Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest: Clare Willis

Clare Willis is back in the guest spot today, and we're happy to see her again!  Her first vampire romance, ONCE BITTEN,  was out last year around this time, and now she's got another release just in time for Christmas.  And doesn't looking at that cover make you feel like you just got a really good gift?  Love the I-dare-you look on that sexy man's face.
 Clare is giving away a copy of BITING THE BRIDE to two lucky winners who leave a comment either today or tomorrow, so show her some love in the comments!
Making Him Wait: Anticipation and Urban Fantasy

What’s the difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy?

This is a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot, as my first book, Once Bitten, was classified (by my publisher and my readers) as paranormal romance, while my second book, Biting the Bride, has been labeled urban fantasy by some reviewers on the web. I would certainly cop to that label, although it wasn’t intentional.

But now, for the book that I’m currently working on, I am calling it urban fantasy, so once again I’m back to that question—what’s the difference? This is what I’ve come up with, but it’s only my opinion, and I’d love to hear what other readers think.

The first answer, I think, would be world building. Certainly in any novel we create a world for the reader, but in urban fantasy there is often a parallel universe—big, complex and full of strange, supernatural characters—where the adventure takes place. This universe might be underground, or it might be entered by magic, or the heroine might just live in this parallel universe all the time. There is often a very large conflict brewing, a good versus evil war for the fate of all creatures, our heroine included, that takes place in a series of smaller battles, often over the course of several books. When the word “urban” is used, there is often a certain grittiness to the setting that sets it apart from straight fantasy, such as the Lord of the Rings saga.

So that’s the first answer, but certainly not the last, because the other difference I’ve noticed between paranormal romance and many urban fantasy novels is this:

The hero and heroine don’t have sex.

There is sexual tension to beat the band, for sure. Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series and Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series come to mind, and I’m sure there are many other examples, where the hero and heroine are doing the Moonlighting dance. Some of you may remember this television show from the 1980’s where Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd spent several seasons trading witty banter and verbal fisticuffs and steeping in sexual tension before they had their first kiss. Many said that smooch was the kiss of death for the series, but for years afterwards Bruce and Cybil were considered the perfect example of this kind of couple.

So is this the mark that distinguishes paranormal romance from urban fantasy? In paranormal romance the couple battles the forces of evil while sneaking away to make love whenever there is a break in the action, and in urban fantasy the couple break the tension of their mutual sexual attraction by verbal jousting, but even though they might be thrown together during a fight and take a moment to breathe in the seductive scent of the other, they would never throw down their weapons and do the deed? If they end up “happily ever after,” does that make it paranormal romance? If they don’t, does that make it urban fantasy?

Readers, please let me know what you think the differences are! I would love to hear about other books where the hero and heroine either follow these rules or break them, and which type of relationship do you prefer?

Please visit Claire at her website.


RK Charron said...

Hi Michele & Clare :)
Thank you for the thoughtful post.
I've wondered about this very thing myself. As far as I know, and have read, Paranormal Romance differs from Urban Fantasy in that there is a HEA at the end of the PR.
I tend to think of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series as Urban Fantasy though nearly everyone terms them as Paranormal Romance.
Thank you again for sharing,
All the best,

Kirsten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SandyG265 said...

I think the biggest difference for me is that with paranormal romance each book has a HEA ending. In UF even if they have sex the relationship may not continue or it may be a rocky on again off again relationship that will continue through the series.

sgiden at

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I thought that every romance has a happy ending....

and paranormal romance is set in a somewhat fantasy setting...something completely made up whereas urban fantasy is set in todays world.....where did I go wrong???


in Germany

Blodeuedd said...

By now I have made a note in my head:
UF - kickass, and lots of action
PNR - lots of romance instead

Lol, I am sticking to that ;)

And in UF there sure can be HEAs, after a lot of books, but it's worth the wait. But I do need HEAs

Michele Hauf said...

ParaRom should always focus on the romance. There can be action/adventure, but it should be related to the romance, I believe.

UF is about the world and the action/adventure. Romance can be a secondary plot in those stories, and oftentimes the romance can stretch over an entire series.

That's how I look at it!

CLMcCune said...

I cannot figure out the classification. In my favorite bookstore Kelly Armstrong is in the Horror section...??? I like that the couple can find solice through out staggering odds.

Lil said...

I have been wrestling with the two classifications. I love them both but so far as I could tell, urban fantasy has a grittier feel and is not focused mainly on the romantic relationship. Paranormal romance does focus on the romantic relationship.

cggwillis said...

Thanks for the comments, they were very helpful! I think these classifications are fluid, and that's fine. The only problem is when you're trying to find new authors, you might miss something you would love because it's in a classification that you don't normally read.

donnas said...

I dont think that really defines the difference. I think UF focuses more on the battle but the romance can exist fully. While PNR focuses more on the romance. But the two can be virtually interchangeable at times. A HEA can take place in both.

Barbara E. said...

Most of the time I have no idea whether I'm reading a UF or a PR story - I just choose books that sound good and enjoy the ride. I do think that Urban Fantasy has less emphasis on romance and more on the action. In any case, I enjoy both as long as the characters and story hold my interest.


Spav said...

In Paranormal Romance you know you're going to get a HEA, and the focus of the story usually is that. In Urban Fantasy there is a "outside of romance" main goal. Also, I'm not expecting a HEA, although I really hope all these UF I read have one.

cggwillis said...

Yes, the happy ever after ending! Usually UF ends up happy at the end of the series, although "happy" can have different meanings. In The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare the love interest turns out to be the heroine's brother. Twisty!