Slaying Genre: A Monthly Column on Horror, Noir, Fantasy & the Other Red-Headed Step-Children of the Literary World
Bodice Slashers: The Intersections of Horror and Romance. A good title, no? It’s what I’m calling my imaginary anthology of essays (forthcoming from An Excellent Press). Edited by me, Carol Clover, and the ladies from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (because, hey, this is my fantasy), this antho will discuss what titillates and terrifies us, and how together, they make for a whole new genre of amazing tales that will literally shock readers into admitting to and reveling in the freaky, the romantic, and the dark.
Why am I creating this imaginary anthology? Come on, KL, you’re saying. Stop torturing yourself. Go back to drooling over Gone Girl. An anthology like this will never happen.
Well, maybe not. But my point isn’t to get you all riled up about an imaginary anthology (though I have been known to daydream a fair amount about things like this); it’s to get you thinking about what gets you (and by extension, your characters) all hot and bothered and...well, disturbed. And how, as a writer, you can use the conventions of genres like horror and romance to strengthen your work, to create a new take on an old tale, to entice your readers and make it impossible for them to put down your story (whether they’re fans of pirate hunks or serial killers).
Many writers do this. But because horror and romance are in many cases relatively scorned as commercial fiction, we don’t tend to dissect their quite brilliant use of craft. And yet, these novels are extremely smart in their melding of genre conventions that not only appeal to many audiences, but get to the dark heart of human psychology. Some horror/romance that I go back to time and again when I need a reminder of how our desires and our fears can work together to create complex characters include Interview With The Vampire, Dracula, and even (Brontë scholars hold your breath), Jane Eyre.
For a more recent example, I’ll tell you a bit about creating my recent short story, “Our Courtship, Our Romance,” written under my pseudonym for Go Deeper Press. I started with a character, a quite notorious woman of whom everyone was frightened. I had a wonderful time thinking of all the things that could make my character so infamous, the deep and dark and just plain wrong of her history. But then, of course, I needed to make her psychology more complex, to make her more human, even in her more disturbing moments. And as with any good story, I needed a catalyst, a conflict, something to push her to the next level of her journey, whatever that was going to be. She couldn’t simply continue being “evil” or scary. She needed something unexpected, something challenging, something real. So I decided to jump genre, if you will, and went straight to romance, imagining who her lover might be, what vulnerabilities this lover might bring out in her, and how she, a strong, deeply flawed, and violent woman, would react to these changes in herself, to this unexpected, but very sexy catalyst.
In your own writing, whether it be noir, fantasy, literary, or even crime fiction, don’t be afraid of approaching the deeply dark and sizzlingly sexy in your characters. Break out the above-mentioned novels or your secret stash of Jennifer Crusie or Laurell K. Hamilton. The result can be intensely rewarding and can bring you to a place you never dreamed you’d go with your writing.
Got favorite horror-romances? Let me know in the comments!
KL Pereira's chapbook, Impossible Wolves was published by Deathless Press is 2013. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are forthcoming or appear in The Drum Literary Magazine, Shimmer Zine, Lightning Cake, The Golden Key, Innsmouth Free Press, Innsmouth Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, The Medulla Review, Bitch Magazine and other publications. Pereira’s work on fairy tales, sexuality, Wonder Woman, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are featured on Studio 360 and other radio programs, cited in numerous publications, and assigned in courses all over the United States and Canada. Find Pereira online on klpereira.com and @kl_pereira.See other articles by KL Pereira