Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hungry for Something Different?

The following is my speech from Romance in Bonham. I'm sure it reads much better than my speech..ugh...how I hate to speak in public! After reading, let me know your favorite genres and why.



I’m an avid reader and enjoy reading all kinds of books. My wide taste of genres extends into my writing where I write not only historical novels but paranormal and fantasy novels as well. For me, it’s no different than the wide variety of taste in the foods I eat. One night I may crave Mexican food and the next, Italian. The next week I may have to drive half way across town to my favorite Turkish deli for their amazing dolmas and Turkish coffee. So, you get my drift. It just depends on my mood. I’m sure some of you are the same way but if you’re not…if you’re strictly a meat and potatoes kind of girl. Oh, sure..you might go to the fancy Italian place on your anniversary but most weeks, you and your crock pot are working overtime…stop and think to yourself. Hey…I’m sick of hamburgers…I’m sick of meatloaf….I want something exotic. And I’m not talking about spinach enchiladas, either, ladies. We live close enough to Mexico. Mexican food is about as down home as steaks are here in the Lone Star state. I’m talking Greek food, Indian food, Vietnamese food or Japanese sushi. Don’t be afraid. You may like a taste for something new. You may love it. You may shock yourself.

Growing up, I loved reading Judith McNaught historical romance novels. I even wrote her once. I think I was like 16 years old or so. I just had to tell her that there was no other human on the planet who understood love like she did. I still love her books to this day but I read little else other than the searing love trials of the London Ton. I dreamed of marrying a duke or an earl after working as a maid in his giant mansion and he one day notices me and is struck by my pure beauty and just HAS TO HAVE ME…despite the fact that I have no dowry and my father is a shoemaker. He has even heard me sing as I cook in the kitchen and my voice touches him in places that he never…well…nevermind….you know what I’m getting at. We all have our favorite genres and historical romance was mine for a very long time. Then I decided I wanted to taste something new. I started reading contemporary romance and devoured everything Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown and Danielle Steele wrote. I fell in love with this genre and just couldn’t get enough of it. As I read, I dreamed of being a high power corporate attorney in six inch heels, owner of an advertising agency who worried more about her lingerie than her business suits and a spunky private eye forced to work with a cop who irritates me to no end…particularly because he’s the biggest male chauvinist pig I’ve ever met but he’s also the sexiest man alive.

For a long time, I stuck to those two very strong, very comfortable genres. I was a traditional romance reader….my favorite authors sent me back in time to London or to present day New York…almost every time. I was a meat and potatoes kind of girl. Don’t get me wrong. Meat and potatoes are GOOD! Those books are the bread and butter of our industry and just like mac and cheese….they are comfort food for our souls. We know what to expect. We know we’ll be satisfied and highly entertained along the way.

One day I decided I was sick of the same old meatloaf. Oh…I knew I’d be hungry for mom’s cooking again but I wanted to venture out. I wanted to try something new. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was a wild streak I had. I couldn’t be sure. I was at the mall and stopped by the book store, as I always did. I found myself in the suspense section and saw a book with a wolf on the cover and a full moon. I read the back cover and did a double take. Did it really say what I thought it said? Did I misunderstand? I checked the aisle to make sure I wasn’t in the horror section. I am NOT a horror girl. Sure enough….I was in romantic suspense…where some of Sandra Brown’s books were located. She was safe enough. I read the name of the author. I’d never heard of her. Rebecca York. I looked at her picture. She looked like my sweet grandma. Did this lady really write a book about a werewolf? And this is a love story? This was the first time I’d ever even seen such a thing. Other than Beauty and the Beast, I’d never heard of a furry guy falling in love. And this wasn’t a comedy either. I checked the aisle heading to make sure again. Nope. This was not a romantic comedy. Back then, Ms. York’s book was labeled as romantic suspense. The paranormal genre was on the cusp of breaking out and had yet to form a strong audience….but boy…when it did break….that audience was salivating wanting more..and I was part of that audience. I devoured Rebecca York’s Killing Moon and begged for more. Overnight I tossed out my meat loaf, emptied my fridge of the cold leftovers and dove into the most exotic food I’d ever tasted. Today the market is saturated with tales of vampires, werewolves and witches. This has even bled into the young adult market. I had to smile when I saw my teenage nieces reading Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series. I’ve taken my own 13 year old daughter to see the movies and who knew? Girls can fall in love with vampires….werewolves too? Charlaine Harris’s popular Sookie Stackhouse mysteries were turned into the HBO series, True Blood. Now we have the amazing Sherrilyn Kenyon and J.R. Ward to read over and over. My taste buds are happy campers now. The paranormal genre exploded as readers gobbled up tales of dark, brooding heroes, in search of love…and blood….or heroes fighting to protect their wolf packs from man, all the while falling in love with human females.

