Every few years, a dance/theater production, “Theatre of the Vampires,” is staged in Boulder, Colorado (where I live), in a spooky, old theater. Happily, the show was performed this past Halloween and, since THE VAMPIRE SHRINK — my first book in a series about a Denver psychologist who becomes involved in the vampire underworld — had just been released, the producers asked me to appear.
Hundreds of people passed my table — many stopping to claim a postcard, examine a copy of my book or ask a question. A wonderful time was had by all, and I sold every copy of the book I brought. (Many thanks to my publisher for the gorgeous, full-page ad they ran on the back page of the playbill!)
Boulder is a strange place. Unlike the questions I’ve answered at my other book signing events, the one people asked most frequently here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains was: “Is this nonfiction?” They were uniformly disappointed when I said the book was fiction. There’s definitely a different mindset here! These folks wanted to believe in the existence of vampires!
But, in general, people ask three questions:
How do you identify yourself as a writer?
What kind of book is this?
Do you follow the “traditional” vampire mythology?
I call myself a “paranormal fiction” author, because that label gives me permission to blend as many genres as I wish.
When I first began writing fiction (I’d written nonfiction for many years), I tried to squish myself into one of the existing category boxes: romance, mystery, horror, fantasy, humor, mainstream, etc. During the submission process for THE VAMPIRE SHRINK, I heard repeatedly that I needed to “pick one category and rewrite the book” if I wanted to sell it. “They” said if I didn’t come up with a clear placement for booksellers to stock my book in a store, it wouldn’t be stocked.
I decided not to follow that advice (sold anyway!), and was gratified to see hundreds of books (print and epub) appear featuring blended genres. Not to mention the new category of Urban Fantasy.
So, the answer to the second question is complicated.
My book definitely crosses genres. I’ve found it shelved in various bookstore sections: fantasy, horror, occult, literary fiction and romance. The cover gives credibility to the “dark” designation. How do I classify my book? It’s a first-person, dark urban fantasy with strong romance elements, sex, mystery and humor. The paranormal kitchen sink!
As a rabid vampire fiction fan myself, I’ve met lots of readers over the years who have strong opinions about vampire mythology. For some, veering from the path carved out by Bram Stoker is blasphemy. Romantic vampires? What lunacy is this?
I was on a “Vampire Psychology 101” panel at a recent conference with many successful vampire book authors and, as the topic of “mythological accuracy” came up for discussion, successful author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro reminded us, “it’s fiction!”
That’s my philosophy, too. My vampires drink blood (without angst or needing to be redeemed), they enjoy being vampires, they’re articulate and intelligent (they’ve used their long lives to acquire knowledge), religious symbols have no influence on them, and they’re physically appealing. The archetype of the “extraordinary” male is the most intriguing for me, although I enjoy all the vampire archetypes (including the primal monster variety). I also tend to include metaphysical and psychic elements in all my stories, because – in addition to my experience as a therapist/hypnotherapist – I’m also a professional psychic/tarot reader.
My advice to writers? Find your voice. Learn your craft. Follow the rules that work for you. Don’t limit yourself by trying to write for a particular market or niche. As many have said before me, “write the book of your heart.” Only you know what that book is.
Have a wonderful holiday season!