Thanks Christina for inviting me to bring Eleni-fest to your blog. For those who don’t know it’s a month long celebration during October where I’ve been yakking about grants, conferences, writing community and the romance and fantasy genres. And I have been lucky to have many special guests throughout the month. Christina will join me on Halloween...cue scary music.
But today I’ll be talking fantasy and paranormal genres – more specifically kick-butt heroines (sorry typing kick ass makes me think of a kicking donkey. I know get over it Eleni, still…my term of choice is kick-butt).
In the beginning…
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved fairy tales and stories in general, watched many cartoons, comics, TV shows (e.g. Bewitched) and movies (e.g. The Wizard of Oz) to fall in love with the whole ‘fantasy’ world whether it be set in another world or in this one with paranormal elements (super heroes). How cool! How amazing! How fantastic! And the allure of fantasy began…
I wanted to be that kick-butt super heroine – I remember dressing up as Batgirl after getting a show bag from the Royal Show that is held yearly in Adelaide. Here I was with gappy teeth, wearing a cape pretending I was oh so super heroine-ish.
There was also Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Super Girl, Wilma from Buck Rodgers…sorry big fan of Buffy but she didn’t invent kick butt. Not to mention the non-paranormal ladies like Charlie’s Angels and Police Woman (oh so cool with great hair with bangs).
See don’t you just want to be these unruffled, tough ladies, with hands on the hips saying ‘bring it on!’ (cue the ‘da da daaa’ music) then flick the hair.
Oh and one of the first romances I barracked for was Wilma and Buck. I was only young but I remember that clearly. Though I can’t remember what did happen. I’ll have to go find me a DVD of the series and find out!
But even before this there were kick butt stories. And coming from a Greek background, a big influence on my life – Greek Mythology. When I was 9, my family travelled to Greece and the stories of the Gods and the history of Greece came alive in my mind. It was then I was given a copy of a Greek Mythology book (in Greek). There were some great pictures in it that stirred up the imagination, like this one of Athena. Yes, I still have the book *grin*
Can you see why my 9-year-old self would be intrigued? The vivid colours, the scene, and what’s more, she was a warrior god that also had the owl for the symbol for wisdom. Brains, beauty and power!
I didn’t realise until much later but while the Greek Gods & Goddesses had powers and were immortal, they were not always moral. Maybe that’s why the stories fascinated me as well as kind of scared me. Who knew what you could do to displease the gods and you suffer for it?
How each god and goddess represented different parts of nature, human nature or culture fascinated me – like Gaia being Mother Earth, Artemis the huntress, Aphrodite the love goddess and so on. Stories of monsters, creatures like the Gargoyles (Medusa) and abilities like throwing lightning bolts, appearing and disappearing, freezing a person to the spot with a look, sparked stories in my mind. Adventures like Odysseus’ trek home, Jason with the Golden Fleece, and Herakles (aka Hercules) brought that quest element to life. And of course the Amazons who were warrior women standing their own against the men & other creatures.
Now I have always been an uncoordinated soul. While other kids could do cartwheels properly, I just didn’t have that ‘bend’. Mine were erratic. I played soccer in high school but the amount of injuries I had due to lack of finesse, well I ran out of fingers to count. Not only was I unco, I was and am plump and vertically challenged. Yes, that’s short for un-PC among us. No long Elle Macpherson legs for me!
So the closest thing I could come to a kick-butt heroine is by reading about them, watching them, or writing about them.
Fantasy & Paranormal influences...
Though the serious writing came many years down the track when the series The Chronicles of the Cheysuli by Jennifer Roberson changed my life – epic generational fantasy. And I was hooked. Oh yes, I’d read The Hobbit, seen bits of The Lord of the Rings (cartoon), but there were female characters in this series that were just as important as the male ones. It has been many years since I have read the series and I may view it differently now, but that can’t take away the importance it had in my life.
Then I read some more different types of books – some high fantasy, others more with paranormal elements, all with a hint of romance.
Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Mists of Avalon
David & Leigh Eddings – The Belgariad
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (Cross Stitch) – Jamie is my all time fave hero.
