Getting Paranormal At ThrillerFest

RT Summer Intern Lizzie Poteet reports from a Thrillerfest panel about authors' thoughts on mixing paranormal elements into thrillers ...

Ghosts, witches and ghouls, oh my! At this year’s ThrillerFest six of the most noted names in paranormal thrillers met to discuss the popular paranormal subgenre and answer the question: “Why be normal when you can be paranormal?”


Paranormal thriller authors Dave Sakmyster, Jonathan Maberry, Heather Graham, Allison Brennan, Dakota Banks and Christopher Golden made up the panel. The discussion ranged from folklore to banshees, succubus to zombies, and everything in between. During the nearly hour-long workshop the six authors were fun, engaging and open, and fans responded with questions and laughter. Christopher Golden, whose books like The Lost Ones and The Borderkind feature demons, monsters and other creatures that go bump in the night, even revealed "my mom actually said to me: ‘Why can’t you write something good?’”


While the focus was on vamps and witches, an underlying theme of the panel's discussion was a belief in the supernatural. The authors agree that while their stories can be exciting and spooky, paranormal thrillers are more than a good time. Paranormal tales, as the authors explained, reflect humanity’s need to believe in something. When asked why she writes paranormals, Heather Graham said, “I love my ghosts because I think all of us want to believe ... that there is more than meets the eye and, you know, that there might be a life after [death].”

The authors also used the forum to talk about how the genre is open to various incarnations of creatures not just vampires and werewolves. “I decided to base my paranormal writing on myths from the Sumerian time period,” said Banks. “There are no vampires and wolves and witches and so forth in my books, but what there is, is a well-grounded background of what people actually did believe when they were alive in Sumeria … and what would happen if some of their gods and goddess, demons whatever that they believed in were still present the world today and wreaking havoc.”

Heather Graham believes that zombies may replace vampires as the next big trend. But the author sees one big problem with zombies. Unlike the still intact, if un-dead, vampire bodies, zombie bodies are more fragile. If as a zombie "you're in the middle of a hot, heavy love scene and it's like 'Oh my god, I broke off!'" - well that's not a physical hazard that vampires share.

Heather Graham may be right about the zombies, but no matter what paranormal creatures authors choose to use, I hope they keep popping up in my thrillers!

- Lizzie Poteet