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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Writing Historical Paranormal – Double Your Worlds, Double Your Fun! By Lisa Kessler

Hi everyone –

One of my favorite parts of writing paranormal romance is world building. Setting up rules, societies, etc. and then forcing my characters to live within those parameters.

But my new novella, Night Thief, had the added challenge of being set in 1840 in Paris. It’s a prequel featuring two of my prominent side characters from Night Demon. I knew they had fallen in love in Paris in 1840, but I didn’t realize until I started writing the book that by setting it in a historical period I was actually doubling up my world building!
Like FF&P authors, historical authors also have a “world” with rules already in place based on historical records and research. By placing my paranormal world into the confines of the historical time period, the worlds collide and the result was interesting.

I did have moments of wanting to beat my head into my keyboard when I couldn’t make something work with the actual historical timeline. And I’ve never had to research a book so heavily and this was just a novella! LOL  Instead of making up the shoes they were wearing, I found myself researching show construction in the 1840’s. Simple things like stuffing a dress in a horse’s feed sack became a research mission to discover what the bags would be called. (Hint – I couldn’t use burlap! LOL)

There was also the challenge of weaving in true historical events. Night Thief opens during the huge state funeral for Napoleon after King Philippe negotiated with England for the return of the fallen leader’s body.  I also used other historical events including an Opera opening, one of the art universities in Paris, and an artist from the time period as well.

Although the research added work, in the end, I fell in love with the multi-layered, worlds colliding, historical paranormal. If you’re writing immortals into your paranormal, the historical aspects blend well to give your characters the ageless feel too.
Anne Rice gave me my first love of immortals. (Lestat! *swoon*) She was a master at layering the time period with her paranormal elements. You can find great examples in Interview with a Vampire and also in her lesser known vampire chronicle, Pandora.

As a writer, I really enjoyed the added challenge to keep the paranormal aspects true to the time period. No phones, no cars, phosphorous matches, etc. It’s like getting two worlds for the price of one!
If you’re curious about historical paranormal romance series check out Leanna Renee Heiber, Colleen Gleason, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro just to name a few.

You won’t be sorry!
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Willa Blair said...

I've done the same thing in 16th century Scotland. Isn't it fun? I thought I'd be challenged by the research, but found I actually enjoyed it.

Lisa Kessler said...

I enjoyed it too Willa!! It definitely slowed me down a little with researching but it was almost like putting a puzzle together! :)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Lisa :)

Christine Ashworth said...

Awesome post, Lisa. I've totally shied away from the historical aspects and the research needed. One of these days I might go there, but not right now.

The novella sounds like a blast - I really need to pick it up.

Cheers hon!

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Christine -

Night Thief will be out next week... Sometime! LOL

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Lisa :)

Kristin said...

I show a few of my vampires meeting in the 1890's. It's amazing what you have to research, even for just a scene, to make sure you stay within the historical context. I really enjoy researching period clothing. It's so much fun to see what people used to wear.


Pamala Knight said...

Excellent post! My historical paranormal (which has a time travel element) has been a lot of fun to research, so I can relate. It's thrilling to me to be able to keep the historical details intertwined with the fantasy elements. Also, thanks for the reading recommendations. I'm already an ardent fan of Leanna and will add the other two authors to my TBR pile.

Janna Shay said...

I've heard that writing any novel or novella that is historical takes a lot of time to research in order to get the time period you're writing about to mesh accurately with your work. It sounds like you did a wonderful job. Can't wait to read Night Thief.
Good luck with your book.

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Kristin -

Yes the clothing and shoes are very interesting!!! I had a scene with a woman running and it was very interesting to try to figure out what the footsteps would sound like...

There are actual diaries from the 1800's available online now... Amazing research stuff! :)

Thanks for commenting!


Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Pamala -

I'm glad to add to your TBR pile! :)

Have fun with the time travel! I've always wanted to write one of those someday...

Thanks for commenting!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Janna -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!! :)

I can't wait for Night Thief to come out... I had such a great time writing the novella!

Lisa :)

Leti Del Mar said...

This sounds fantastic! The only thing better than Paris is historical Paris. What fun!