In 1707, hapless vampire Jack Bentley made a pact with the Devil in order to escape a vampire hunt. Dealing with Satan seemed better than your standard angry mob at the time. But three centuries later, Satan is ready to collect His dues, whether the vampire likes it or not. He’s taking Jack down to Hell, and He’s even got a job picked out for him down below: an eternal position at the Registration Office of the Damned. Jack attempts to adjust to life on the Administrative Level of Hell where fire and brimstone have been replaced by board meetings and the occasional broken copier. But the whiny complaints of the recently-deceased are the least of his problems. Try adding to the equation a dead ex-lover, a dangerous attraction to his high-ranking demon companion, Alexander Ridner, and the sticky and distorted anti-vampire politics of a Hell that is surprisingly like our own world.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of Jennifer’s novel, These Hellish Happenings.
While once speaking to a semi-acquaintance of mine who is a fellow writer, I asked (out of courtesy and desperation to keep our dwindling and awkward conversation from croaking and leaving behind an even more awkward silence) why she liked writing fantasy and supernatural-themed fiction. She giggled like a giddy peacock and responded, “Oh, y’know, I like making it all up! I don’t have to worry about research or the real world.”
I kept my cheery smile, but I couldn’t help but think that she couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’m not about to tell you that my grocer is a vampire, my hairdresser is a demon and I, just last week, saw a dragon sail away with a cow in its claws. No, for the time being, I’m still grounded enough to know that the sort of stuff I write about doesn’t really exist. But even if one is writing the highest of high fantasy, it doesn’t mean research isn’t necessary; a decent shot of the real world can be a very a good thing. (Not a bad place, the real world. I have a summer home there.)
Think in terms of depth, for instance. At the very least, injecting details from previously established mythology can add depth to a story, a sense of recognition in and connection to the reader. Reading about the Goddess Debbie who rides a rattlesnake and has legions of house cats she sends out to do her bidding might be entertaining to some degree. However, when a writer slips in allusions to established legends, it pulls the reader in; the reader is aware of the mythology, thus they feel more intimately involved with the story. Nice way to get the reader on your side, which is, more often than not, the goal of the writer.
By the same token, adding allusions to one’s society and commenting on what is happening in that damnably pesky real world with which the writer is forced to contend is extremely effective in fantasy and paranormal literature. Take a look at Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz.
I kept this in mind while writing my supernatural comedy These Hellish Happenings, where politics and social commentary are just as important as my vampire and demon protagonists. The book, the first in a series, takes place in a Hell that has become a distorted mirror image of Earth (try holding aluminum foil up to our world; there’s my Hell).
Through this, I comment on social and political issues that are relevant today, giving the reader a greater depth of connection to the story and hopefully conjuring a deeper level of thought on the part of the reader. This allows the story to say something, not just about the plot, but about something greater.
Now, I’m well aware that writing and reading–especially concerning fantasy and the paranormal–are about escaping, and trust me, I can’t get enough of that! But that doesn’t mean that one can’t use real issues and research to connect to the reader. Time and time again I’ve had people tell me that they don’t take these genres seriously, but I think that we can make the nonbelievers take us seriously.
However, we as writers must go beyond the overused good vs evil trope, the epic rivalries and the slightly-too-ideal romances and add something more to our writing. Many are already doing this superbly, but the more of us that say something with our fantasy/paranormal writing that goes beyond the traditional tropes–something about both the world in our head and the world around us–, the more that we will be taken seriously.
A balance is nice, of course. One can always use the Goddess Debbie to comment on dire environmental issues, rattlesnake mount and all!
Jennifer Rainey was raised by wolves who later sold her to gypsies. She then joined the circus at the age of ten. There, she was the flower girl in the famed Bearded Bride of Beverly Hills show until the act was discontinued (it was discovered that the bearded lady was actually a man). From there, she wandered around the country selling novelty trucker hats with vaguely amusing sayings printed on front. Somehow, she made enough money to go to The Ohio State University for a major in English.
Contest Time! Want to read These Hellish Happenings? Here’s your chance. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Do yo uprefer when an author totally makes up their own world or do you enjoy finding similarities between reality and the story? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered. (US/Canada only)
As always, there’s more ways of getting your name in the hat (remember, these aren’t mandatory to enter, just extra entries):
- +1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.
- +1 to any review you comment on, however, comments must be meaningful. Just give me the title of the review and I’ll be able to figure it out from there.
- +1 If you are a follower of Literary Escapism on Facebook and/or Twitter
- +10 Purchase any novel through LE’s Amazon store or the Book Depository sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: jackie AT literaryescapism DOT com. Each purchase is worth ten entries.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.