beneath that amusing clinch cover, which I admit I still kinda love for sentimental reasons, is magic. Tedra De Arr, a smart-mouthed babe with a lethal weapon body, is one of the original kick-ass heroines, paving the way for all of us today who write smart, assertive, take-no-prisoners women. I'll admit, Tedra was a lot different from the other heroines I'd read at the time, but as I read, she grew on me. I liked that she was sarcastic and difficult. I liked that her hero was going to have the fight of his life getting to her heart. And I REALLY liked the notion that somewhere out there, there is a planet populated entirely by giant, beautiful, sword-wielding barbarians who can make you theirs with a single word.
Well, um, I mean...you know. I'm just being honest.
Really, though. Setting a romance on an entirely different planet sparked my interest like no other book had. I'm not sure, but it seemed like that was a really cutting-edge idea at the time. It would have been easy for something like that to feel flat and contrived, of course, but Ms. Lindsey created a richly-textured, multi-layered world that I left only reluctantly. It was, in a word, amazing. So amazing that even to this day, I would don as much purple eyeshadow as I had to if only I could bring planet Kystran to life. Along with the sword-wielding general populace, of course:-)
The love story of Tedra and Challen Ly-San-Ter, as well as the story of their daughter in the equally awesome Keeper of the Heart, marked a major turning point in what I was looking for in a romance. I had turned to other genres when I needed a fix of fantasy, or sci-fi, or even horror. But Warrior's Woman made me realize that there were romances that would let me have it all at once. I loved that unique blend. I sought it out. As the market changed and broadened, that got easier. And finally, I set out to write the sort of books that I fell in love with, complete with force-of-nature heroine, supernaturally-inclined hero, and worlds where the unexpected and fantastic lurks just around every corner. Johanna Lindsey, by doing something so original at the time, helped shape me as both a reader and a writer. Oh, and earned my undying devotion as a fangirl for life, of course! Which, in my opinion, is the greatest gift of all. *fluffs hair, admires nails*
So, how about you? What was the first paranormal romance you really fell in love with? And more importantly, did it have Fabio on the cover? Tell me about it, and I'll sneak a bite of that French Silk Pie you've been neglecting. There's nothing sweeter than a favorite romance, but chocolate pie comes close! Especially when it's as wicked good as ours.