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Writing Paranormal Romance for the Young Adult Market
The romance and young adult (YA) markets are two of the most lucrative markets in the publishing industry today. While teenagers may not necessarily find themselves drawn towards reading traditional romance novels, nonetheless, their interest is almost certainly piqued by compelling romantic elements in YA books, particularly in fantasy novels.
In the new millennium, there has been a notable spike in young readers’ interest in paranormal romance literature. Everyone knows that Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-romance Twilight series became a huge hit and turned into multi-million dollar movies. Then again, not all teenagers are keen to read about vampire romances. Recently, there was much controversy triggered by an article that came out in June in The Wall Street Journal, which described contemporary young adult books as “rife with depravity”. The author of the article, Cox Gurdon, commented on the debate that followed the publication of her article. In an email interview with Publishers Weekly, she expressed: “What has most surprised me is the degree to which people have leapt off on tangents, and then tried to skewer me for things that I didn’t say. It’s almost comical how quickly a discussion of the content of books turns into wild-eyed accusations of censorship and banning.” Meyer clarified that her article “ … was not about YA literature in its whole but about the lurid elements of a growing number of books within the genre” (Publishers Weekly, “Are Teen Novels Dark and Depraved — or Saving Lives?” Article by Karen Springen, June 09, 2011). Without entering into a full-on discussion of this current debate, it can certainly be argued that a lighter shade of paranormal romance literature may better suit some young adult readers.
Paranormal romance may include fairies, angels, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, telepathy, superpowers, wizards, reincarnation, and many more facets. We can begin by listing the following subgenres that fall under the wide term “paranormal romance”: fantasy romance, paranormal contemporary romance, paranormal historical romance, paranormal romantic thrillers, science fiction romance, time travel romance. An in-depth discussion of these subgenres of paranormal romance literature would go beyond the scope of this article; so instead, I’d like to briefly touch on the ever popular “time travel romance” novels.
Time travel romance novels have been around for centuries. They have wide appeal to teenagers, who, full of dreams and aspirations, angst and hope, may find themselves wishing they could live in another time as they daydream at their desks in school. The notion of being whisked back into the past or catapulted into the future easily lends itself to their fertile imaginations. These same teenagers are prone to being smitten by the magic of romance. Just imagine combining the two forces—a story full of that starry-eyed magic of romance experienced in adolescence and a tale spun around the “magic” of time travel, wizards, and romantic love that spans incarnations.
There are a great many things to bear in mind when writing time travel romances for teens; namely, the plot, issues, and characters should appeal to teenagers and the imagery and language must be graded according to the age group (12–18 years). Also, even though you may think you have free range as an author of a fantasy novel simply because it is a “fantasy”, you should do some fact-checking and research to ensure that if your novel refers to certain places and time periods on earth, there is geographical and historical authenticity at the backbone of your creation. Once that has been established, then you are free to wander away into the realms of fantasy. For example, when I was revising my YA fantasy novel, I consulted a British historian to check, for instance, how long it would take to travel from Mawgan Porth in Cornwall, England, to County Cork in Ireland in the fifteenth century when there were no motorised vehicles. You may have some leeway as you create your fantasy romance novel for teens, because it is, after all, a fantasy creation, but as with all good writing, you should be aware of the structures and norms before creating outside of the box. Finally, it’s vital to be true to your own voice as you write your YA paranormal romance novel. Young adults want to lose and find themselves when reading novels, and, while books such as the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series may have whetted the appetite for good fantasy literature, it is essential not just to create a Harry Potter “read-alike”. Each author has their own yarn to spin, and teens are quick to detect anything that smacks of copycat literature. I can wind up by saying that if you are a writer who wants to venture into writing paranormal romance literature for teens, you may in fact be surprised and delighted by all the positive feedback you receive by the multitude of adults who, secretly or openly, also enjoy this YA genre.
This article was originally published in an Australian-based magazine in 2011.
Please do not copy without the express permission of the author.
