Take it away India . . .
Universal Romance –
Most of my story ideas come from what I consider to be the most important question in the world: What if? This probably explains why I have always loved the fantasy genre. In every fantasy novel I’ve ever written, however, I can’t seem to get away from including a romantic subplot.
I’m not an avid romance reader and I’ve rarely focused on romance as the primary element of a book. So why include it at all? Because sex and romance are universal. It’s a part of nearly every adult’s life. We have careers, family and friends and those things are important, but it’s fair to say that sex, attraction, and relationships are a primal, driving force in our lives. I’m more surprised when authors exclude this central theme from a story, regardless of the genre.
What readers may not guess is that much of the conflict and struggles in my books come from my own experience. No, I haven’t fallen in love with a faerie (although I have to admit AZURI FAE’s Prince Griogair gives me a bit of a shiver from time to time.) But my husband and I are from different countries. We’re also fifteen years apart in age, and we observe different religions. Because of this, I was able to bring some personal insight into Eilidh and Munro’s relationship. Perhaps not with the specifics, but believe me, we have had equally awkward misunderstandings based on cultural differences.
In many ways, conquering those differences and learning how to compromise on the small things has bonded us together in a very powerful way as we find common ground.
My experiences have proved useful in understanding my characters’ struggles. It also helps because a character’s behaviour in a romantic relationship can define them in a way little else can. How do we treat the people we love? What we do when we’re angry, ashamed, afraid? How do we react to betrayal? All of these things can happen in a relationship.
In the first novel in my Caledonia Fae series, BLOOD FAERIE, I used the attraction between a human and a faerie to reveal their values and culture, and to draw the reader into their worlds and experiences.
When the faerie, Eilidh, first goes to Quinton Munro’s home, she admits it’s the first time she’s been inside a human dwelling. She’s fascinated by the gadgets and even simple things like the indoor plumbing. She’s delighted with the idea of an indoor shower, saying it’s like having rain inside the house. When she strips in front of Munro (faeries don’t think anything of nudity), he is flustered at first, but after a little hesitation, he moves in for a kiss. She rejects him, and he’s crushed and mortified.
It was actually a tough scene to write, because it starts out so sweet and delightful, but ends with embarrassment for both of them. It was important, though, because her culture taught her that humans are less than the fae, and the idea of being sexually involved with a human is a foreign concept to her. She’s struggling with all the new things she’s coming to understand about humans and how contrary the reality is to what she’d learned as a child. Breaking down those barriers takes a lot of time and patience.
I was able to use their story to illustrate different parts of fae culture throughout the series. In Book 2, AZURI FAE, Eilidh is asked by the Azuri conclave to make a political marriage, which is just about the only type of marriage a faerie makes. They (conclave) scheme to raise her as an outcast queen, and hope that by marrying her to someone of royal blood, she will be more widely accepted by the fae kingdoms. As anyone can imagine, this caused inner struggle for both Eilidh and Munro, and either way she decides to go, it will change their relationship forever.
Book 3, ENEMY OF THE FAE, takes place mostly in the Otherworld, and I took them into a new phase of their relationship. I don’t want to spoil the outcome for those who haven’t read it, but it really is the romantic subplot that ties all three books together. The mysteries, the murders and adventure… those elements stand alone with each novel, but the relationship grows and changes.
Could I have accomplished all the character growth and reader engagement without the love story? Maybe, but I don’t think it would have been as effective.
After three books, I was able to bring Munro and Eilidh’s relationship to a satisfactory point. They’ll still be minor characters in later books, but I’ve decided that in Books 4 – 6, I’m going to shift focus and write about a new pairing. In DRUID LORDS, Huck, a fire druid, will meet Demi, the first female druid discovered in a very long time. Although they are also from different countries, at least they’re both human! But don’t think they’re going to have an easy time of it at all. In fact, them becoming a couple is much less certain.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going finish hammering out Huck and Demi’s story by deciding where and how they meet and also understanding the things that will initially keep them apart. In the beginning, Demi has a secret she keeps from everyone, and gaining her trust takes quite a bit of effort on Huck’s part. Eventually though, a tragic event means she has to make a decision: either trust him completely or run as far and as fast as she can.
Once I outline the book’s plot, I will begin writing DRUID LORDS. At this point, even I am not certain how their relationship is going to progress. Will they? Won’t they? I’m not sure. Regardless of how it turns out, I will certainly be using the pair to ramp up the tension, weave in the broader themes, and touch on those universal needs and emotions we all experience.
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Thanks India for sharing your insights into the cultural differences between humans and fae, and how you utilized your own experiences to bring the story concept into focus for readers.
About India: I'm a lot of other things, but mostly I'm a writer. I like books with fast action, scary killers, fantasy worlds, and a dash of romance. Maybe even all four at once.
You can visit India at her website here, where you will find links to all her urban fantasy novels.
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