Thursday, October 20, 2011

Paranormal Romance vs. Religion

Once upon a time, parents told children tales of the boogie man and other things that go bump in the night for a very specific reason. To keep them in bed where they belonged. It may seem cruel, but think about it—there was no electricity, so no night-lights. There were wild animals and open fires about. Staircases didn’t usually have hand rails. It was a safety thing. Also kept them out of mom & dad’s bed, which was quite possibly in the same room. Explained away that grunting and bumping, too. :)

What boogie man tales did for the children, religion did for the grown-ups. Thinking about running around after dark? Watch out, the vampires might get you. Those shellfish that are making everyone sick? If GOD says they’re unclean, maybe the masses will stop eating them. In parts of Africa it is believed that evil spirits lurk in the corners of the house—so houses are built in circles. Of course, it also conserves the scarce wood supply, as a circle gives you the maximum area/perimeter ratio. In Thailand you build a high threshold to keep out the evil spirits that crawl along the floor. Also works on snakes. Handy, huh?

I’m not saying that religion deliberately hoodwinks the populace for its own arbitrary or nefarious reasons. Though it might surprise you, I’m not dissing religion at all. But in a pre-literate society, religion was one largely self-enforcing way for the educated minority to communicate messages to the masses, and to have them stick. A lot of the paranormal legends we’re familiar with today may have started off in just such a manner, along with the fact that every culture has a mythology, and as cultures moved and mingled, the legends spread, grew, evolved. Trolls mean one thing to one culture, something else entirely to another. Brownies, leprechauns, elves, pixies, faeries—the stories and differences are largely regional, but with a great deal of overlap. Some of these creatures featured in the teaching of pre-Christian beliefs, just as the djinn feature in Middle Eastern theology and demons in many of the Asian philosophies.

Now, if you want to know how I think these religious origins should relate to modern paranormal romance, you might be in for a shock.

I don’t.

Not one little, teeny, weeny bit.

I write FICTION. Stories. Faery tales for grownups if you will. They have nothing whatsoever to do with reality—especially politics or religion. I try very hard not to mention religion at all, though now and again the context of a story forces it in. When it does, I try to be as vague as possible, and most importantly, not to offend any particular sect. Why? Because I don’t want to get into a religious debate. That’s simply not what my romantic fiction is about. If your beliefs have a problem with the existence of a werewolf, or a living gargoyle, or a half-dragon cop, that’s fine. I don’t believe in singing purple dinosaurs either, but I let my kids watch Barney, even though he bugged the daylights out of me. Because even when they were two, they got the concept that THIS IS NOT REAL. If however, you have a problem reading about magical creatures, you should probably not read my work. And that’s okay, too. I can recommend some wonderful authors who do bring their faith into their fiction—everything from Wiccan to Jewish to Catholic to Baptist to Buddhist. But in my stuff? Pure, unadulterated fantasy. Just kick back, forget reality for a while and have some fun.

I do think the paranormal world and romance are a natural mixing ground, and one I love exploring. When we’re talking fantasy, why not add the elements of magic, extended lifespans, and so on, meaning the Happily-Ever-After can really be EVER after. In other cases, adding paranormal heroes and heroines can up the conflict level, making it harder for our lovers to get and stay together. That’s certainly the case in my new book out tomorrow from Ellora’s Cave, All Hallow’s Evie. Evangeline Bonnell is a ghost, whose time is up on Halloween, meaning she and Sam Holiday have a mere 10 days together. Figuring out how to give these two an HEA was a real challenge. :)

I’m giving away a free copy of Sam and Evie’s story to one random commenter below, so if you’re in the mood, tell me what you think about paranormal romance, or how you celebrate this time of year. I’ll leave this contest open until the 28th, so everyone who wants to has a chance to enter. If you want to know more about my books or this one in particular, click on the links below.

Have a wonderful Halloween, or Samhain, or if you celebrate neither, then just a have a marvelous autumn.

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All Hallow’s Evie

Out Oct. 21, from Ellora’s Cave

Holiday Hearts, Book Five.

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Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Thanks so much to Katie for having me here today!

Molly Daniels said...

I'll admit, I was leery of paranormal romance at first, but then you sucked me in with first Dhinni and The Geek and Dragon in the System. And again with your Motor City series, and the steampunk. Your books never fail to entertain me:)

And yes....wondering how this HEA is going to happen *grin*!

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Molly, I'm so glad you're hooked. Paranormal is just plain fun. :)

Katie Reus said...

Thank you so much for joining me today Cindy! I love paranormal romance (obviously) and this time of year is always fun. I'll be dressing up and probably passing out candy to the neighbor kids. Normally we go to a party or head downtown but with a little one in the house this year, things are much tamer ;)

Julianne said...

