Fantasy short story writer JK Cheney and I have been discussing that which is Romance and what makes it good (or bad, depending upon your point of view). Specifically, what makes Christine Feehan such a successful paranormal romance writer?
She’s posted her analysis on her blog, and I’ve got my opinions here. We’re hoping to get a dialog going and invite you to join in with your ideas and comments. We’ll be commenting on each other’s blogs as well.
Thanks for sending me the Christine Feehan books. I wasn’t able to read them through but I thought they had some good solid points in their favor.
She has a recurring set of characters in a single town where shoot, if it weren’t for the big bad, I’d like to live there. Each sister has a dream job and a dream talent. She has taken the elements of a cozy mystery, a paranormal, and a romance and melded them quite well. It’s like Cabot Cove if Angela Lansbury were still a young lass. So if you can get past some stilted writing she gives pretty good plot. And for all that her characters are cliched, from what I read, they are all really strong characters. They don’t need men, and the guys are rewards.
Gotta give her props.
Some of the stuff that irked me was the writing. Now, I think romance gets an unfair bad rap for pedestrian prose. I also think that writers tend to read as writers, not readers, and most readers don’t care about POV shifts, telling not showing, etc. This isn’t necessarily a lack of sophistication on the part of romance readership either, which I think may also get a bad rap. People read escapist literature to escape, and writing that disappears – i.e., doesn’t get in the way of the experience – is good writing. Feehan’s writing transports her fans to Sea Haven.
But I think she could do better. For one thing, in the one book I read, or kind of read, she describes each sister by her hair. Each one has a glorious mane of some variation. Dialog is often used to convey information to the reader and it can be clumsy, especially when characters tell each other things they already know. There was a scene where two of the sisters talk over tea, and after filling the reader in on mundane stuff, they get around to wondering if the big bad they sensed was a danger in any way. This is kind of a rookie mistake.
I’m far from being a best-selling author (yet, I’d like to add), so I am studying how they do it. And I think that what people want, and what Feehan provides, is a sense of place and a fully realized fantasy world. Sea Haven is no different than Stephen King’s Derry or Castle Rock. Add appealing characters and a supernatural plot and — do we have a winner? Well, no. If it were that easy, then everyone could do it. But I think that it’s important to see what’s done right rather than nitpick about what’s done badly. And Feehan gets a lot right.