What is Paranormal Women’s Fiction, Anyway?
A Conversation with Louisa West
Buffy. Sookie Stackhouse. Elena Gilbert. Bella Swan. If you know one or all of these characters, then there’s a pretty good chance that you like to read paranormal romance. These women range between being kick-ass, plucky, and just plain special—but there’s another thing they all have in common: really hot supernatural love interests. I’m the first to admit that there’s nothing I love better than a Buffy re-watch, or curling up with a Charlaine Harris novel to whittle my time away in a land where Eric Northman exists. But as I get older (sigh), I find myself wanting more out of my paranormal romance.
I want to relate.
I want to feel as though my real-life struggles of bills, and raising a child, and the body-image issues I have are real for the characters I’m reading as well. I want to be able to laugh because I’m not the only one who has problems with her neighbors, or can never fold a fitted sheet (that’s another kind of witchcraft, friends!), or because sex after twenty can sometimes be a little awkward and hilarious at the same time. Life after 35 just gets even more real. At best, you start thinking about long-term plans for your retirement. At worst, you need to be careful about how many cups of coffee you have before you drive to the grocery store fifteen minutes down the road.
Paranormal Women’s Fiction is a rising genre thanks to the collective efforts of a group of women known colloquially online as ‘The Fab13’. The genre touches on what it’s like for ‘mature’ heroines to get by in a modern world, with all the hurdles that life throws in their paths. These women are dealing with issues like divorce, potential homelessness, toxic relationships, and other really gritty, grown-up stuff. But the sparkling platter that these themes are served on comes in the form of literal magical circumstances, witty one-liners, love interests that are hotter than Hades and women who are empowered to not only move forward but to do so while coming fully into their own power.
Typically, the heroines of these books are over forty. It’s kind of that golden age where you’ve lived enough of life to know what’s what, but also you’ve seen enough to know that you just don’t have the time or energy to put up with any more crap from anyone. It also means that you’re probably not as perky or unwrinkled as you once were (if you are, leave your skin-care and exercise routines in the comments below!). For me, reading these books and getting to know these women who not only face who they are but fly that Older and Fabulous flag proudly has been an absolute joy.
So it made sense that my next series would be written in the same vein.
The main character in my Midlife in Mosswood series is Rosemary Bell, a thirty-nine year old mom who finds the courage to finally leave a toxic relationship. While she’s petrified of starting over again, Rosie and her young daughter Maggie soon settle into the slow rhythm of life in a small town. Rosie is resilient hard-working, and desperate to raise her daughter right. She’s also emotionally damaged, untrusting, and determined to hold everyone except Maggie at arm’s length. Throughout the series Rosie must face not only her past with her ex, but also her family history. She learns how to be a better mom, and how to navigate the challenges of living in a small town when you’re obviously different and more than a little out of your depth. And she also finds a way forward for herself, finding out that she’s actually a witch and that there’s possibly and handsome Irish witch King in her future.
The Paranormal Women’s Fiction genre has set up new expectations for books about older women written by older women. I’m thrilled to be part of it!
Excerpt – Jealousy’s a Witch
The sounds of the hot summer afternoon seemed dulled by the arrival of Tammy. She looked sheepishly between Declan and Rosie, her knuckles tight around the laundry bag of clothes she held like Santa Claus’ sack over one pudgy shoulder.
“I hope I’m not imposin’,” she said softly, even though it was clear that she knew she was. “Only that...well!” Unshed tears suddenly welled in her eyes, and she tried a combination of blinking and fanning her wedding-ring devoid hand in front of her face to stop them from falling.
Declan looked from Rosie to Tammy and then back again, as though trying to weigh up how useful he might be in a situation like this versus how much damage he might cause by way of a poorly timed and probably inappropriate joke. “I think I better check on the painting crew,” he murmured, rubbing the back of his neck as he took off for less emotional turf.
Rosie crossed over to the table, set down the potato salad she had been carrying. “Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll pour us some lemonade,” she suggested. Tammy nodded mutely, swiping at the tears now streaking down her face. Two sips of lemonade seemed to give her the confidence she needed to carry through with the story.
“I’m so sorry to barge in on y’all like this,” she sniffled, “but I didn’t know where else to go.”
Rosie thought back to the day Tammy had rolled up to the cottage as part of Prissy’s entourage. She had seemed like the only genuine woman out of the three. Rosie had felt terrible when Tammy had seen her husband Terry making a pass at her the day he’d come out to the cottage to ‘offer his services’ as a handyman. She hadn’t seen her since that day, but it didn’t look like things had improved for her any.
“You don’t need to apologize,” Rosie told her, “so let’s get that out of the way right-quick. We’re havin’ a cook-out, and you’re officially invited.”
Tammy offered a weak smile in return, sipping her lemonade. “Thank you.”
Rosie smiled back. “You’re welcome. Now,” she added, glancing up at the cottage. “I feel duty-bound to tell you that at any minute we’re likely to be infiltrated by a rush of starving teenage boys, an Irishman with a huge appetite, a girl who can put away three hotdogs in one sitting, and a turtle that—”
“Long story,” Rosie grinned.