Sad how some of these tales our ancestors told could so terribly backfire though (I'm currently reading a book set during the Salem witch trials) But your book looks awesome, Cindy. Must admit, I'm really curious to see how Sam and Evie get their HEA!

Best wishes and have a great Halloween!

LDFerris said...

My line of thought falls very similar to yours, in so much as what you've said about religion in the pre-literate world and about the use of paranormal in fiction. Because really, fiction is all about make-believe - why do people have problems accepting the fantastical aspects of fiction when they become adults and scorn genres such as fantasy, sci-fi and paranormal? (and don't get me started on the people who scorn romance novels as written porn)

There are very few things in this world that I love doing to relax more than picking up a good story about a werewolf and a vampire, or a psychic and a ghost, or witches, or whatever... Reading is my escape from the every day. Why would I want to read a story that was exactly like what I'm trying to forget, even temporarily?

Happy Halloween!
(aka the Zombie Pirate this Halloween)

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Lacey, you've exactly nailed my feelings on this. I read and write escapist fiction, because I like forgetting about reality for a while.

Julianne,thanks so much and happy Halloween to you, too.

Katie, Halloween is lots more fun with kids around. You'll have a blast.

Willa Edwards said...

I completely agree with you Cindy. Paranormal romance is about fun and fantasy, not reality (though I feel the same about Harry Potter and Twilight, and a few religious fantatics have gotten up in arms about them too). When I read paranomal romance I don't think about religion, all I think about is how are these two going to get together.

All Hallow's Evie looks really good. Can't wait to get it. Even though I'll hate to finished with the Holiday family. Maybe some little holiday's need a story.

Harlie Reader said...

I love your paranormals; please keep writing them. Only ten days and one's a ghost. Sign me up.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Thanks, Harlie!

Kari Thomas said...

Paranormal Romance is my FAVE! (of course! LOL!) And that was a great post, Cindy. I love all the limitless possibilities the genre provides.

I usually do the usual "trick or treats" routine on Halloween: staying home and giving out candy. But I just recently moved into a neighborhood that doesnt allow children. So, this year Im going to my first-in-a-long-time Halloween party. Im dressing up as a cat woman. Should be fun!

Kari Thomas

Kathryn Merkel said...

I started out reading Historical Romances & at the time realism was very important to me, but now that I've discovered Paranormal Romances, I find it very freeing to ditch reality & embrass the weird & wonderful world of ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves & other mystical beings.

drainbamaged.gyzmo at

Fran Lee said...

Wonderful post, Cindy! I am truly going to love reading this one!

Wynter Daniels said...

I love this post! I know several people who feel reading paranormal fiction is sinning in some way. I totally don't get that, never have. All Hallow's Evie sounds great!

Diane said...

I've read paranormal books for half my life and haven't stopped reading them yet; I don't think of myself as odd or different or bad, I just enjoy reading what I like

Jacki C. said...

I love, love, love paranormal romance. Once I read my first one, I was hooked!

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Okay, a couple of my earlier comments have disappeared, basically ones thanking Molly, Julianne, Lacey, Willa, and Harlie. So if those reappear, you'll be thanked twice. :-)

Now I'll say thank you to Kari, Kathryn, Fran, Wynter, Diane & Jackie. I LOVE paranormal readers and authors, too, because I've always found them so open and accepting of life's little eccentricities. They see the magic in life, and that's a gift in itself.

Katie Reus said...

Hey Cindy! They didn't disappear, they were stuck in the spam folder! Blogger is ridiculous sometimes. Glad you mentioned it, they should appear now :)

Cathy M said...

I read all kinds of stories, though I do have a particular fondness for paranormal romances.

Love the creative world building, and the endless possibilities for character traits and romantic connections. Even after endless years of reading, I find that I can still be surprised, and I love that.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

anny cook said...

Wonderful post, girl. Just wanted to say the book is GREAT! I already have a copy so leave me out of the drawing...

Brandy B aka Brandlwyne said...

Cindy I loved the post. Not to many people will talk about the paranormal and religion. Since I believe in both its not a problem for me, its a way of learning what others think/believe when reading a story that does always go with what you think is true. That being said I HAVE A BIG IMAGINATION and I love paranormal romances. You never know what to expect it just always seems more unpredictable than say contemporary romances. I love them all but para's my fav.

I just read Motor City Fae and I loved it and can't wait to get your other books and read them aswell.

brandyzbooks at yahoo dot com

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Anny, thanks so much. Couldn't do it without you! Cathy, your support has meant a LOT over the last five years, and Brandy, it's great to meet you! So glad you loved Motor City Fae.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Congrats to Kathryn, who won the drawing for a free copy of All Hallows Evie. Kathryn, I'll be contacting you by email for your format preference. Thanks to everyone who commented.