Barbara Burgess is the author of time travel fantasy novel The Magic Manuscript: Voyage to Eve Ilion, The Cacouna Caves and the Hidden Mural, and The Cacouna Caves and the Doorway to the Golden Planet. Website: www.thecacounacaves.com
Click HERE to be directed to The Magic Manuscript: Voyage to Eve Ilion, the first of Burgess' time travel fantasy novels. The novel is woven with elements of history, fantasy, time travel, and paranormal romance. Two teenagers, Arthur and Jennifer, unearth a medieval manuscript in Cornwall, in modern England, during the Christmas holidays. While reading the manuscript, Jennifer becomes engrossed in the story of fifteenth-century Lady Genevieve, a teenage Cornish girl who escapes from her brother when he tries to marry her to one of the earls of Tudor against her will. Jennifer is catapulted back to the fifteenth century, as well as to England in the sixth century. When Arthur realizes she is missing, he follows her back in time.
Click HERE to be directed to Two Legends: Voyage to Eve Ilion & the Nine Companions. This volume is a new edition which includes both The Magic Manuscript: Voyage to Eve Ilion and its sequel, The Nine Companions.
Two Legends: Voyage to Eve Ilion & the Nine Companions is a compilation of two novels by Barbara Burgess. For the first time, the novel The Magic Manuscript: Voyage to Eve Ilion (third edition) and the novel The Nine Companions (second edition) appear in one volume.
VOYAGE TO EVE ILION
Two teenagers, Arthur and Jennifer, unearth a medieval manuscript in Cornwall, in modern England, during the Christmas holidays. While reading the manuscript, Jennifer becomes engrossed in the story of fifteenth-century Lady Genevieve, a sixteen-year-old Cornish girl who escapes from her brother when he tries to marry her to one of the earls of Tudor against her will. Jennifer is, in reality, catapulted back to the fifteenth century, as well as to England in the sixth century. When Arthur realizes she is missing, he follows her back in time. Will he be able to bring her back to twenty-first century England?
THE NINE COMPANIONS
Four friends are inexplicably catapulted back in time—but to different places and different eras. In New France, Lance and Bronwen, learn about an ancient silver amulet buried somewhere on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. Meanwhile, Jennifer and Arthur find themselves in ancient Sumer over five thousand years ago—and in trouble. Kidnapped by the tyrannical Prince Faizi, they discover their only hope of escape is to steal his golden amulet. The two amulets are somehow connected, but how? Can any of the companions deliver them to the beautiful and powerful Lady Eve on the island of Eve Ilion? And if they succeed, will they be able to return home?
The British in India: A Story of History, Romance, Tragedy, and Intrigue
Any writer who reads about the history of the British in India will find ample food for thought and fiction—the stuff of romance, tragedy, and intrigue.
India and China were the two richest countries in the world in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. India, sometimes referred to as the golden bird, was then and is today a pluralistic society. There are a multitude of languages, dialects, and religions in the country. Its social, cultural, and religious ethos is such that it has always easily accommodated foreigners.
In ancient and medieval India, a myriad of kingdoms existed, whose borders constantly changed. Islam came to India in the tenth century through the invading Turks. Sultanates were established in Delhi, and Islam spread throughout the Indian subcontinent over the next several hundred years. Unable to convert the whole country to Islam, the invaders settled in India nonetheless and became overlords. The prominent Hindu and Islamic cultures often mingled between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, leaving lasting influences on each other’s respective cultures. The Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty was established in India in the early sixteenth century and lasted for two hundred years. The capital of Mogul India was Agra. Many people converted to Islam in order to move up in social rank as the Mogul emperors ruled the country.
The first British travellers who dared to undertake the long journey to India by land and water were themselves romantic adventurers of the world and its oceans. Often, a younger son, not burdened by familial duties and responsibilities, had wanderlust and would travel to India.
The early British adventurers, once they came to India, sometimes wore Indian clothes. They sat on the floor, ate Indian food, learned Indian etiquette, and adopted the practice of daily bathing. Many of them learned the Indian languages and dialects, married Indian women, and settled down in India. The adventurers wrote letters about their experiences in a foreign land to their families and friends back home, and this is our main source of information about their journeys to the Indian subcontinent and what they experienced while living in that part of the world. In those days, to reach India, you had to travel by sea and overland. If you started out from Britain, for instance, you might sail to France, travel overland to Italy, sail to the Middle East, and continue through Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan until you reached India. Alternatively, you might spend more time travelling overseas to India, although such sea voyages could often be perilous.
