Welcome to the first blog post of our newest column, Enchanted Orb - a look at the inspiration behind the DarkSider's tales.
And welcome to our columinst, Colleen Simpson, for looking after this.
Our first guest is Rowena Cory Daniells. Take it away, Rowena.
(Disclaimer: I tend to read and write books that are only on the very edge of the romance genre, in that they will have a love story in them and the characters may be motivated by love).
We’re all writers. We make time to write when other sensible people are putting their feet up and snacking in front of TV. What makes us do it, apart from a variety of creative insanity?
Somewhere in our youthful childhoods, we must have read something good... Sorry, I was channelling Sound of Music there. It’s funny, when you get down to looking at the books that swept you off your feet you find they are a strange combination. At least, I did.
While I write short stories which are mostly science fiction with a dash of dark fantasy, and my published books are mainly fantasy with a paranormal-mystery coming out soon, when I look at the writers who inspired me I find they cover a range of genres.
Going way, way back, to before I even knew there was a word for genre, I used to search for books that filled me with a sense of wonder. These books were often magical in nature. So I would trawl the school library for books like The Secret Garden which combined the hint of exotic, in that the girl was from India, a hint of gothic, in that she was all alone in the strange, possibly haunted house and a hint of salvation, in that by finding the garden and unlocking the painful past she heals the father and the son.
I must admit it was lean pickings in the school library. I did find some obscure books like the retellings of Norse sagas, adventures set in the time of Louis the Fourteenth and Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Skip forward to my late teens when I opened a bookshop and I then I really let my inner-reader loose. I read voraciously, a book in the morning, a book after lunch and a book after dinner. This was back when a book was around 50,000 words. What this did for me, is that it taught me to exercise my ‘story muscle’. I’ll know instinctively when what I’m writing loses pace.
In my bookstore, I discovered Georgette Heyer. What we can call learn from Georgette Heyer is sparkling dialogue, brilliant characterisation and underneath this a humanity that makes her characters linger in the reader’s mind.
In the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the bookstore I discovered Joanna Russ, who wrote brilliant feminist SF, and Fritz Lieber and Michael Moorcock both very different, but clever fantasy writers.
And because I have an enquiring mind, I also read lots of factual books on anthropology, sociology, linguistics and history. Basically, if it wasn’t nailed down, I read it.
Fast forward to what has inspired me since I came back to writing (I wrote 10 books before I was 26). When I came back to writing in my mid to late 30s, after having 6 children in ten years, I was looking for a book that would sweep me off my feet. I discovered Laurell K Hamilton’s very early Anita Blake books when the character was all about the mystery and surviving as a small female in a man’s world.
Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorksigan books contained brilliant characterisation and clever plotting. Well, it has to be clever plotting, when the hero is only four feet ten and born into a military SF world. The book where Miles falls in love had me in tears of laughter. It came closest to Georgette Heyer.
You can’t go past Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books for a good laugh.
If you are looking for an Australian variation, we have Marianne Delacourt’s Tara Sharp books. Marianne also writes a thrilling YA dark fantasy in the Burn Bright series.
And even more recently I’ve been enjoying the Simon R Green Nightside books. Very tightly written, great world building and a lovely sensibility. If you’re looking for an Australian take on dark fantasy then you can’t go past Trent Jamieson’s Death Works trilogy, with its very black sense of humour. He has a new dark fantasy that veers towards steam punk, called the Roil.
Tansy Rayner Roberts offers a different interpretation on dark fantasy with her Creature Court trilogy, were-creatures, Roman festivals and 1920s jazz.
While these books I’m mentioning aren’t romances they are of interest to Darkside DownUnder writers because we all need to stretch our writing muscles by reading books in the genre that borders our genre. By reading what I term ‘straight’ science fiction, fantasy and dark fantasy the writer of paranormal-romance broadens their outlook and finds inspiration in fresh fields. Think of it as yoga for the writing muscles!
Rowena is an over worked, underpaid mother of six, university lecturer, writer of rollicking fantasy reads and herder of recalcitrant cats.