I’d like to welcome fantasy author Amy Rose Davis to The Variety Pages today – thanks so much for being here, Amy! Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and settle in for a chat. And stay tuned after for a chance to win a copy of Ravenmarked, Amy’s recently released novel…
I don’t consider myself a romance writer. And to be completely honest, I don’t consider myself a romance reader. I don’t have anything against them, and the ones I’ve read, I’ve mostly enjoyed. I just don’t really seek them out.
But the strangest thing happens when I sit down to write: Romance shows up.
I write fantasy, and I think it’s completely possible (and sometimes expected) to write a compelling fantasy novel without a shred of romance in it. Fantasy has enough tropes and conventions to fill a small castle library, so finding ways to move plot forward and develop characters is not a difficult thing. There’s really no need to weave in romantic story lines. And yet, I do. Almost every time.
I see romance all over the place. Romance, love, sex, lust, and passion are deeply entwined with life. If I write about humans (or fairy/human hybrids, or angelic creatures with human characteristics, or soul vampires, or whatever), those primitive drives and desires are going to show up.
Jennifer Roberson introduced me to true romantic themes in fantasy way back when I read her Chronicles of the Cheysuli series. The entire series was a dynastic epic with strong romantic overtones, because the whole arc involved marriages and offspring that would fulfill prophecies. Some characters got their HEAs, some didn’t. Some married and had children, but kept their true loves on the side as paramours. Some fell in love where they least expected it. The whole series was brilliant in weaving romance, love, lust, and desire with the overall arc of fulfilling prophecy.
Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series had a strong romantic theme as well, and at least in the first few books, it worked really well. Goodkind carried it to the nth level, in fact; the main character’s undying devotion to the woman he loved actually saved the world from a tyrant in Wizard’s First Rule.
George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books have plenty of sex, but not so much true romance. Where romance and love do occur, Martin is the master of keeping his characters from their HEAs. I can’t think of a single couple who is living “happily ever after” in his world at this point. I don’t think every couple in fantasy should have a “happily ever after,” but it would be nice if a few in Martin’s world could.
Which leads me to my perspective on romantic fantasy… I don’t automatically write happily ever afters for my characters. I write a lot of “happy for nows” or “happy-ish, but we’ve got some issues.” In Ravenmarked, of the three main couples, only one gets anything close to a “happily ever after,” and that’s a minor couple. But as I said, at least someone is happy. And I won’t say much except that I think it will work out for them. He’s a decent guy who doesn’t mind all her nonsense and thinks a woman with power is sexy.
But I do think that the overtones of romance are as important in epic fantasy as they are in romantic suspense or paranormal romance or any of a variety of genres. And I think that romance in any genre should be true to life—that is, give some people a happily ever after, some a happy for now, and some a… well, whatever other option there is.
I’ve read fantasy novels that seem to try to avoid romance and even sex altogether. Not even YA fantasies—just fantasies where it seems the author preferred not to think about that. And I’ve read fantasies where romances went from zero to married in an eyeblink, and I thought, “wait—what?” Unless the marriage is arranged, show me how they got from A to Z, please. I want to know why they care about each other.
So when romance emerges in my fantasy, I don’t avoid it. I embrace it. When my hero Connor realizes that the irritating little church girl is actually quite pretty and has a stubborn streak that he finds oddly appealing, I want to share that with readers. When my heroine Mairead sees that Connor is a rake, but a damn sexy rake, I want to show readers how conflicted she feels about her chastity and upbringing when this really amazing guy starts getting a little closer to her. And when Connor gives Mairead her very first kiss ever, I want to show readers that even though nothing much happens, for Mairead, everything changes. When Mairead lies very still trying to quiet her thumping heart, I want readers to fan themselves and say, “Wow. That’s romance.”
It doesn’t matter so much whether the hero swings a sword or runs a corporation or works as a personal trainer. It doesn’t matter if the heroine is a woman with a past or a destiny. Put people in their natural environments, and romance will show up.
Amy Rose Davis is an independent epic fantasy author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Bryce, and their four children. Bryce provides comic relief, editing, and inspiration, and regularly talks her off the various ledges she climbs onto.
Amy is an unapologetic coffee addict, but her other vices include chocolate, margaritas, and whiskey. She prefers cats to dogs (but houses both), loves the color green, and enjoys the smell of new pencils and crayons. She has eclectic tastes in friends, music, and books, and is as likely to watch 300 as Becoming Jane.
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