Thanks to Laurie for inviting me to say a few words. I had a great time with Laurie and Sharon Fisher at the Romance Writers of America conference in D.C. in July and I’m hoping to do it again next year in Nashville—my old hometown.
So, okay, SFR. Invented by Captain James T. Kirk back in 2266. Or at least that’s how it started for me. I wanted to be a science fiction writer, I loved STAR TREK and back in the day it was still possible for a new writer to submit a manuscript to Pocket Books. I got as far as being asked for a partial for a novel starring the Classic TREK characters titled THE MINDSWEEPER, only to be rejected in the end.
Enter Orion Press. Editor/Publisher Randy Landers runs a small press for TREK fans—all for entertainment purposes only, you understand, and not to step on anyone’s copyrights. He published THE MINDSWEEPER (three other Classic TREK novels and four short stories) for sale at conventions, by mail and online. (Check out www.fastcopyinc.com/orionpress.) I started going to Shore Leave in Towson, Maryland (the nation’s largest fan-run convention) to sell my books and do readings. Man, was that fun!
I met some great people at Shore Leave, including noted SF writer Ann C. Crispin. I took full advantage of the terrific writers’ workshops Ann gives there. And as part of her critique of a non-TREK SF short story I’d written for one of those workshops she told me, “You have a talent for writing romance.”
My reaction? “Uhh. Huh?”
Because, you see, in my mind “romance” equaled “bodice ripper”, and I don’t mean that in a good way. In those days there was no such thing as a paranormal romance, much less a SCIENCE FICTION romance. The closest you got to anything like that was a Gothic romance or maybe a contemporary ghost story romance a la Nora Roberts. Not my style. Really.
So I stayed confused for a long time. Then one day I’m standing in the grocery store line and I look over at the paperbacks and I see this gorgeous male bicep on a book cover. Okay, so it’s not a starship, but maybe I’m having a high hormone day or something and I pick up the book to check it out. It is THE HIGHLANDER’S TOUCH, by Karen Marie Moning, and the back cover sells it as a TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE. Angels sing. Clouds open up and a shaft of light comes down and lands smack on that beautiful black and red cover. It is a freakin’ sign.
I bought that book and the other one next to it by the same author. I devoured them both. (The plots are corny, but the SEX!) I went out and bought all Moning’s other books and did the same thing. And I discovered there was a whole big section of this new thing called “paranormal romance” in the bookstore! Go figure!
Two things happened in quick succession after that. I started gobbling up all the paranormal and what little SF romance I could find (more on that later). And, miracle of miracles, the story that had been rattling around in my brain for years and just wouldn’t work as straight SF, suddenly worked great as SF ROMANCE! I went to work on it and the first draft practically wrote itself. (Let’s not talk about the many rewrites, except to say the finished product is better for them!) The result is the manuscript I’m hawking now, UNCHAINED MEMORY.
**SHAMELESS PLUG** UNCHAINED MEMORY combines elements of both SF and suspense in the story of Asia Burde tte, who loses more than her memory in the one hellish night that changes her life. Nashville psychiatrist Dr. Ethan Roberts risks more than his heart when he agrees to help her. Soon they’re on the run, racing to discover who stole her off this planet and who brought her back—before those who would kill for her secrets make her disappear forever.**OKAY, THANKS FOR THAT**
So, what do I look for when I go back to Borders and roam among the romance shelves? Well, wait, let me back up. As a science fiction fan, I’m pretty much old school. I prefer the writers of the New Age—Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Wilhelm, Theodore Sturgeon, Phillip K. Dick. Moving along, I did read David Brin, Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, but after a while SF began to leave me cold and I stopped. Too much technology, too little humanity. Or maybe I just lost too many brain cells. Fantasy also started taking up a lot of space on the bookstore shelves, and for me there is only ONE fantasy world. I’ve read LORD OF THE RINGS too many times to count, starting when I was sixteen.
On the paranormal/SF romance side, I LOVE Christine Feehan(all of her stuff except the quasi-military “Game” series); J.R. Ward (ROCKS); Nalini Singh; Jacquelyn Frank; Lori Handeland (the werewolf series; not the latest); Linda Howard (she can do it ALL); Lynn Viehl, Deidre Knight, Angela Knight. These writers get it all right—style, concept, plot, relationship and, dare I say it, SEX. Yeah, I’m sorry, I like a good dose of it in my romance. Otherwise, why bother?
But then that’s the challenge, isn’t it? In a sub-genre that we are all still defining, we have to find the right balance between the essential elements, between the science fiction (or the fantasy or the suspense or the whatever) and the romance, between the idea and the execution, between the heat and the sweet. Then it's just a matter of finding the agent, the editor, the publisher and the readers, God love ‘em, who can't resist the mix we've whipped up.