My debut novel, Ordinary Angels, is a paranormal romance.
I hate the “R” word—Romance. I didn’t even start reading romance novels until about five years ago, mostly because of my feelings about the word.
Worse yet? It isn’t the word I hate, but romance itself. Yes, I hate the cards, the flowers, the chocolates, the expensive perfume in curvy bottles. I never remember anniversaries. I’d rather be dragged behind a truck than celebrate Valentine’s Day. And I always resented that just because I have a jayjay instead of a wang, I’m supposed to enjoy these things.
A male friend of mine was lamenting a break-up. His girlfriend, he said, didn’t appreciate him. He considered himself a die-hard romantic. Every year he tried to outdo himself on February 14th. The most recent holiday had been their undoing. He’d put on lilting music, bought a black sequined thong (he was planning a strip-tease), ordered dinner to be delivered from her favourite restaurant. He artfully placed dozens of candles around their apartment. He took the day off work to set everything up, including spreading fresh rose petals all over the floor, from entryway to living room couch to the bedroom, with a generous amount spread all over the bed.
He took delight in detailing his efforts. My response? “God, what a mess. I hope you didn’t expect her to clean that up.” He looked at me with hurt and confusion. “You know, that’s exactly what she said when she walked through the door!”
When I think of romance, I think of mating dances—peacock’s plumage or apes banging their chests, trying to prove they’re the prettiest, strongest, healthiest mate. Showing off. Why would I want to read a book about that? The candy and flowers? It seems so fake.
Then one day a friend shoved a book into my hand. I asked, “What is this?” She grinned. “Just read it. You’ll love it.”
I devoured it in about five hours on a rainy afternoon. It had action, adventure, magic, and hot, steamy sex. I loved it. I went online to buy every book in the series as fast as I could. And what did I discover? It was a ROMANCE novel! I felt so cheated! But but but… it was good. How could this be?
I read that series and then went to romance websites and forums to get recommendations. I asked my friend what else she’d been hiding from me. I read the “classics” of fantasy romance and then branched out to read mid-list and unknowns.
Because what I hadn’t understood was that the hook in a romance isn’t seduction (a concept I hate nearly as much as “romance”—it implies one party is either unwilling or uninterested), a romance, at its heart, is about falling in love.
Everyone wants to fall in love, to feel their hearts pound, to be distracted and obsessed. Teenagers dream about it; old married folks remember it wistfully. Every time a person falls in love, it’s magic. If the object of our affection doesn’t return the sentiment, it’s pure agony. But if they do? The world is a beautiful place, just because they’re in it.
And now I write romance. To be honest, I wrote it all along, I just didn’t call it that. The first book I wrote (still unpublished, although I may rewrite it and publish it someday) was an epic fantasy, but I included a strong subplot (frankly my favourite part of the book) about two characters who felt that spark of attraction, even though they couldn’t act on it. At first I even hesitated to call Ordinary Angels a romance because I have so much trouble with that word. But it is. Beyond the adventure, the peril, the murder and drama, the ghosts and angels and necromancers, it is, at its heart, a falling-in-love book. Two people from different worlds meet and despite their differences, connect. Holding on to that connection proves a challenge when circumstances cause them to question each other, but it’s a thread every person who’s fallen in love can identify with.
I might not have gotten over my aversion to the word, but every time I pick up a romance novel, I remember the first time, those first stolen kisses, the beautiful agony of wondering…waiting. I now embrace the genre wholeheartedly, even though I haven’t changed my mind about rose petals on the carpet.
Question for you: Have you always been a romance reader, or did you discover it later, as I did?
India knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since then she’s discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise.
The supernatural and paranormal have always fascinated India. In addition to being an avid sci-fi and fantasy reader, she also enjoys mysteries, thrillers, and romance. This probably explains why her novels have elements of adventure, ghosts (or elves, fairies, angels, aliens, and whatever else she can dream up), and spicy love stories.