As a writer, in a paranormal world, there are less rules and more freedom to create. This is why I particularly love this genre. I think it’s pretty cool when my hero can’t meet up with my heroine for her big art debut because the dang thing fell on a full moon. And my heroine just doesn’t understand why the only thing in her lover’s freezer is stacks and stacks of steaks. And the fridge? Nothing. Not even condiments. These are the things that keep me up at night. The real challenge is keeping it real and believable in a very magical world. I want my paranormals to read like a contemporary does. I strive to make the odd seem natural. Otherwise it’s just silly. Some readers will never take a romance writer, especially a paranormal author seriously but dang it if I’m not going to die trying.

Have you ever met those folks that say, “I read only Non-Fiction.” Don’t you feel like saying, “Why? Do you like being depressed?” These readers will never care. They will never take us seriously. My happiest days are the days I receive a letter or an email from a reader and she tells me she just finished my book and she fell in love with the hero and oh how she wished she met a man like him….uh…and the man is half wolf. That is success to me!

After tasting paranormal, I dove into fantasy and time travel and found another genre I enjoyed and loved. I have to confess that I don’t love it quite as much as paranormal but I love it enough to write in this genre as well. I was lucky enough to be selected for a fantasy anthology with eight other authors. We were all assigned a Greek muse. In my story, A Love Beyond Time, my heroine is Clio, Muse of History. I was so excited because I adore history. My heroine traveled back in time to the Salem witch trials and the Italian Renaissance before going to Hades to save the soul of her love. This is a huge stretch from where I began as a reader yet it was really a blending of genres…historical and fantasy. And so much fun to write.

And still I love to write historicals, especially 20th century historicals because editors and agents have told me that there is no market for them. I grew up listening to stories about WWII and The Great Depression from my grandparents. I receive more letters about my historical romance, The Wooden Nickel, than any of my other books. And I think this is because more people can identify with it. People actually lived through this. The 30s and 40s are a fascinating time in World history. It’s also a time of great heartbreak. And it wasn’t that long ago. That’s why I must write about it. We can never forget the Holocaust. There are still people living today who experienced Hell on earth. Writing about this time period is my way of honoring the people who survived, the people who died and reminds me of how very lucky I am. It’s an important time. A time we shouldn’t forget but I’m not like those readers who boast they only read non-fiction. There’s nothing wrong with sprinkling romance into real life events. People fell in love in terrible times. We can learn and have a beautiful romance all in one sitting. These are the books I love to read too. Those that teach me about life in another time with romance sprinkled between the pages.

So, really…what I’m trying to say is dive out of your comfort zone once in a while. Pick up your favorite genre but pick up something new too. You may find a world you never knew existed.

Happy Reading and Writing!
~Alisha Paige

2 comments:

Mark Alders said...

What a great post. Love the kitty pic, too!

I do the opposite. I write out of my comfort zone. I read classic sci-fi and fantasy from the pulp era. What I write...well, it makes my toes curl!

LOL

*hugs*

Mark

Alisha Paige said...

Your work makes my toes curl too! **snicker**!

Hugs,
Alisha

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