The rise of the British in India was gradual but persistent. European travellers had already arrived in India before the British. Driven by the need to find spices, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danish, the French, and the British all travelled to India between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries. The Europeans and the British were on a quest for spices—particularly black pepper. The spice trade was ancient, hundreds of years old, dating back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who traveled across the Arabian Sea and established trading posts along the Indian coastline. India with its unique monsoons was the world’s greatest pepper-growing region. Black pepper was used to preserve meat, among other things, and was cultivated especially in Calicut, Kerala, where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama first set foot in India in 1498. The spice trade soon expanded into trading other goods, such as textiles, and India began to supply silks and brocades to European royalty.
When Sir Thomas Roe, a seventeenth-century British Member of Parliament, arrived in India, he was the British ambassador to the court of the Mogul Emperor Jahangir in Agra. From 1614 to 1618, Roe was attached to Jahangir’s court where he helped develop the fortunes of the English East India Company, befriending the emperor and indeed becoming his drinking partner. His work Journal of the Mission to the Mogul Empire provides a glimpse into life in India in the early seventeenth century. At the Mogul court, he found men wearing multicoloured brocades and lavish jewels.
The early British and European adventurers discovered that Indians were great seafarers and travelled extensively. The Indians had evolved a thriving ship-building industry centered in Kerala, based on technologies and navigational knowledge that had been extensively developed long before the British arrived. Great expeditions taken from their port cities had spread the Indian culture and Sanskrit language to distant regions throughout the world. While British naval ships were made of oak and subject to woodworms, Indian ships were made from durable teak (tectona grandis) which did not easily break or rot. The timbers were snugly fitted together in such a way that the ships moved easily through conditions of high winds and battering sea waves.
The British foothold in India began with the establishment of an outpost at Surat in 1619. Gradually, the English expanded their trading stations and the East India Company opened permanent trading posts at Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta. In the early days, these were under the protection of native rulers. At that time, India had many warring princely kingdoms. These princes elicited the help of the British contingents in resolving their skirmishes. The rise to power of the British in India was gradual and took place over one-and-a-half centuries. First, they were invited to intervene in local skirmishes; then, they interfered; and finally, they dominated.
The people who made up the East India Company began to establish forts and colleges. In the beginning, they studied the Sanskrit language and Indian culture, and they researched the classics of India. The British often learned the languages of the places they colonised. By the 1850s, the British controlled most of present-day India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. After an Indian rebellion in 1857, the political power of the East India Company was transferred to the Crown and Great Britain administered much of India. The British concluded treaties with local rulers, thereby ensuring that they had control over the rest of India.
The British passed the 1835 English Education Act, introducing--and thus imposing--their educational system and degrees to India. In many villages the Sanskrit schools, pathshalas, which had ensured a certain level of culture in rural India, went into decline after wealthier Indians started going to the British Presidency colleges and universities in Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. Soon, English books began to be published in India. In the nineteenth century, if you wanted to climb the rungs of the hierarchical government that the British had set up in India, you were obliged to attend these schools. The top bureaucrats in the government in British-ruled India were British. In general, you got a better job in India if you passed through the British-made education system. Few British imperialists, however, were interested in India’s culture.
The viceroys built a summer residence in Shimla, which later came to be known as the British summer capital. The whole government would shift north to Shimla for three to four summer months when it was stiflingly hot on the plains. British hill stations were established in Shimla, Manali, Kashmir, Darjeeling, and other cooler locations. The British would travel to these hill stations by horse-drawn carriages or, in later years, by train.
Romances occasionally kindled between Indian women and British men. British women who had much time on their hands as their husbands were away sometimes fell in love—or had affairs—with Indian men. The famous Shimla Scandal Point is allegedly the place where a British Commander-in-Chief’s daughter eloped with a maharaja (an Indian prince) who had fallen in love with her—or was kidnapped by him, according to other accounts. Other men and women also met there for conversations and perhaps secret liaisons.
Several outstanding novels have been written about the presence of the British in India. E. M. Forster, for instance, wrote the famous book A Passage to India, a novel that was later made into a movie. There is endless room for more novels and romances to be written about this fascinating country with its ancient culture and multi-layered history.
This article was originally published in 2010 in an Australian-based magazine
Do not copy without permission of the author