Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Paranormal Overload?

I was in Chapters the other day, hanging out in my usual haunt - the fantasy/SF section beside the Starbucks cafe (walls full of books and a chai latte in my hand, life does not get much better than that) - and it hit me how many vampire/witch/werewolf books there are on the shelves. The question I'd like to ask you all is, have we hit paranormal overload? Are people getting tired of tormented but sweet undead heroes, wise-cracking witches and half-wild werewolves? My witch/werewolf novel, In A Dark Embrace, has certainly been a big hit. It out-sold my fantasy stories (Healer's Price and Demon Master) and science fiction novella (Taking Chances) by significant margins. But sales have dropped off recently and it makes a writer wonder what the appetite is for more in this vein. I have started a historical vampire novel (well, sort of vampire, I'm bringing a very different twist to the standard vampire role) and I need to know if it is worth pouring more effort into this story. Or, maybe, paranormal is still the way to go. People like the familiar mixed in with the new. Witches, werewolves and vampires are well-known archetypes, with a rich store of legends from which to draw out character traits, behaviors, limitations and strengths. There is a broad "common knowledge" about such characters, and what they can and cannot do, which makes it easy for readers to relate to them. At the same time, the supernatural world is wonderfully mutable. Many writers have adopted aspects of these ancient stories and taken them down strange, twisty tangents into surprising new territory. Personally, I love this kind of stuff - old stories stirred into something new, a well-known character type shifted into a unique shape. But I also know that readers can get tired and frustrated when too many books have been focused on the same characters/themes for too long (I hit burn-out with Arthurian legends several years ago and still refuse to open a book that even hints at another retelling of the Arthur/Guinevere story). So, all you readers out there, have you had your fill of blood-sucking, spell-casting, or shape-shifting heroes and heroines? Is the paranormal stuff getting as cold as a vampire's crypt...or is it still hotter than a witch's cauldron?

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