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For all the talk about dystopia being the new paranormal, it’s not like paranormal is going anywhere. Paranormal (whether or not you tag “romance” on to the end of that) goes through periodic waves of resistance, usually by people rolling their eyes at a large number of similar book covers – funnily enough, regular readers of the genre don’t tend to be the ones complaining at how many titles they have to choose from.
But as a writer, I find that even a hugely popular trope tends not to be overly inspiring unless … well, unless it is. If I’m going to do something with vampires or werewolves or ghosts or whatever, it has to have enough of a unique twist on the concept to keep me interested.
I’m not claiming that my work is especially original, or that better-read paranormal readers will automatically think I’m the best thing since sliced bread (don’t you hate authors who promote their book by constantly harping on about how cliched all the other books are?) but my ideas have to feel fresh and new to me when I am writing them, or I can’t sustain my own interest long enough to produce an entire story.
When I wrote Siren Beat, I was deliberately trying to write urban fantasy without vampires and werewolves because it was intended for an anthology, and I thought my best chance of making it to the top of the pile was to do something a little left of centre, rather than compete with everyone else’s sexy dead lords and dog boys. (hence: one kraken and one sexy sea pony)
With Love and Romanpunk, I wanted to create a universe where the kinds of monsters you find in historical bestiaries roam the earth – so manticores and basilisks were the order of the day. I didn’t have vampires as such but I built on the Roman concept of the ‘lamia’ (a very similar species though one largely made up of slinky women drinking the blood of boys) and in one story let it collide sharply with the traditional Byronic legend of the vampire.
Still, the book was mostly about manticores.
The truth is, when working on both of those universes, I wasn’t working against the weight of vampire fiction so much as I was working against myself, because I already had a fictional universe that was all about vampires … right?
It’s not often two sisters have books released on the same day! Sisters Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell dropped by to talk about what that’s like and some of the influences that led them both to grow up to be fantasy authors.
- Kate: We both loved reading! We were the sort of kids to read under the bedclothes at night with torches, or bumped our heads on telegraph poles because we walked home from school reading. And when we weren’t reading we were playing games inspired by our favourite books or scribbling stories down in notebooks.
- Belinda: We used to fight about who would be the most exciting character – we both wanted to be the brave tomboy George not the sweet, caring Anne! From the time we were seven or eight, we would write constantly – stories, poems, plays and novels ‘published’ in exercise books with hand drawn illustrations. I am the eldest, so I used to get out my big red pen and correct all Kate’s spelling and grammar.
- Kate: I remember once running crying to our grandmother Nonnie because Belinda had told me that the ending of my story wasn’t very good and she rewrote it. Nonnie told me that Belinda was only trying to help because she loved me, but she must have had a quiet word to Bin because she never rewrote any of my stories again.
- Belinda: My grandmother was an English teacher and with our mother, always fostered our love of books, poetry and writing. She used to tell us the most wonderful, romantic stories about history, our family and Scottish folklore full of adventure and brave, feisty heroines. She would talk to us about Shakespeare and Tennyson, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.
- Kate: I think we had an unusual childhood, in that we grew up in suburban Sydney and went to school and did our homework just like most kids, but our school holidays were often spent off having wild adventures with our Dad who did things like sail right around Australia without stopping once, or sail to Vanuatu
- Belinda: Dad was a vet so he’d often take us out to big properties where he’d be working and we’d go mustering, riding horses, working in the yards and sleeping under the stars. Our life at home in Sydney was also filled with animals – dozens at a time. We had four dogs, litters of puppies, cats, calves, piglets, lambs, snakes, tortoises, horses, mice, rats, possums – even a baby wallaby that lived in a sack on the back of our kitchen door.
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