Barbara Erskine – The Lady of Hay
Robert Jordon’s – The Wheel of Time
Sara Douglass’ – The Axis Trilogy
Traci Harding’s – The Ancient Future trilogy
Still I had always read widely and continued to do so (including horror, detective, mysteries, different types of romances). But I’ve really come to terms that I really haven’t as an extensive reading experience in the fantasy genre as you might expect. I had been slowly getting behind with my reading and with catching up reading the greats because of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).
I looked at this list of the Top 100 Fantasy Novels (speculative fiction) and worked out that I have only read about 18 of the titles and/or series. Sad state of affairs *sad face*. In my down years, I did however rely on TV and movies to get me through and the visual medium is great when you are too tired to read. So I score a lot higher with these. (Top 100 Fantasy Films and Top 100 Fantasy TV series for your interest).
Holy Cow - Paranormal Romance!
In the years where I had not been reading so much, the market of paranormal romance has ‘kapowed’. Aha, that’s my Batman reference all right.
And that is the direction my reading has taken recently. I’m enjoying reading these stories because even though they had been around, the stories have flourished adding different elements to old legends and tales. And special guests that I have this month on Eleni-fest who write in this and the urban fantasy genre – my gracious hostess Christina of course, Mel Teshco, Anna Hackett, Tracey O’hara, Eric Hayes, Keri Arthur, and Denise Rossetti (more fantasy but I’ll add to this list).
I’ve only recently found the Goodreads lists and they are a great way of introducing you to any genre you are not familiar with.
For example: Best Paranormal Romance Series.
Actually in Heart & Craft, author Kelly Ethan has a great chapter about Fantasy Romance (this is the book that is part of my website competition). Where a fantasy romance focuses on the romance, the romantic fantasy has romantic elements.
I’ve also recently started reading Graphic Novels (aka formerly known as comics but with longer length from what I gather). And that has given me another layer to this whole paranormal/graphic world. It goes hand in hand with urban fantasy and horror I believe. Fascinating!
Still while I may not be as widely read as others, I love the fantasy and paranormal worlds and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of them. Unfortunately there’s no ‘time stop’ button so I can catch up on my reading, and the last thing I want is for reading to feel like a chore. I want to read…actually I have to read, just like I have to write. It’s good for the soul.
My stories and world building...
The sense of discovery, of needing to obtain a goal, of watching characters grow and learn is what I love about fantasy including the quest fantasies. It’s probably why my yet to be published book -Healer’s Destiny- is one. And why I have more waiting in the wings for me to write. I love the middle ages type world with dragons, magic, and the journey of discovery. I love a Greek mythological type worlds also ;)
But since I’ve always loved paranormal elements, and had written a few short stories with this aspect, I’ve also started to delve the paranormal fiction world with longer fiction (novella and novel) and I’m having fun blending our world with another layer of magic.
In university a friend dubbed me the appendix queen because I had so much research in my assignments that needed add appendices to be pointed to, as it would not fit in the 2000-5000 word essays.
So yes, I can go on and on with research. I now take the ‘research when I need’ approach otherwise I will never get to the writing.
A couple of books I use extensively are:
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday life in the Middle Ages: The British Isles from 500 to 1500 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
There are plenty more including books on mythology, costumes, and history, but these are a great starting off point.
And more and more, there are plenty of online references. Here are just a few:
RWAus has had a paranormal group off and on for a number of years now. Before the conference and since the loop is buzzing with more activity, which is great to see. Writers get each other, still those who read or write Paranormal (we include all speculative fiction in this), get why we love this genre that touch more. So it’s good to bounce thoughts and ideas with each other, discuss books, TV programs (yes, Supernatural is high on the list -
I also follow blogs and twitter (you can follow other social media if you are so inclined) and it can help you feel part of the broader community of fantasy/paranormal romantic elements (big or small) enthusiast (say that quickly 3 times!). It actually has been a blast getting to know people via cyberspace. That’s how I got to know Christina (& our mutual love for BSG!)
So while I myself am not a kick-butt heroine, my aim is to create those them, give them vulnerabilities, battles and obstacles to overcome, and to make the story sing!
How about you?
I’m giving away a mini-pack to one commenter.
Comments will be open until end 27th October.
For more information on Eleni-fest, check out my website.
Thanks again Christina for having me on your blog. I hope I've been a good house-guest *wink*