Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Is That A Vampire Romance?
The pure vampire romance is becoming harder to find. That which features a vampire as either hero or heroine (usually hero) and focuses on vampirism and romance. I'm not saying they aren't being written anymore. It's just become a challenge to actually sight them on bookseller shelves. Sure, you can sight in the classic fang slipping over the lower lip, or the splash of blood on the cover or even the pale broody guy. Most likely there are vamps inside. But just because it has the props, is it still a romance?
Lately, vampire romances have been disguised as paranormal romance and urban fantasy. And vice versa. If you check the label on the spine, it is no longer an accurate indicator of the book's contents. This is not the author's fault. I have no idea who at the publisher is ultimately responsible for putting that spine label on the book that designates it either 'vampire romance', 'paranormal romance' or 'urban fantasy'. Probably, it's Marketing. Marketing does not read the story. By using a synopsis and back cover copy they determine how to market the book and who they believe the audience is for that book.
Have you ever picked up a book you thought was a vampire romance only to discover the romance was lukewarm, and it was dominated by kick-ass action adventure? An urban fantasy! Yet, the spine clearly says romance. It's frustrating. The definition of romance is that the story will focus on the relationship between the hero and heroine. Sure, you can have action, adventure, slayings, apocalypse! But still the focus will remain on the two main characters and their growing emotional connection to each other. And the unspoken promise all romance writers make to their readers is this: The story will end happily. You don't get that promise in urban fantasy. Often UF follows the same hero and heroine through a series. Sure, there is romance, and it's slowly doled out over the series. But the ending may not resolve that romance and ensure you the hero and heroine are in it forever.
If you go by spine label alone, you may pick up a vampire romance and end up with a mystery. You may get an urban fantasy and discover it really is just about the hero and heroine. Most authors aren't aware of the spine labels for their books until they actually receive author copies, open up the box and look at the book. It can be as unsettling for an author as the reader to learn someone decided their urban fantasy was really more of a paranormal romance.
If you're a vampire romance purist, you want your story focused on all things vampire: blood-sucking, fangs and immortality. All the struggles and triumphs that go along with being a vamp. Nowadays, a story might be labeled vampire romance even if a secondary character is a vampire. Or I recently read a book with a vampire hero, yet it didn't focus at all on his vampirism, and instead was mostly about faeries and magic. I was disappointed, which led me to writing this article.
I'd like to start a discussion on the current state of vampire romance. Not paranormal romance, but those stories we would call vampire romances, which focus mostly on vampirism (though often one of the pair is another species or even mortal; that still counts).
Are you a vampire romance purist? Do you depend on the spine label to tell you what is inside the book? Have you ever been blindsided after buying a book and discovered it wasn't what you'd expected? Or are you pretty cool about the whole genre overall, and even if the romance isn't key, you're just happy to read about vampires?